Ready, set, floor it: Craziness of a 60-game race awaits Cubs, White Sox
Put those pedals to the metal so hard, sparks fly. There’s no other way to make the incredibly weird season to come — if it comes, pandemic willing — a success.
On your marks.
Why the heck are you still here?!
In baseball in 2020, there won’t be time for the “Go!” The regular season will be an all-out sprint — 60 games — and for any team looking to contend for a playoff berth, that makes getting off to a great start more important than ever.
If the Cubs and White Sox were automobiles, we’d be asking how quickly they can go from zero to 60.
Put those pedals to the metal, fellas. That means you, Javy Baez, Kris Bryant, Yu Darvish and new Cubs manager David Ross. That means you, too, Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, Lucas Giolito and yet-to-win Sox manager Rick Renteria.
Put those pedals to the metal so hard that sparks fly. There’s no other way to make the incredibly weird season to come — if it comes, pandemic willing — a success.
We already mentioned the weird. It’ll simply be the new normal for a while, because there’s next to no chance a 60-game season will happen in as logical and orderly a fashion as a 162-game season would have.
Another way to say it: We have no idea who’s going to win, and that’s because most any team — certainly any team that isn’t bending over backward to tank — could.
Don’t believe it? Consider the Mariners. Look, I know what you’re thinking: Who? The Mariners. Out of Seattle. Yes, they still exist. It only seems like they don’t because they haven’t made the playoffs since 2001, the longest drought in the major leagues. But they would have made it with their records through 60 games in both 2016 and 2018. They could have been a juggernaut!
But forget about the Mariners. (Who?) After 60 games in 2019, the Rangers would’ve made the playoffs. Oh, and also those pesky Cubs, who, believe it or not, were in first place in their division at 34-26. You know who wouldn’t have made it, or come remotely close? The Nationals, last year’s champs.
The 2018 Dodgers were typically excellent, a World Series team and everything. But they started out 16-26. Just imagine if the Dodgers or the Yankees — this year’s cream of the crop — start 16-26 again. Fire sale! Not really, but having the writing on the wall that soon would be like prime Tiger Woods missing the cut at a major or the U.S. women’s soccer team failing to qualify for the World Cup.
The best record in baseball through 60 games has been, on average over the last five years, 41-19. You don’t have to be great to win two-thirds of your games for a couple of months. You have to be hot. And that’s to lead the race, not merely to scrape into wild-card position. How many wins will a wild card require? Thirty-five? Fewer than that?
That doesn’t sound like much of a stretch for anybody.
Who’s winning 40? Probably not the Cubs or Sox. Anyone in his or her right mind would bet against it in either case, wouldn’t they? But anything can happen. Last year’s Sox were right around .500 well into the season’s third month, and they’ve gotten a whole lot more talented since then. Catcher James McCann was hitting .336 through 60 games, for crying out loud. Did I mention anything can happen?
Maybe someone out there will hit .400 this season. Maybe there’s a pitcher ready to go 10-0 and win a Cy Young. Why not go out there and finish 1-2 in the league in homers, Eloy Jimenez and Kyle Schwarber? Either order will do.
The point is: weird. Even if baseball is somehow able to pull off a mini-season amid a pandemic, nothing about it will make conventional sense.
“I’m sure there’ll be times when everything is swirling around and it’s kind of a blur and I’ll have to tell myself, ‘Whoa, calm down, man,’ ” Ross said. “I’m sure it’ll be kind of crazy sometimes. It’s going to be different.”
He said that four months ago in Mesa, Arizona. Ross didn’t know the half of it then, but he can take comfort in this: No one in baseball has tried this zero-to-60 thing before.
Pedals down, everybody. You’ll have to sort the rest of it out as you go.