Three days before Boris Johnson delivered his “you must stay at home” lockdown speech on 23 March, I wrote an article titled What if there is no baseball until April 2021. At the time, America had suffered 258 COVID-19 related deaths, so it seemed a little far-fetched to talk about 100,000 fatalities in the USA.
As we know now, the US death toll reached 100,000 way back in May, and every day now, the States seem to have a new record-breaking number of positive cases. Despite these stark statistics, the first pitch of the 2020 MLB season will be thrown next week.
Baseball is my drug of choice. It is my escape from reality; a few hours each week without facing the real world. I’m torn between thinking that the whole 2020 season should be aborted and my desire for my favourite distraction.
Unless there is a horrendous viral outbreak in team camps over the next few days, we will enjoy the mouth-watering prospect of Gerrit Cole against Max Scherzer in the Yankees vs. Nationals Opening Day clash on Thursday 23 July. I can’t wait, but I definitely don’t want either team to win the World Series.
The Nationals are reigning champions and retaining the trophy is never easy. I don’t think any team has won consecutive World Series’ this century, although to be fair, the Yankees won three on the bounce starting in 1998. An abridged season contributing to the Nats winning two straight would be unsatisfactory.
Obviously, like most baseball fans, I don’t want the Yankees to win. In fact, the only cool thing about the Yankees winning in 2020 would be Brett Gardner having World Series champions rings from two non-sequential decades, having been part of New York’s winning team in 2009.
If the Evil Empire wins the World Series, you can already hear their fans argue that a regular season of just 60 games did not taint the championship, and there should not be an asterisk by 2020.
We don’t know how this season will unfold, but the team crowned in the Fall Classic will struggle for legitimacy.
It is for that reason that I don’t want the Cleveland Indians to win this year. Don’t get me wrong; I love watching the Tribe. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are two of the most exciting players in the game, but it won’t feel like a genuine end to the Indians’ 72-year drought (the longest in MLB) if they lift the Commissioner’s Trophy in November.
For similar reasons, I don’t want 2020 to be when the Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres or Seattle Mariners win the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
Once upon a time, in the days when Corona was synonymous with Mexican beer, solar aura or old-fashioned carbonated soft drinks, the world despised the Houston Astros.
The vitriolic abuse levelled at the franchise was unprecedented. You half expected to see a Carlos Correa effigy swinging from temporary gallows outside of Yankee Stadium.
It was inevitable that every game would be a crescendo of abuse. Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman would get hit more often than Derek Dietrich, and you can imagine them maintaining a season-long scorecard. Dusty Baker, seemingly the game’s only septuagenarian given how many times he is used as the example of a potential coronavirus victim, would become a familiar sight trudging onto the field to remonstrate with the umpire after yet another one of his hitters was drilled.
The crowd-free, confrontation-free season ahead of us benefits the Astros more than any other team. I definitely don’t want them to win the World Series without facing the wrath of crowds for their cheating actions. Cheats are not meant to prosper.
Obviously, a 90-loss team from 2019 transforming into 2020 World Series will be an unsatisfactory result, undermining any claims that this is a serious campaign, so I don’t want the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins or Colorado Rockies to win.
My worst-case scenario for the 2020 championship sees the Angels crowned as World Series champions.
Wearing my neutral baseball cap, the Angels are usually one of the first choices when scrolling down MLB.tv listings, but a Halos victory could be heart-breaking.
I try to explain the myth of Mike Trout to non-baseball friends. “He’s like Lionel Messi, but he’s also an elite defender.” “Imagine the baseball equivalent of Roger Federer … but still in his 20s.”
Despite 72.8 WAR, which is more than Derek Jeter accumulated in his 20-year career, Mike Trout only has one postseason hit to his name. If the Angels reached the playoffs and clinched the World Series, can you imagine the disappointment if Trout was absent having opted-out halfway through the campaign to be with wife, Jessica, and the imminent new arrival in the Trout household?
“It’s going to come down to how safe we’re going to be. If there’s an outbreak, you definitely have to reconsider. There’s a lot of questions. I love baseball, but I have to do what’s right for my family. It’s going to be a tough decision if something happens down the road.”
Personally, I would rather the Angels did not reach the playoffs than get there with Millville’s favourite son sitting at home watching on the telly.
A World Series featuring the Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds or San Francisco Giants would be intriguing, but I accept that going from a losing record to World Series champs does not help the argument that the 2020 competition hasn’t been completely devalued.
Coming into 2020, Liverpool FC and the Los Angeles Dodgers were two of sports’ under-achievers. Big money, big crowds but no titles for years and years. Liverpool’s last championship was in 1990, and the Dodgers haven’t lifted the World Series trophy since 1988. I hope one of them finish 2020 with their ‘inability to win the big one’ intact.
And I definitely don’t want the Boston Red Sox winning. After the Mookie Betts/David Price fiasco, there is no way any team should be rewarded after dumping one of the best players in the game. The shortened season makes it more possible, but I hope it doesn’t happen.
So that leaves us with the Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, St Louis Cardinals, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves.
I think any of those teams would make me happy and would be legitimate winners of the 2020 World Series.
Jump over to Twitter @BatFlips_nerds and tell us which team you least want to win this year’s championship.
You can follow Gavin on Twitter at @tramps