Since I’m still trying to figure a way in to the Magic Dance Sunday series, I decided to change things up this week and go with something completely different. With spring training on the horizon, Imma summon my creative fastball with a 2021 preview of what to expect from the MLB this coming season. And as always, if you decide to place a wager based on these predictions, seek help . . immediately.
The season begins on April Fools Day, and the results are in keeping . . .
Newly acquired slugger George Springer hits a record five home runs in his Blue Jays debut as Toronto beats Gerrit Cole and the Yankees 21-18. New York signs NFL place-kicker Sam Ficken after the loss. In Colorado, the defending champion Dodgers score so many runs that the scoreboard operator resorts to Roman numerals after the fifth inning. Final score: Dodgers XXVIII- Rockies II. The New York Mets win their opener over the Nationals, after which the New York papers declare the NL East Race to be over. The Chicago White Sox club the home team Angels so badly that Mike Trout asks to be traded to a playoff contender. He is promptly dealt to the Rams for five first round draft picks.
Once the season gets its legs kicking, form wins out. In the National League, the Dodgers go undefeated until mid-July and end up beating out the San Diego Padres for the NL West. The Mets win the East going away, prompting owner Steve Cohen to ask for public money to build an exact replica of The Colosseum. For the first time in baseball history, an entire division- the NL Central- is eliminated from postseason play.
In the American League, the Yankees win the East but decide to sit out the playoffs since more than half the team is on the injured list. “We would have to call A-Rod back into service, and I’d much rather hold on to the soul the good Lord gave me,” Says manager Aaron Boone. The White Sox win the AL Central but are upstaged by the Chicago Bears trade for DeShaun Watson so the team announces it will be moving to the cornfields of Iowa in 2022. The Houston Astros win the AL Central despite playing in a literal dump, after MLB removes every trash can from Minute Maid Park.
The postseason is where things get carazy with a capital Ice-T.
The Dodgers fall flat after going 151-3 in the regular season, losing in three straight to the Mets, after which they attempt to trade for the Rams Mike Trout but are thwarted since LA is undefeated thanks in large part to the running back’s MVP caliber season. The Mets then lose a hard fought classic to the Padres in seven games, when Fernando Tatis hits a pennant clinching home run in extra innings. The Mets lodge a protest claiming they led for the first three innings and thus should be awarded the game but the case goes nowhere since the GOP already tried that in the 2020 Presidential election.
In the American League, with the Yankees out, the Tampa Bay Rays stand in for them and proceed to sweep the Astros out of the playoffs. Houston promises to bring a pennant back to Houston next season, after the city’s health department orders the team to house trash cans in their stadium by 2022. The Rays are then swept out themselves by the White Sox, after which the team enters into discussions with the city of Tampa to build a tax-payer funded stadium for the team . . in Montreal.
The World Series is a winner for baseball fans, even if the networks complain that a San Diego/Chicago World Series is a ratings killer on the level of The Alliance of American Football. Fox Sports President Mark Silverman petitions to have the teams replaced with New York and Los Angeles and Commissioner Rob Manfred suggests two World Series be played. The idea goes nowhere since daytime World Series games would have to be played in order to pull it off, and no network worth its gravy is going to forfeit prime time ratings, sorry kids.
With the series locked at three games apiece, the deciding game is played in a snowstorm. It’s the first such storm to hit San Diego in more than fifty years. Illinois GOP Chairman Don Tracy calls it a “Gift from God” but is refuted by California Governor Gavin Newsom who proclaims it to be a byproduct of climate change. Feeling right at home in the elements, the White Sox push five runs across the board and hold serve through the first seven innings before the Padres answer with three runs of their own after replacing their cleats with snowshoes. The game goes to the bottom of the ninth inning with the White Sox clinging to a 5-4 lead when Fernando Tatis comes to the plate with one man on and two outs.
“Tom Brady is one swing away from delivering San Diego its first Stanley Cup ever!” Says a clearly inebriated Joe Buck. The Fox announcer will later admit he played a drinking game in which he downed a shot of tequila every time a batter struck out in Game 7. To the great entertainment of Fox viewers, the teams combine to strike out a record forty six times.
Tatis quickly falls behind 0-2 and appears to tweak his left shoulder, which forces him to finish his at bat from the left side. A Fox Graph follows, grimly predicting the Padres chances of winning to be less than Hilary Clinton’s in a Presidential election. Somehow, Tatis works the count to 3-2 as Joe Buck is replaced in the booth by the legendary Vin Scully, who tucks the baseball season to bed.
“And Tatis has sustained every punch the odds have thrown his way, from the frigid snowflakes out of Currier and Ives to the fiery bullets being served up by Sox closer Alex Colome. Add in the fact that Tatis is batting from the left side for the first time since his days as a prospect in the Dominican League. And now El Nino, as befitting a name in these conditions as Henry Thoreau could muster, is being asked to pen a Cinderella ending for the Friars . . .”
” . . . Colome will be pitching from the windup here with the whole of October in the offing. And now the pitch . . . hit deep down the right field line, if it’s fair its gone . . . it iiiiiiiiiis GONE!”
And then Scully does something remarkable. He lets the scene play out without injecting a single, solitary adjective. He lets the tapestry of joy and heartbreak play out on its own, and he allows the viewers . . to view. Three minutes worth of watching men transform themselves into little boys again. Stomping through a miracle ending on the way to baseball nirvana. Inside this moment, the world settles into a most agreeable place, where magic and reality intertwine before the season gets lost to winter. And in the dark confines of the losing dugout can be heard that most dignified appraisal of not just baseball, but life itself.
Wait till next year.