DAN BICKLEY

Stellar 2023 MLB season has baseball back on track

Sep 19, 2023, 4:40 PM | Updated: 5:04 pm

Evan Longoria #3 of the Arizona Diamondbacks slides into home plate to score the game winning run a...

Evan Longoria #3 of the Arizona Diamondbacks slides into home plate to score the game winning run against catcher Yan Gomes #15 of the Chicago Cubs during the 13th inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on September 16, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Cubs 7-6 in 13 innings. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It’s hard to define a great baseball season. You know it when you see one.

We are witnessing one of the best in 2023.

We have seen the dual-threat brilliance of Shohei Ohtani; the electricity produced by Ronald Acuna Jr. and the swagger that gushes from a dazzling crop of young players.

We have seen the taboo come true. A pitch clock is now governing a once-timeless sport. The impact cannot be overstated.

Fast-paced games have made baseball palatable once again. The sport is no locker mocking the biorhythms of American life. A new era of players can no longer torment us with their petty rituals and stalling tactics.

The sport is no longer turning away young viewers. To the contrary, the pitch clock and other new rules have showcased and liberated baseball’s best athletes.

Some still recoil at the drastic changes in professional baseball, for reasons that defy logic and the laws of entertainment. They are mostly old-school purists who already fear the tick-tock ravages of time, and don’t want that thunderous clock anywhere near their favorite pastime/sleeping aid.

But the problem was getting serious, and a doomsday clock was already ticking over the entire sport. The game had strayed like lost bison. The on-field product was appallingly slow, stale and soft. You could spend 20 minutes waiting for a single slice of action.

On a related topic, a new research paper claims human population once dwindled to around 1,300 before rallying from the brink of extinction. Humpback whales enjoyed a similar renaissance. Both work as metaphors for Major League Baseball.

Again, the point cannot be overstated. Commissioner Rob Manfred has said a lot of dumb things during his tenure. But one day history will declare him the man who saved an entire sport.

For Valley sports fans, it is an honor and privilege that the Diamondbacks are still in this very special race. They are chasing a playoff berth down the stretch of a historic baseball season. They have been 16 games over .500. They have lost 25 of 32 games in the span of 42 days. They have been the most jarring of thrill rides.

They might come up lame before the finish line. They might accelerate like Secretariat. But the Diamondbacks are still here, still a central part of the story, part of baseball’s unwritten history in 2023. If we’re lucky, the ending will be even more compelling than the rest of the book.

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