By Nate McMullen
I’ll start this opinion piece with a disclaimer: I’m not happy baseball is gone. Every day from March to October, I watch baseball. Every day from October to March, I wait for it to come back. It’s not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle, or so they say. Anyway, this suspension of Major League Baseball hurts me as much as any fan. That doesn’t mean I’ll despair until it returns. In fact, I’ll play the role of obnoxious optimist and say we can benefit—maybe benefit is too strong a word—we can capitalize on the situation to increase our knowledge and appreciation of the game we love.
Never before in my (admittedly short) lifetime do I remember such an outpouring of love and appreciation for baseball. It seems that most recent large-scale news about the sport has discussed how it should change: pitcher batter minimums, pitch clocks, juiced baseballs… the debate has centered around what’s not good enough. Finally, that noise is gone. All that remains in the absence of MLB is a desire for it to return. Social media is abuzz with highlights, photos, memories and general longing for the game. Nobody is concerned with changing the game; we just want it back. Let’s take this opportunity to forget the specifics and remember just how great baseball truly is.
A lack of the present can force one to look into the past. I say that like it’s universal; maybe it only applies to me and baseball. Nevertheless, MLB’s re-airing of old content in this purgatory has proven a perfect outlet to study the history of the game. All I remembered about Randy Johnson before this quarantine was that he was a dominant left-hander who struck guys out and won and a World Series with my D-backs. Did anybody else need a reminder that he not only won FIVE Cy Young awards in his career, but also struck out over 4,800 batters? And I can’t be the only person who needed a reminder of how good Buster Posey was in the early 2010s. Three rings, 2010 Rookie of the Year, 2012 MVP, six-time All-Star, .336 average and 103 RBIs in 2012… unreal. Even Babe Ruth, a legend whom everyone knows by name but perhaps not numbers, surprised me. I had no idea Babe hit 50 homers five different times, including seasons of 59 and 60; compare that to how exciting it was to watch Giancarlo Stanton hit 59 in 2017. The pause in play has created a perfect chance to put what we’re missing, and what we’ll see when the game comes back, into greater perspective.
It’s easy to see professional athletes—anybody, for that matter—on TV and deify them. Multimillionaires who perform in front of tens of thousands of people can’t be made of the same stuff as you and I. Well, they are, and this quarantine reinforces it. Videos of ballplayers restless at home or playing catch at a local little league field make me feel a little bit better; these superhumans are just as stranded as we are. Whether you can hit baseballs 450 feet or can’t pick up a baseball bat, we’re all people trapped in a state of uncertainty. When these guys return to their stage (whenever that may be), the discrepancies between us and them will once again be obvious, but we can always remember the time that even $300 million-dollar studs were mere humans.
Like I said, I miss baseball. I’ll miss it every day until it returns. Even so, appreciating what’s happening in its absence is no betrayal. Let’s enjoy what we can until MLB returns in all its glory.