Is a 60-game MLB season, shortest since 1878, legitimate?

Ronald Blum Ap Baseball Writer
Wednesday, July 22, 2020

George Will pondered the meaning of the shortest Major League Baseball season since 1878.

“If you’re an Indians fan and you win the World Series, are you elated or do you think this is just one more insult?” the political commentator and baseball author said.

If Mookie Betts bats .400, would he displace Ted Williams as the last .400 hitter in 1941?

If Jacob deGrom posts a sub-1 ERA in over a dozen starts, would he better Bob Gibson’s 1.12 as the best since the Dead Ball Era ended a century ago?

“Who thinks that anything that happens in 2020 is anything other than a one-off, that they intend to play perpetually without fans, that they intend to confine teams only to their own time zones perpetually?” broadcaster Bob Costas said. “This is all a oneoff.”

Yet for some, perhaps many, the abridged, 60-game season is merely peculiar and not misbegotten.

“I just can’t wait for the games to begin -- for the story of this strange season to move forward from beginning to middle to end -- so there is some semblance of everyday life returning,” historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “And then I will leave to you and the experts to figure out the hard stuff -- asterisks etc etc -- while I revert to my seven year old self, just happy to follow each game!”

Baseball has long sought a metric for each aspect, a data dump aiming to doom intangibles into extinction.

Every stat has a skeptic this season. No-hitters and four-homer games may be subject to suspicion.

“We’re going to have a blizzard of asterisk talk now,” Will said.

Fans compare players from different eras as if they competed against each other in the flesh, imagining Babe Ruth going deep against pitchers who warm up to hip-hop music and Walter Johnson blowing heaters by muscle-bound Steroids Era sluggers. They rank players against each other from decades apart, even though the sport keeps evolving to make comparisons often meaningless. Old Hoss Radbourn’s 678 2/3 innings in 1884 won’t be matched by any team this season, much less any pitcher.