With the World Series just in the rearview mirror, this wild Major League Baseball season has ended; one that we will never forget.
Opening Day in baseball usually kicks off every season in late March, but the pandemic pushed the start to late July.
In the meantime, people like me were watching ESPN-broadcast games from the Korean Baseball Organization because of the delay.
It didn’t matter who was playing. Hearing the first crack of the bat in months made me feel that we were slowly returning to normal.
Of course, the league had to make changes and jump over several obstacles.
All 30 clubs were to play 60 regular-season games against the teams in their division in the National and American Leagues.
Extra innings were different, since each team would have a lead runner on second base to start the inning. It would create better chances to score while also making the games end quicker.
Unlike leagues such as the NHL, NBA and MLS that had a bubble, Major League Baseball decided to have each team play at their home stadiums without fans until later into the playoffs.
Since Canada has been very strict on how they are handling the pandemic, their government didn’t allow the Toronto Blue Jays to play at their ballpark, the Rodgers Centre. So instead, the Blue Jays played their home games at Sahlen Park in Buffalo, New York.
It is the stadium that where their minor league affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, play.
When it comes to sports, I want to feel like I’m at the game. Seeing a sold-out crowd and the whole place loudly erupting is what makes watching or going to games so special.
With the pandemic, however, we have had to settle for empty seats and listening to fake crowd noises on TV, which has ruined the whole experience of tuning in.
As predictable as this was, the biggest threat for baseball was players getting the virus, and it only took about two weeks until team members and staff began testing positive for COVID-19.
The Miami Marlins was the first team to have an outbreak as 18 players on the 30-man roster contracted the virus, forcing them to quarantine and miss games.
Since the MLB knew there would be positive cases, they changed the rule on how double-headers worked. Instead of having two full-length ballgames in one day, both games would be seven innings and not the normal nine.
This way, the players would have a chance to recuperate and feel much better before they played again.
Another outbreak happened with the St. Louis Cardinals. Multiple players tested positive in August, causing the team to quarantine for 17 days. They eventually had to play 11 double-headers because of the games they missed.
It wasn’t surprising for me to see numerous cases throughout the league. There were only a few players and managers wearing masks or social distancing in their dugouts.
Despite positive tests and postponements, the regular season eventually finished and a new playoff format was born. There were still four playoff rounds, but the MLB modified it specifically for the pandemic.
The new format included the eight best teams from the American League and the eight best from the National League. Previously, there were eight teams in total.
In the Wild Card Series for each league, the top seed would play the number eight seed, and whoever finished second would play the seventh seed, and so on. The first team to win two games would move on to the next round.
After that, four teams from their respective leagues would compete against each other in a best-of-five series. Regular season placement determined who was seeded where, and in the post-season, the highest-seeded team would always play the lowest remaining seed.
Despite the new changes, the MLB kept the formats for the championship series’ and World Series the same.
Even with all the excitement the playoffs have brought, the coronavirus has been an issue all season, but it still seems like they don’t know how to control it.
The biggest head-scratcher for me was back when the ALCS and NLCS started, and the league allowed fans back even though the MLB considers themselves being inside a bubble in Texas.
Why would they call it a “bubble” if spectators have returned to the stands?
I thought the MLB was trying to limit the spread of COVID-19, but it hasn’t seemed like they’ve been following the correct protocols. If you’ve remember the games, fans hardly ever wore masks and aren’t social distancing.
They have made all these modifications to have a season during the pandemic, but it surely doesn’t seem like Major League Baseball cares about the virus itself.