Commentary: It’s anyone’s game to win as Major League Baseball season starts
While the Cleveland Indians have had openers snowed out over the years, there’s absolutely no chance that will happen this time as they begin the 2020 regular season by hosting the Kansas City Royals Friday night at Progressive Field.
That’s what happens when the opener goes from happening just after the Spring Equinox to a month after the Summer Solstice.
Indeed, nothing is the same.
Way back when masks were the things you wore only on Halloween or to a costume party and social distancing was practiced solely by couples who didn’t get along, the Indians were picked to be hot on the trail of the defending American League Central champion Minnesota Twins this season. That might still happen – I like the Indians’ chances in large part because they have great starting pitching, which is the most important component for any team; and also the best manager in the game in Terry Francona, who does a tremendous job of adapting to change, which now becomes even more crucial because of the pandemic – but then again, it might not happen.
The season is only 60 games long, rendering null and void the more-than-a-century-old baseball adage that, with the usual 162-game schedule, the race to the finish line is not a sprint, but rather a marathon in which the teams that win will be the ones that do the best job of managing all the ebbs and flows. Don’t get too high in the good times or too low in the bad ones. And for goodness sake, don’t panic. Just hang on tightly and ride out the storm. It will eventually pass.
Now, though, with each game counting about 2½ times more than they used to, it’s now definitely a sprint. A five-game losing streak, which in the past would not have been much more than a bump in the road, now could deep-six a team, putting it into such a big hole that there’s not enough time to climb out of it and get back into the race.
It's why clubs like the Central rival Detroit Tigers, who have averaged 103 losses over the past three seasons, including 114 in 2019, now actually think they can compete for the division title if they can just get off to a fast start and not bury themselves in the first three weeks of the season.
Yeah, right. The Tigers will stay in the race when pigs fly.
Hey, what’s that thing up there in the sky?
Here’s an even crazier thought that’s entirely possible: What if the season never reaches the finish line because COVID-19 becomes the most dominant force in the game?