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An odd duck of a season

The 2020 MLB season has been odd and if you feel something is off or weird about the season as it heads down the home stretch you’re not alone.

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

By the time you read this, there will only be 10 days left in the 2020 Major League Baseball season. As I type this I am looking at standings where some teams have still only played 43 games total. It’s an odd season, but we should have known that from the very start. This season has been the subject of a pandemic and of owners who stalled and stalled during labor negotiations until they finally relented and allowed baseball to be played. Even before the first pitch of the season was tossed there were talks of placing asterisks next to the 2020 season and questions of its overall legitimacy. The oddness of this season has never been in question.

Yet, as the regular season moves towards its conclusion I can’t stop my overwhelming feelings towards the season from being, “well, this was an odd one.” To focus on the peculiarities of the 2020 season is to take the simplest of routes. Nuance is removed and a complicated season becomes a can of corn to describe. Charlie Blackmon’s early-season chase for .400, “Man, wasn’t that just a weird result of this odd season.” Alec Mills’ no-hitter won’t be remembered just as a no-hitter but as that weird no-hitter that took place in an empty stadium against a team that was missing key players due to a pandemic. Kris Bryant’s struggles can be dismissed as nothing more than a result of the weird season. The same is true of Shohei Ohtani’s arm injury, just a minor bump in the road in a season that didn’t matter, he’ll be better in 2021, no worries. All of these are valid responses, but they leave out the fact that real baseball was played and that there are nuggets of truth in every chase, struggle, injury, or accomplishment.

I can’t fault anyone for placing most of 2020 in the odd bin. It may remove nuance, but it’s also an honest take on what has been an interesting season. This final stretch hammers home how much more irregular the season became as it progressed. Usually, the end of the regular season is marked by playoff races and players making final pushes to win some award or another. Those are happening as well this year, but it’s fully understandable if people aren’t aware of the races or award pushes. Without looking at the standings I couldn’t tell you who is in what position to make the playoffs and which teams are on life support. That Anthony Rendon is a Most Valuable Player contender feels completely wrong when it was just a few weeks ago we were talking about his incredibly bad start to the season.

There is no home stretch in 2020, no final push, no clear grouping of players in awards contention. There are a whole lot of teams who could make the playoffs and there no real reason to care about what’s happening. Now, I’m not saying this season doesn’t matter, it most certainly does. What I am saying is that it’s weird, it has always felt weird, and it’s ok if you’re not heavily invested because of how off the season feels. If any of what represented MLB action in 2020 becomes the new norm in future seasons fans will adapt and learn to love the game all the same. However, if right now your main takeaway is that the 2020 season has been weird and you’re not sure exactly how to feel about it then that doesn’t say anything bad about you or the season. MLB in 2020 has been different for you, me, and every other fan or pundit across the globe.

In a little over a week, the regular season will come to an end and the playoffs will begin. None of us are sure what the playoffs hold because this year’s playoffs will be utilizing a completely foreign format. Some will remain invested, others will not, and the Los Angeles Dodgers will probably find some new way to lose big despite being the heavy favorites. The regular season is ending and the playoffs are about to kick off, if you’re not sure how to feel about all that then you aren’t alone.