Baseball back, now in need of good

Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw is shown here taking batting practice. Bill Burt says thankfully pitchers hitting will end during this pandemic season.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Baseball is back.

Maybe. Hopefully. Cross your fingers. And pray.

We are going to get an idea of where the sport actually stands in the American landscape amid the greed (see failed owners vs. players negotiations), pandemic and the new look.

Instead of a marathon, which might be part of baseball's problem dealing with our country's 21st century obsession with instant gratification, we will get an all-out sprint.

Just over two months and 60 games.

You snooze, and say, start the season 2-8 through 10 games or 7-13 through 20 games, as the Red Sox did last spring, you lose. You're cooked.

On the other hand, in 2018 the Red Sox were 9-1 and 17-3 at similar stages, and we know what happened in late October at Dodger Stadium.

Maybe this sense of urgency, from opening day on July 23, is just what baseball needs.

The stats, which are a big attraction of the game, won't matter because the season will be 37 percent of its normal tenure.

If Jorge Soler hits 27 homers in 60 games, that would be akin to Barry Bonds rapping 73 homers, which is the all-time record, in 162. Soler, in case you didn't know, plays for the Kansas City Royals and led the American League with 48 homers in 2019.

The point is that winning will matter more. Sure, baseball has always lived by the dictum that "The sun will come up tomorrow," but there aren't as many tomorrows. Saving players and pitchers for tomorrow or the next day won't make sense.

There could be some more positives in this experiment.

Maybe doing what most minor leagues do and break season into a halves might add some spunk to the sport, with games in late June and early July, taking on extra meaning for first-half playoff spots.

Another, more recent minor league experiment has helped the extended extra innings games by putting a man on second base to start every extra inning. Having seen it several times live, it is intriguing. Do you sacrifice the runner to third base via a bunt or do you go for the jugular, the two-three run inning?

It quells the threat of a four-hour -- non-Red Sox-Yankees' -- game.

And then there's my personal favorite, the abolition of pitchers hitting. With the American and National League basically playing crossovers in 2020, due to reduced travel restriction and proximity, the designated hitter will disappear forever during this 2020 test run.

Pitchers have hit .117 over the last two seasons, including Clayton Kershaw, who hit .120 in 2019 with one RBI in 65 plate appearances.

Hitting is hard. Pitching is really hard. Enough said.  

As for the other new rules -- no spitting, high-fives, fist bumps, hugs and showers at the park -- good luck with those.

Of course, this could all be moot if a few teams have multiple players stricken with COVID-19. A complete shutdown is a possibility.

We, though, are going to try to remain positive and hopeful.

I've heard it said a lot lately, we need baseball. I'm not so sure after the hole the sport has dug for itself the last decade-plus.

But I do know baseball needs the fans more. Baseball needs to have a big season and give people a reason to come back in droves in 2021.

Maybe baseball could end up being better than ever.

Stay tuned. Your guess is as good as mine.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.

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