It doesn’t matter if we’re looking at 50, 80 or over 100 games in the 2020 season whenever baseball gets going. This World Series will count.
Look at everything we have been through this year, and we’re just getting through the halfway point. Kobe died, a worldwide pandemic halted nations with more than 100,000 Americans dying because of it and, oh yeah, we finally had that open and honest conversation about race we put down during the Civil Rights movement. On top of this a lot of us have barely left our house and were forced to be hermits.
In any normal circumstance you can say a shortened season wouldn’t lead to a true champion – whatever that means – but that just downplays everything we lived through and will live through. We didn’t even get to one of the most important elections of our time yet – one that will forever change the path of the United States – and there’s a good chance we’ll have to go through that while we head into a second Covid wave.
Nothing in the world is normal. Everything in our life has been laced with inconvenience. Baseball won’t be the exception. We need to stop thinking it will be.
The thing to put into context about why this World Series will be important is to look at how baseball has always perceived players and moments. Sometimes the context of the times magnifies its importance regardless of wins, losses, stats, and, in the case of 2020, the amount of games played.
On a local level, the portions of the 2001 World Series in the Bronx are still celebrated by Yankee fans even though it didn’t end well for the bombers. Those victories at home really felt like victories for the City.
On a historic level, a guy like Jackie Robinson had a shorter career than most in Cooperstown but we recognize him as a sure-fire Hall of Famer for his play on the field — but more important than that, what he did to change the fabric of our culture.
Don’t get me wrong. If we take away the context of Jackie’s importance to the game he still had an elite 11 year stretch. Think Daniel Murphy with the Nationals but with less power, better defense and he did it for over a decade. In his career Jackie accumulated a 57.2 WAR and had two seasons pulling a Mike Trout with over a 9 WAR. Jackie also sported a .311 AVG, .883 OPS and a 135 wRC+.
We all know the history of Major League Baseball voters. They will always find “something” to bring a player’s Hall value down. Jackie’s cultural significance was so great though that he negated any thoughts about him not being eligible because he didn’t play enough. I’m sure guys like that existed but, well, history has made their lives and thoughts entirely obsolete.
Of course on the opposite end of the Jackie Robinson spectrum, Curt Schilling’s very valid Hall of Fame claim has been shot down for a few years now because of the things he’s said and his affiliations with the modern day Nazi propaganda blog Breitbart. (Well they aren’t exactly Nazis but they sure do stink like them.)
Schilling has everything you need for the Hall of Fame. With the time period we’re living in though he essentially has no shot. Whether you believe he should be or not, that’s just the way things are in baseball. It flows with the culture.
This is why I think the 2020 World Series will be important. This World Series champion will forever be a part of everything we have lived through, and if the Yankees win, the potential heroics of Aaron Judge will be remembered in the way we remember Derek Jeter becoming Mr. November for our city after 9/11. New York City was the epicenter of Covid-19 here, and to watch our guys hoist the World Series trophy after all of this would be super uplifting for us as a state.
The heroes who will be most recognized during this moment will always be those healthcare professionals who stuck their necks out for us on the front lines, but this is America. We like a good symbol. Aaron Judge can be that symbol. The Yankees etching 28 can be that symbol. It’s as if it’s a stepping stone on the way to our recovery. If not a full recovery, it can be a stepping stone to some vague resemblance of normalcy.