DAN BICKLEY

MLB has chance to square up future in shortened season

Jun 25, 2020, 10:18 AM

Arizona Diamondbacks' Ketel Marte, right, celebrates his walk-off single against the Atlanta Braves...

Arizona Diamondbacks' Ketel Marte, right, celebrates his walk-off single against the Atlanta Braves in the 10th inning with David Peralta, middle, and Merrill Kelly, left, in a baseball game Thursday, May 9, 2019, in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks won 3-2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Someday, the gig will end. The jig will be up. The bag will disappear.

Players will no longer be millionaires. The sport will no longer be flush with television money. A plodding product largely void of action will cease to entertain a newer, younger audience. Major League Baseball will die off along with its demographics, losing its seat at the table of American Sports that Matter.

For now, baseball gets another chance. Another swing of the bat. And this wouldn’t be possible without a global catastrophe.

Thanks to a pandemic, MLB will return with a heightened sense of urgency. A 60-game season will take the slow-roll out of baseball. Marathoners will be forced to embrace the sprint.

And with any luck, barnacles acquired over the past century will be shed along the way: The mindless rituals, ticks, routines, superstitions, the idling and lollygagging, the unwrapping and rewrapping of batting gloves, the needless throws to first base, the peccadillos and habits that make the game practically unwatchable … good riddance.

Let’s a hope a new baseball season breeds a new kind of baseball player. The kind that entertain and not stall, acting like their livelihoods depend on it.

Players won’t be allowed to spit? Good. Spitting is gross. Giant seed buckets will disappear from the dugout. Why were they there in the first place?

Pitchers can carry a wet rag in their pocket, but no more licking of the fingers. Managers who want to scream at umpires must stay six feet away or else. Extra innings will be microbursts of tension and not a cue for you turn off the television and get to bed. The toxic clubhouse culture will be diminished because players won’t be allowed to lounge in the clubhouse any longer.

In narrow terms, lopping off 63% of the schedule should even the playing field. It should help the Diamondbacks hang with the Dodgers. In theory, teams might struggle for 50 games, only to make the playoffs with one hot streak or homestand.

It’s a long way to the starting blocks. It’s even longer to the finish line. But the novelty and absurdity of Major League Baseball 2020 will be fascinating. It will instantly divert everyone’s attention.

The pathetic labor spat will no longer define the game and dominate every conversation. This 60-game season can be a bridge to a brighter day for MLB, where massive amounts of mandated change and the heightened sense of urgency changes the entire mindset and mission statement.

The truncated return of baseball could be a cattle prod to the great majority of its players. Empty stadiums will decrease the dawdling and increase the pace of play. They will think about what they’ve been missing, and how much they miss us. And how much they’ve let us down in the past.

In the coming weeks, an umpire will utter those two famous words. Baseball will get another chance to matter. Let’s hope they can barrel up on this pitch.

Dan Bickley

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