Monday, October 19, 2020

Newsletter Excerpt, October 19, 2020 -- "One Great Baseball Game"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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We’ll have time to dig into this matchup between the two best teams in baseball, the kind of matchup we don’t often get anymore in the Series. At the other end of this World Series, though, there’s going to be a conversation, and I want to get out ahead of it today.

F**k your asterisks.

The 2020 season included just 60 games due to a pandemic, one that has taken millions of lives and that we don’t, nine months on, have a handle on. Whether MLB should have put on any season at all was a point of contention, and that they did so without known incident is a credit to the people involved, to a willingness to treat the 2020 season as sui generis, and to dumb luck. it’s the shortest baseball season since “season” was a more fluid concept, and the shortest modern one ever, shorter still when you consider that the games themselves were often foreshortened.

All 30 teams played that shortened season. MLB elected to expand the playoffs to make up for some of the revenue they lost this year, which created a chaos agent that, fortuitously, has been neutralized. The 2020 champion will be one of the teams that, on February 15, would have been considered one of the best in the game. Neither is a fluke borne of a shortened season that didn’t expose its weaknesses, or of a schedule larded with shortened games, or of an expanded playoff format. The 60-game season is no longer a consideration.

In fact, those expanded playoffs mean that the champion we crown will have run the hardest playoff history. The 2014 Giants won 12 playoff games in winning the World Series. Next week’s winner will have won 13. They will have done it with just two playoff games at home, spending the final three-plus weeks of the year living in a hotel and playing at neutral sites. They will have done it against a backdrop of a global pandemic.

There are adjustments we have to make for 2020, analytically, historically, even economically as we look to 2021. What we don’t have to do is consider the winner of this World Series as anything less than the ones who came before, or the ones who will come after. The two best teams in baseball are playing for a championship, having come through the hardest playoff bracket ever. Do not, for a second, consider the winner of this World Series as anything less than a champion.