One of the beautiful things about following sports is that there are certain people that are a part of your life for decades and you never actually know them. Larry Bowa is one of those people for me. I am not old enough to have seen him play. But I remember him vividly as a 3rd base coach for the Phillies, then later as the club’s manager and eventually a coach with the Yankees, Dodgers and Phillies again.
You can always count on Bowa for a passionate and thoughtful response on a baseball issue. That’s why I stood up and took notice when he told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark that the champion of this Major League Baseball season will require an asterisk next to their name in the record books because of it being shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bowa is hardly alone in sharing that view and the logic is understandable. A 60-game slate represents just over 37 percent of the standard 162-game season. As we all know, even the worst teams in baseball typically put together a fair-to-average 60-game stretch during a normal season. So, there is legitimate reason to worry that a mediocre team or two will make their way into postseason.
But it’s also fair to note that the second wild card, instituted in 2012, has already opened the door to middling teams making the postseason. Furthermore, if we truly want to hold up the value of the regular season, why even have a postseason in the first place? How many times have we seen dynamic teams like the 2011 Phillies or the 2019 Dodgers dominate from April through September only to see their season end in a week’s time because of three losses?
One could easily argue the path to the truest champion would be for each team to play the other 29 clubs home and away in 3-game series. Best record at the end of the 174 games would be the champion.
Of course, if that happened, the majority of sports fans would question how you could crown a champion without having the finality of the postseason. There would be retired player after retired player saying the true test of a team is the pressure cooker of the October tournament.
Ultimately, we all tend to assume what we have known is best and the only legitimate path. But it would be in everyone’s interest to wait and see if this season deserves an asterisk.
Perhaps Bowa will be right and this shortened campaign will not pass the eye or stink test. Then again it might just lead to three months of exhilarating tension as every game matters substantially more than in years past.
Let’s not knock it until we try it.
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