I certainly intend to enjoy it more so than usual. I haven’t forgotten just how jarring last year was. The experience of going an entire spring without baseball had a lasting impact, to say the least. I was so used to just sitting on my couch, turning a ball game on, and relaxing throughout the spring and summer.
Losing that hurt.
It hurt a lot.
It also made me appreciate baseball that much more.
For me, there’s a sentimental value for baseball. Growing up, some of my fondest memories involve sitting on the couch with my dad, cracking peanuts, and watching ball games together. I didn’t even care who was playing. Just watching baseball with my dad was a joyous experience. I came to cherish that experience as I got older.
Now, after last year, I’m ready to cherish it even more. I encourage other baseball fans to do the same. We lost a lot in 2020. We took so many things for granted, including baseball. Let’s take the time to celebrate having it this year.
I know I don’t talk about baseball that much. Please don’t misconstrue that as me saying I don’t care for it. I love baseball as much as any guy who grew up playing catch with his dad in the back yard. Some of my fondest memories are of watching ball games with my dad and eating peanuts.
While I tend to get more excited about football, I still enjoy a beer and a ball game. However, there are some other reasons why I don’t get as excited about baseball as I do with football.
Some of that has to do with the duration of the season and how often it seems certain teams clinch their playoff spots weeks ahead of time. Most of it has to do with the playoff format, itself. That’s the one part of Major League Baseball that I’ve always had a problem with.
Compared to other sports, baseball has always been much more limited in terms of which teams make the playoffs and how those games are structured. For me, the playoffs never got exciting until the ALCS and the NLCS. That’s usually when the drama happens. The divisional rounds before it are just too forgettable.
This is what it looked like, just after the wild card rounds wrapped up.
Now, I know baseball is famous for having staunch traditionalists, but after following the wild card rounds, I have to say this.
The MLB should totally keep this format or, at the very least, keep most of it.
I love this new format. It really made the MLB playoffs feel exciting again. For once, I didn’t have to wait until the championship rounds to see some drama. As bad as 2020 has been for sports, this new tournament format might be the best thing that came out of it.
This new setup gives struggling teams a reason to keep playing in the regular season, even when they get into a skid. With this expanded format, there are more spots to fight for. The dominant teams will still get their spot, but now there are new opportunities for teams to sneak in and make an impact.
In baseball, that’s a big deal. I’ve been watching baseball long enough to know that any team can get hot at just the right time. Last year was a perfect example of it. The 2019 Washington Nationals are a perfect example of this. They had to get into the playoffs as a wild card team and go through heavyweights like the Dodgers en route to their first World Series title.
It can happen in baseball. Great teams can just have a bad day at the park or several. A wild card team can get hot and take that momentum to a championship. The Nationals sent a message to every team in the wild card round this year that it can happen to them, too.
Beyond the opportunity, it’s just more exciting. I know last year had a single-game elimination wild card, but I found that to be somewhat underwhelming. Like I said, any team can have a bad day at the ball park. Sometimes, quality teams just falter on a particular day. That sometimes means the lucky team wins instead of the better team.
I think a three-game playoff series fits perfectly. It helps ensure a team can win or lose on a single fluke. It also gives a team that falters in one game to make up for it the next. It’s a better way of determining who’s the better team in the long run.
Now, I know 2020 is a crazy year that has done lasting damage to the sports world. I don’t doubt that professional leagues are eager to go back to the way things were before the pandemic ruined so much.
However, I sincerely hope that Major League Baseball retains this new format for the postseason. I think it’ll do a lot of good for baseball and the sports world, in general. I know there are some logistical issues and I’m sure the players union will want to get their say. I believe there’s a way to do it and ensure everyone benefits.
When there’s reason to cheer, I tend to notice. After 2012, however, this area didn’t have many reasons to be cheerful. The Baltimore/DC area has had mixed luck at best when it comes to major sports. The DC area was especially unlucky in that, until very recently, no major sports team had won a championship since the Redskins did it in 1992. That’s a long drought, albeit not the longest.
That finally changed in 2018 when the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup. Make no mistake. This was a big deal for the area. My ears are still ringing from some of the cheering I heard. It also made the area subject to an interesting, but sexy side-effect of winning a championship. It may or may not have inspired a bit of a baby boom in the area.
Now, that makes sense intuitively. When your team wins, especially after a long drought, fans are going to celebrate. Sometimes, the celebrations get sexy. When things get sexy, babies sometimes get made. That’s just the nature of celebrations and they’re a beautiful thing.
While it’s hard to determine how much or how little of a baby boom there was once the Capitals won the cub in 2018, there was a notable uptick in babies being named after players. There has also been some previous research about cities or regions that win the Super Bowl on whether a championship causes a spike in birth rates. To date, the research is inconclusive.
This brings me back to the DC area. Just a month and a half ago, the Washington Nationals capped off a historic playoff run to win their first World Series since the franchise moved from Montreal back in 2005. It also marked the first World Series won by a DC baseball team since 1924.
As someone who lives near the area, I can confirm that this was an emotional achievement. I have family members who remembered vividly when DC lost its baseball team back in the 1970s. It was a sad time for the region. Some thought they would never see baseball in DC again.
Then, the Washington Nationals came back and, for most of their early history, they were terrible. Even when they got good, though, they developed a reputation for choking in the playoffs. For them to win it all this year, especially after starting 19-31, was nothing short of astounding.
The celebrations this achievement triggered were a sight to behold. It also had me check my calendar. The Nationals capped off their championship on October 30, 2019. That means in late July, early August 2020, we’ll find out just how much celebrating DC sports fans did after that historic achievement.
I’ve already got my calendar marked. I’m going to be keeping an eye on the local news to see if there’s an uptick in births throughout the area during that time. If I find something, I’ll be sure to share the results. Honestly, as a long-time resident of the DC/Baltimore area, I hope there is a bit of a spike. If nothing else, it’ll show the people in my area know how to celebrate in sexy ways.