Random Thoughts During Our Latest Baseball Lull
Time seems to have shifted in so many ways during 2020. Whether it is a shift to primarily working at home, shifts in business hours and practices, or the lack of season change signaling sports events like March Madness or MLB Opening Day, there are a lot of reasons time feels like it has gone crazy on us this year. Add in at least three series interrupted and/or rescheduled due to COVID outbreaks or positive tests, and I can’t imagine how the Yankees feel these days.
At this point, the Yankees are 16-9. Typically, that would mean it was still April or barely May. That time of the season when we still can convince ourselves that Giancarlo Stanton’s slow start is a fluke or that the Yankees have plenty of time to make up for having multiple stars on the IL. Instead, we are sitting here talking about trade deadlines and – well, whether the Yankees have time to make up for having multiple stars on the IL. Somethings seem a little too familiar.
Just the other day, a good friend of mine (who happens to be a Red Sox fan, it’s unavoidable up here in the frigid wasteland known as Vermont) and I were discussing how Charlie Blackmon was on pace to hit over .400 for the year and whether that should count in such an abbreviated season. Obviously, as a Ted Williams fan, he felt invested in the discussion, but we both agreed it seemed asinine to compare someone playing a 60 game season to someone who hit .406 over 143 games. If that were the case, you could include Williams’ .407 batting average from 1953 when he was in just 37 games.
Obviously, numbers play an important role in all sports, but baseball is particularly numbers-driven. Baseball fans feel passionately about whether or not Barry Bonds’ 762 homers should be given an asterisk because he juiced. They debate things like: Will anyone ever be able to break Ichiro’s 262 single-season hit record? What about DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak? Lou Gehrig’s 2632 consecutive games played?
Of course, statistics are getting far more mature than the traditional counting statistics. We are constantly refining the ways in which we can better dissect what is going on on the field. These numbers are how we argue what team had the best lineup in history or why Curt Schilling doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.
As discussions about the trade deadline started to heat up, I found myself asking, “Why?” Are there really going to be any big blockbuster deals? Certainly, there will always be teams trying to shed payroll and others looking more longterm, but how much do you want to bet on this short season? Five years from now, will we be talking about how some player has hit 20 homers in ten straight seasons, with the exception of 2020, or will we have collectively decided to ignore it?
Don’t get me wrong, I have been loving watching games this season. It had felt like way too long and regardless of some of the injuries, the Yankees are fun to watch. I even feel like the players look like they are mostly having fun out there and enjoying something seeming somewhat normal. It’s a nice distraction, but I find I keep struggling to be excited about the season as a whole. I’m not sure what the context for this season is yet, though I suspect years from now there will be some fascinating books about the 2020 season.
By Tamar Chalker
August 25, 2020