Several years ago, in 2008, there was a tremendous play that occurred during a game between the Kansas City Royals and the Boston Red Sox.
Jason Bay skied a ball to deep center field; Mitch Maier, the Royals center fielder at the time, went back and leapt, attempting to take a home run away from the former Ray. The ball bounded off of his glove and then, instead of continuing it’s momentum towards the other side of the fence or falling back into play, it just rolled precariously on top of the wall.
If not for the quick thinking of Royals left fielder, Ross Gload, the ball may have very well just stuck to its spot on the top of the fence, never fully committing to which side to fall.
This ball can very much represent the 2020 Major League Baseball “season”
Baseball has suffered during the pandemic
The sport has been through a brutal stretch of awfulness over the past several months, stemming from the entire saga of the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal and then with the Coronavirus bringing things to a screeching halt just a few weeks before the original Opening Day had been scheduled.
Then, once given the sort of all clear to resume activities, the players and owners fought for nearly two months to come to an agreement on how exactly to proceed monetarily, as well how to proceed as ensuring the players would be safe (the testing component of this is not without hiccups in the first week); meanwhile, the minor leaguers continue to get shafted, as they always do.
Now, ‘Summer Camp’ has begun and several of the game’s top players are either testing positive for the virus or just choosing to sit out of the 60-game crap-shoot MLB has planned.
Baseball’s new Opening Day is slated for July 23rd, with the Rays beginning a day later. Much of the stadiums in which these games will be held are going to be empty, and they’ll remain that way for the foreseeable future. The players, once they’ve completed the game, will presumably be shuttled back to their respective rooms and held there until it’s time for the next game, as MLB seeks to limit any and all interactions.
This will be their lives for the next three months, all so fans can get the enjoyment of cheering on their favorite teams from the comfort and relative safety of their living rooms.
Is it worth it?
Baseball is a huge component of my life. In previous years, my mood was always dependent on how the Rays fared during the previous night’s contest. A walk-off loss or some other gut-wrenching defeat would leave me despondent, while an incredible performance would have me floating on air, at least until the next game began and I went through the emotions all over again.
However, with all that has happened between last Fall and the spring leading up to now, I am struggling to find the motivation to be enthused by the upcoming season.
The Tampa Bay Rays are among the most exciting teams in all of baseball, with a fantastic young core and a great group of veterans, not to mention the game’s best group of prospects. But still, I just see what baseball is and there isn’t joy to be had.
I have spent time in the past writing over 5,000 words on the career of Dave Eiland (Danny mercifully edited it down to just 3,000) and examining the entire history of the Devil Rays 2002 season, and yet in this cultural moment I just can’t seem to find motivation to dig into what could possibly be the most interesting season in franchise history.
I wonder why that is.
Which way will the ball fall?
Much the like the play I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I just don’t know which way to lean. I want baseball, the game I love so very much, to be played and to enjoy the games as much as anyone. Then again, at the end of the day, these are all just people who will be sequestered away for over two months, getting tested almost daily just so they can play a few hour long game for the country’s entertainment.
Without an answer to this virus, the players and their families and the team employees will be risking their lives to deliver what is ultimately a distraction.
So each night, when I get the luxury of tucking my children into bed and then proceed to tune into that night’s contest, there will be a question lingering in my mind.
Is it worth it?