Hoornstra: Giving thanks for baseball in 2020

It has been a strange year. I became a father in February. The seasons changed with no sport telling me which seasons changed. Then I wrote it in July most morbid baseball season preview section in the history of the baseball season preview sections:

This season will not be normal and not just because it is so short. COVID-19 is thought to attack blood vessels, not hamstrings or rotator cuffs. We are not sure how much time it will take an individual player to recover from a fight with the virus. We don’t know how well they will recover. Unfortunately, we can’t even know as they will recover. Any day between now and September 27 could be the tipping point for something catastrophic – a death, a team-wide outbreak – that makes the season unplayable.

My son and I came to enjoy the quiet moments on our porch, watching cars drive in the street. A few months ago, we saw the first purple-and-gold Lakers flag pop out of a car window. The first Dodgers flag followed. A well-known season had begun.

There are a lot of good Yogi Berra quotes, but I think my favorite is “you can observe a lot by looking.” After months of pandemic weirdness, seeing the Dodgers and Lakers flags meant more of a return to the norm than ever covering a baseball game in an empty stadium. The flags gave voice to the voiceless, the fans who couldn’t attend a game in person, but still cared about a Dodgers or Lakers championship. It was good to hear from them again.

Considering how bleak things looked when spring turned into summer, Thanksgiving came early this year. The end of the Dodgers’ longest drought since the franchise was out of Brooklyn wasn’t the only reason to give thanks. For the owner of any car with a nylon shell that chatters in the autumn wind, it was certainly the best.

Objectively, there are a million reasons for baseball fans to be grateful today. A wise man once said – I paraphrase – that a lucky owner gets a piece of metal at the end of each season. One team would no doubt win the World Series, and this year it was the Dodgers, right?

Not so in 2020. No team was required to win the World Series this year. Far from it.

“I feel like they got lucky,” said Gil Fried, a professor of sports management at the University of New Haven’s Pompea College of Business, “but there’s a Jewish saying – luck – which means happiness in Hebrew. Happiness is being in the right place at the right time with the right learning to know what to do. It’s a Jewish phrase, but it basically means that while you can be lucky, you can create the atmosphere where happiness can actually be productive and result in what you really want to achieve. They did all the work in the background. ”

The baseball season lasted 13 weeks and five days from first to last. Each week brought a new reminder of how precarious an experiment was.

A Sunday in July, the Miami Marlins Reportedly learned their starting pitcher and two other players had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. They chose to play their scheduled game in Philadelphia anyway. The Marlins were therefore not allowed to play for another eight days; the Phillies were denied permission for another seven.

An outbreak at the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse meant they didn’t play a game from July 29 to August 15. Part of the team spent nearly a week in quarantine at a Milwaukee hotel. The resulting cancellations and postponements forced the Cardinals to play 53 games in 44 days to close the season.

No Major League player returned a positive test for 58 consecutive days until the streak was broken on October 27. Dodger’s third baseman Justin Turner found himself the hapless soul in the middle of Game 6 of the World Series, after which he was removed from the game on national television – a fittingly surreal end to a surreal season.

But none of these were a death knell. The Cardinals and Marlins qualified for the playoffs. The Dodgers won Game 6, trophy in hand, not a moment too soon. Last week, Turner stood side by side with Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, handing out turkeys at a drive-by giveaway at the Dream Center. The exact time of year has never been so clear.

These blessings will do little to comfort some of baseball’s most invested participants. The pandemic left hundreds of people in the industry out of work, from senior scouts to junior front office assistants to minor league players and coaches and broadcasters. The most famous player who was involuntarily unemployed for the year, Yasiel Puig, appeared to have a contract with the Atlanta Braves in July. He then tested positive for COVID-19.

The number of future jobs in baseball lost in the pandemic is impossible to know.

“I think the entire sports management education field is on this island right now,” said Fried. “The reason is: what happened to all the stages? We don’t have them anymore. Much of it has evaporated. ”

We cannot pretend to find the blessings in it. If they exist, they chose the clever disguise of economic turmoil within a multi-billion dollar industry. Perhaps a baseball season that lasted 13 weeks and five days saved more jobs than a year without baseball. I do not know. I know preparations are underway for more baseball in 2021, with or without fans in attendance, and that hasn’t always been a given.

The best baseball prophet of our time is not a yogi, but a raja: “People ask me what I do in the winter when there is no baseball,” Rogers Hornsby said. ‘I’ll tell you what I’m doing. I stare out the window and wait for spring. “There’s more hope than despair out that window now, and that’s one reason to give thanks.