It was one of those headlines that made you look twice. Then read it again to make sure it wasn’t something from the Onion or part of a dream. The major leagues are going to try to have a season right here in 2020. There are more deaths from this virus already than this country had in World War I and there is no sign at all of abatement but here we go, empty stadiums and all.
Golly gee! Right away my head began to spin and my legs started taking me in a direction I had not traveled in quite a long time. The next thing I knew I had opened the door to the neighborhood tavern and, once my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realized that there was no one in there that I knew, except for Nick, the bartender. Nick never acknowledges your presence until your wallet is in your hand. There was one sly guy standing near the side door with a bottle of beer in his right hand and his left hand held a lit cigarette that he could step right outside with if anyone made a fuss. I was the only one wearing a mask, including Nick, so I guess the side door was handy for that as well. I needed to talk, so I was glad that there was music playing although I didn’t see a juke box. It was Joe Walsh playing Time Out, “wake you up to tell you it’s okay to sleep some more, by the way, is there any you can sell us?” and not so loud you couldn’t have a conversation but loud enough you could talk.
There was a little man with a pony tail on a stool at the end of the bar nursing a drink of some kind. He looked to be Asian or maybe Native American, I can’t always tell and I never ask because it’s rude and I hate to show my ignorance. Anyway, he had a kind face and was smiling so I began to unload. Do you follow baseball? Yeah, well, did you hear? Sixty games! No fans in the stands and masks in the dugout! Holy shit, this is weird. Oh, and the most Mickey Mouse thing of all, if there are extra innings—–yeah, right, a runner on second to start the inning! But the worst, the absolute worst is Designated Sitter in both leagues! That’s it man. Pitchers hitting is gone forever. Sacrifice bunts, what’s that? Squeeze play, forget it! I had hope. I had hope but now it’s gone. I can’t believe it! Sorry to be so upset, thanks for listening.
I admit that I drank the first beer too quickly but I ordered another and told myself to sip this time. The kind man said that his name was Elmer and that he had an answer for me if I would be so kind as to provide another drink for him. I said thank you and asked Nick for a bottle of mineral water for Elmer. Eventually, it arrived. Now the juke box or whatever it was featured Ry Cooder singing It’s Just Work For Me and I was still sort of fidgeting. Elmer had a sip of water and began to speak. You have your reality and I have mine, he said. Every living thing does. What holds us all together is heavy as a stone and light as a feather. It is fragile and it is strong. It is big and it is small. What do you want to do? Do you want to be back to 1972, when Richard Nixon wiped the floor with George McGovern? Do you like Sansabelt slacks? Do you want cigarettes to cost a dollar a pack so you can start smoking again? Is Barry Manilow your favorite singer?
He looked at me with a little half smile. I wanted to smack his little face. I thanked him for his time, gulped down the rest of the almost cold beer and went back out into the searing heat. Okay, then, I’ve got nothing against Ron Blomberg or Harold Baines or any of those guys. It’s just that the game I’ve always loved is—-okay, screw it. Let’s go. Let’s go all the way like a co-ed softball league. Let’s have more wretched excess than Blind Faith and Vanilla Fudge put together. Sixty games? Hell, let’s have 60 double headers of five innings each! Guys don’t pitch more than five innings anyway. Instead of using nine innings to figure earned run average, let’s use five. Who cares? Old school pitchers like Madison Bumgarner and Max Scherzer could start both games of the double header. So called “closers” could get two saves in one day. Then you have a 120 game schedule, sort of like a strike year. And why stop with designated sitters? With that extra inning rule we would be ripe for designated runners too. And, not to denigrate the good fielders who can’t hit much, let’s have designated fielders who also aren’t allowed to bat. Sure. It’s an age of specialization so now youngsters can choose early on what aspect of the game they prefer to practice. Perfect. We would all rather just play video games anyway, right?