The last few years have been tough for baseball.
Blue way? It had been a flesh wound.
This was much more bitten. The game was old, boring, without action, and well, it might have passed America with football and basketball Batman and Robin from American sports.
The Houston Astros’ broken World Series four years ago did not help. An increasingly unpleasant dynamic between “millionaires and billionaires”, also known as players and owners, did not help.
American culture had a thumbs up for baseball. Worst of all, a pandemic-disturbed season that exacerbated all these problems and more.
While baseball has a lot of work ahead of it, the only thing the league has for the fall of 2021 is the magic of October baseball. When the chips are down, the stadiums are packed and the teams fight tooth and nail for each out, there is nothing better.
And this year’s post-season has been a perfect reminder for anyone who may have forgotten. Just look at what we’ve already seen in just one week.
The first winner-take-all, one-game elimination showdown between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees in 43 years.
An epic endgame in a match between a 106-win wagon from a Los Angeles Dodgers team and a St. Louis Cardinals club that went virtually all of September without losing.
The NL Wild Card game featured two of the best starting throws of the last generation in Max Scherzer and Adam Wainwright, and it ended with an exciting walk-off home run to set up the first ever playoff series between the Dodgers and their heated rivals, San Francisco Giants.
But wait, there’s more.
The hated, cheat Astros? They’re back and still a World Series challenger, and the Chicago White Sox are not even trying to hide their contempt. Now we’ve even got an old-fashioned baseball steak brewed after White Sox relief Ryan Tepera accused the Astros of shady business.
Houston Manager Dusty Baker’s Answer? “I never heard his name before we played the White Sox.”
Raw. And amazing.
Even the least convincing series of random observers, the NLDS between Milwaukee Brewers and the Atlanta Braves, has been a lot of fun. All three games so far have been close, the pitching has been outstanding, and now the Braves’ victory is away from drawing a pretty fantastic rebellion.
Not bad for a club that had to trade for a brand new outfield in the middle of the season after five-tool superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. was lost for the year.
Best of all, baseball is out of the bubble and the crowds are back in force.
You will be hard pressed to find a better atmosphere than the one we saw at Fenway Park last Tuesday for the AL Wild Card Game, or at Dodger Stadium the night after.
After the TV production produced in October last year, it has been a refreshing reminder of how much we have missed real, authentic playoff baseball.
And more than that, it has been a perfect showcase for everything this sport still has to offer.