Hindsight is 2020: Remembering a short baseball season like no other

It all still seems hard to believe.

Below, we remember a truncated baseball season unlike any other.

Rule change of the year

I’ve been to two 19-inning baseball games. As a teenager in April 1984, it was a hoot to be at Tiger Stadium until nearly 1 a.m. on a Friday night. Cleveland beat Detroit 8-4 with four runs in the top of the 19th for the Tigers’ second loss of the season after starting 16-1. The most vivid memory is that the fans in the bleachers at Tiger Stadium had a garbage fight and the decisive runs were scored with the warning track in center field covered in debris. By the end of the second one, in July 2016, my knees just hurt from six hours in that Rogers Centre seat. Cleveland beat Toronto 2-1 when the Jays’ second position player pitching, Darwin Barney, gave up a solo homer to Carlos Santana. Trevor Bauer pitched the last five innings in relief for the win.

All that is to say: the extra-innings rule was a pretty good addition to baseball in 2020. Life’s changed and baseball’s pace doesn’t readily fit with our current world. As the game is being played now, there’s not much that can be done about the overall running time. For four years, from 2003-06, no more than 32% of the games lasted three hours. On a steady upward climb since then, 62% of games ran past three hours by 2019. So when extra innings arrive, let’s just get on with it. Of the 68 extra-inning games in 2020, only one game went 13 innings and only four made it to the 12th. The vast majority of the tied games were wrapped up in 10 innings. – Guy Spurrier

Narrative failure of the year

When the Baseball Hall of Fame announces the 2021 class on Jan. 26, the list might be empty. So far, according to the votes gathered and made by Ryan Thibodaux and his tracking team, no one will meet the 75% vote threshold for induction. In 2020, Yankees great Derek Jeter made it easily and could have joined former teammate Mariano Rivera as the only players in history to receive unanimous consideration. Except one voter among the 397 declined to participate in the Jeter party, spoiling the fun by leaving Jeter off their ballot.

Who was this person? Nearly a year later, no one knows. Despite the laudable work of Thibodaux and media members to encourage voters to share their ballots publicly, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America does not mandate it, as it now does with its year-end award voting. The analytics community and its acolytes famously liked to poke holes in the Jeter Greatness narrative, so perhaps this person was making a little scratch on Jeter’s plaque to remind everyone that while Jeter was great, he wasn’t perfect. – Spurrier

Dunder-Mifflin industrial printing material of the year

Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images Sport / Getty

If you were a commercial printer in a major-league city in 2020, it might have been a very good year for you. When MLB’s season kicked off July 23, teams filled seats with cutout visages of their fans, their pets, and past and present team personalities. The workhorse of this scheme was the corrugated plastic medium variously known as Coroplast, Correx, or PP Sheet. The polypropylene stock used for yard signs and the like became the hot decoration accessory in baseball stadiums. It provided the varied background color, if not the sound and movement, viewers are used to seeing on telecasts. And it allowed fans willing to pay for the privilege to feel like they were there in spirit. One Dodgers fan became internet famous when his cutout was mangled by two home runs during the season. – Spurrier

Inanimate fan of the year

Everyone had a lot of fun with the cutouts, but let’s hear it for this brave patron in Oakland, who took one off the noggin and kept smiling. He was back the next day with a bandage around his head.