As we all predicted, MLB’s Opening Day 2021 was a wild ride in more ways than any of us could have dreamed of.
We had the very casual meeting between Cleveland and Detroit that gave us Miguel Cabrera going deep in the middle of a blizzard. Blessed were we by the Dodgers and future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw getting beat up by the almost-“certain to finish last” Colorado Rockies. In that masterpiece of nonsense, we got the rare “home run but not because no umpire made a call quick enough so it’s now somehow a single and this is why this game is confusing” play. Always a treat.
Following a similar fate was the Chicago Cubs, who took an L against the Triple-A Pittsburgh Pirates. In San Diego, the revamped semi-super team that is the Padres narrowly escaped with a victory against the… Arizona Diamondbacks? And the Texas Rangers lost to the Kansas City Royals, 14-10 after both teams scored 5 runs in the first inning.
You know, just the way we all thought Opening Day would go. I mean, when the defending American League Champions send out their ace Tyler Glasnow against the Miami Marlins and win by a score of 1-0, things appear to have gone awry somehow.
And maybe that’s a good thing for baseball.
Hear me out. For the last few years, we’ve all been whining about how awful it is to have more than a third of the teams begin the season without a real shot at winning their division, let alone a World Series. I recently heard somewhere that, “Baseball wasn’t losing its grip on America as its pastime, but that Baseball was slipping out of the normal daily lives of Americans more and more each year.” Never has the decline of baseball made more sense to me than in that statement.
If your team isn’t going to try to win games for 6 months, why spend that time watching them play? At least the NBA provides some kind of entertainment value, even if you’re an Orlando Magic or Atlanta Hawks fan. The MLB not so much.
But perhaps the scales are tipping.
As we saw on Opening Day, there’s something wonderful about a David and Goliath battle, especially when David wins. And with so many teams not pushing for tallies in the win column in the name of rebuilding, that makes those teams a little more dangerous. Instead of trap games, it’s possible we may see trap series as the season moves along. Playing a team that’s rebuilding, chock full of guys trying to prove themselves worthy of an MLB roster spot, might make easy wins against teams like the Pirates, Orioles, and Rockies, a little more difficult to count on.
Perhaps the solution to making Major League Baseball more accessible to the young fan, and more watchable in the future, is embracing that kind of daily volatility and playing into the unpredictable nature of these rebuilding squads. Everyone loves a David vs. Goliath story. Why not lean into the fact that you have one on a nightly basis? This is the same principle that fuels the English Premier League every year. So why can’t it work for America’s Pastime?
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