Tough start, bright finish

Tough start, bright finish
October 28
14:23 2020

The Major League Baseball (MLB) season got off to a rocky start for their shortened season, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays are fighting to bring a championship home to their respective fans and finish off a surprisingly good season.

Of course, COVID-19 prevented the normal start time to the season in early April and delayed it until late July. Instead of having the marathon season of 162 games, teams sprinted to the finish line with only a 60-game season.

Early on, it looked as though MLB would not be able to finish the season because of COVID-19 cases that hit several franchises. Over 40 games were postponed prior to the midpoint mark of the season and people began to wonder if finishing the season was a smart thing to do.

Unlike the NBA (National Basketball Association), baseball opted not to have a “bubble” where all teams would congregate to play games. It would have been very difficult to accommodate so many players in one city due to the number of players on each baseball team.

For the first time I can remember, MLB thought ahead when it came to some of the rule changes they put in place for the shortened season. Changes such as putting a runner on second base to begin extra innings, seven inning double headers, and the universal designated hitter were all brilliant ideas to take some of the wear and tear off the players.  

We all know that baseball has been one of the most stubborn sports when it comes to changing their rules, but I am glad they realized these small changes would benefit the game and allow them to finish the season as healthy as possible. My hope is they at least keep a few of these rules around in the seasons to come.

At first I thought putting a runner on second base to start extra innings was kind of gimmicky.  Once I watched a few games, I quickly changed my tune due to the excitement I felt the rule added to the game.

I understand that seven inning double headers were necessary this season, but this is one rule I hope they do not keep. I can remember so many 9th inning heroics throughout my life, that cutting a game to only seven innings just wouldn’t feel right.

I know a lot of baseball purists will disagree with me, but I like the universal designated hitter rule for both leagues. With baseball becoming more and more specialized, I like having pitchers only pitch. Once again, I am thinking in terms of making the game more appealing to the television viewer by creating more offensive opportunities, which is what every other major sport has done.

As the regular season ended, I was curious to see how the playoffs were going to go with the new format. The expanded playoffs included 16 teams, which I don’t think waters down the regular season too much. I like the fact there are no byes for any team and it also did away with the sudden death Wild Card game.  

I think MLB will realize that they need to adjust their game and tinker with the rules to see what fits and what doesn’t. Every new rule change is not going to be the right decision; just ask the NFL with their catch and pass interference challenge rule changes. Those did not work out and they quickly did away with them, but at least they were willing to try something new.

All in all, I like what I saw from the season and the direction the sport is heading. Now if we can only not vilify players for doing a simple bat flip or celebrating a homerun, we would be really heading in the right direction.  It’s been said that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports, so celebrating a big hit should be OK with mocking the pitcher or opposing team. 

One step at a time, I guess.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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