For openers: MLB tries again with short season, skewed rules

NEW YORK (AP) - So where were we?
In mid-March, a spring training exhibition between the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. Both sides had received the official word before the final: Major League Baseball was closed immediately because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"It felt like the most insignificant baseball game in the history of the sport," said Cardinal's infielder Matt Carpenter.
Now try again.
A distorted schedule of 60 games instead of the full schedule of 162 games with opening day on July 23 or 24. A shortened, distorted season that Commissioner Rob Manfred had ordered on Tuesday evening after billionaire owners and multi-million dollar players couldn't come to a new economic deal against the backdrop of the virus outbreak.
"What happens if we all get it?" Milwaukee Pitcher Brett Anderson tweeted this week.
A sprint from start to finish. I have to come out strong. Remember last year: The Washington Nationals started between 27 and 33 and won the World Series Cup.
Perhaps it is the perfect setup for outsiders like the Padres or Mariners to sneak into the championship hunt.
Let’s not forget these Houston Astros. They were the biggest story in baseball when we last saw them. The fans mocked Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and their accomplices after the trash can scandal that made national headlines in the winter.
Some things are unlikely to change as the games continue.
No small leagues this year, bad luck there. The majors give the ball a new meaning in the short season.
A look at what's on deck:
ODDBALLS
An automatic runner on the second base to start any additional innings. Designated hitter in NL games. Jugs with their own rosin bags.
This season will look like no other in baseball history, the price of trying to play in the midst of a pandemic.
'' So long National League. It was fun as long as it lasted, ”Cardinal's pitcher Adam Wainwright tweeted.
The extra inning rule, which inevitably entails a new strategy, different statistics to be dissected and an innovative variant of the old game. It will be - oh, who are we kidding? There will be major league baseball hitting central park softball.
I just hope that the experiment won't stop in '21.
Mark the moment
To date, Bruce Maxwell is the only major leaguer who has contracted a knee before playing "The Star-Spangled Banner". The backup Oakland catcher did this at the Coliseum in September 2017 after being led by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Maxwell had a limited time with the A's in 2018, played in Mexico last year and has no job with a major league team this year.
Major Leaguers were generally not the first players in professional sports to comment on issues of social injustice. We'll see what posture they take on and off the field when the games return.
FLY IT UP!
OK, let's say Francisco Lindor helps Cleveland win an elusive World Series title. Or Christian Yelich leads the brewers to their first flag.
The fans will certainly argue: is it a legitimate crown or rather a prize won during a European football tournament?
Kay Kenealy, a 59-year-old from Waukesha, Wisconsin, who has a 20-game ticket pack for Brewers games, took part in the debate.
'' The season is the season. It's like the dollars in the race for an NBA championship. A championship is a championship, ”she said. '' If the season lasts a month, you play for that month. ''
'' Whether it's the Brewers or the A's or someone like this who wins the World Series, I don't think that requires an asterisk. I think everyone for the next 100 years will know that this was a pandemic year. ''
THE BIG FOUR-OH-OH
The big statistical question: could someone hit .400 in this shortened season?
NL MVP Cody Bellinger had a scorching start last year, beating .376 after the Dodgers' 60th game. It ended at .305.
Chipper Jones was the youngest, between 400 and 60 - it was 0.409 in 2008. Larry Walker (0.417) and Tony Gwynn (0.403) both started quickly in 1997, the Elias Sports Bureau said.
Less games, a lot of walks, a few infield hits, yes, that's possible. But there is a reason why Ted Williams is the last player to reach the holy mark in an entire season and bet 0.406 in 1941 (always great, he was at 0.407 after 60).
Also a fact: Nobody would equate the achievement with Ted this year.
A can of corn
Shucks! Couldn't be a game on the field of dreams this summer. MLB has done a great job of building a diamond next to the movie site near Dyersville, Iowa, to house the Yankees and White Sox on August 13, but fans can't come.
Also scrapped: matchups in London, Mexico City and Puerto Rico. No official word yet about the all-star game scheduled to take place at Dodger Stadium on July 14th.
OUCH
All-star aces Chris Sale, Luis Severino and Noah Syndergaard drop out while rehabilitating from surgery at Tommy John.
But those extra months would have given Aaron Judge, Justin Verlander, Cole Hamels, and more time to fully recover. Who knows, maybe even Yoenis Cespedes is cured.
And an extra break could have given Shohei Ohtani a pillow to build up his arm strength. Sure, it's neat to have a two-way star to track the majors.
LOOK AT THAT
So your family takes a road trip every summer and hits a new baseball stadium every time. You want to extend your 11-year series, but there are no tickets for sale. Don't get angry, just get creative.
Oracle Park in San Francisco offers an enormous free opportunity. Fans can gather behind the right field wall, look through a fence and see the giants. And when a home run ends this way, it's fun to see kayakers looking for a splash shot souvenir.
The Roberto Clemente Bridge at PNC Park is a popular vantage point, the rooftops outside of Wrigley Field are classic, and a Toronto hotel offers rooms with great views from the outfield.
However, hot dogs are not included.
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Further AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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