The Good Press — Issue #24: Resilience
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Major League Baseball has successfully completed its abbreviated, 60-game irregular “regular” season that ran from July 23 through September 27.
It was easy to be skeptical about the “return of sports” plans back in July, but the various leagues and players have come up with creative solutions to keeping COVID-19 at bay, including the innovative “bubble” campus idea.
MLB was one of the leagues that chose not to move all of their personnel into isolated clean site bubbles. The league and players instead had the 30 teams play regional schedules that included twice-a-week travel across the country.
Before even playing a single game, the first hitch in the return-to-play plans reared its head. The league’s lone Canadian team, the Toronto Blue Jays, were denied permission by their federal government to be international hosts, and the team was forced to scramble to find a new home stadium at the last minute. Weeks later, they’d play “home” games in Buffalo, New York.
Within three games of baseball’s return, the league’s pandemic response protocols were immediately challenged when the Miami Marlins had a major coronavirus outbreak that ultimately saw 18 Marlins players testing positive for COVID-19 and the team forced to postpone a week’s worth of games.
After being cleared to return to game action, Miami supplemented their roster with COVID-free players from its “alternate training site,” 2020’s murkily-organized replacement system for a minor league baseball season. But before they could even resume playing, baseball had a second severe outbreak, as the St. Louis Cardinals were forced to take an even longer layoff.
As beat reporter Anne Rogers put it on the Cardinals’ official team website: “The story of the Cardinals’ 2020 season involves 17 days off to deal with a coronavirus outbreak, 18 people affected with COVID-19, 53 games in 44 days, 11 doubleheaders, 13 Major League debuts, and 41 rental cars.”
The Blue Jays, Marlins, and Cardinals all had something else in common by the end of baseball’s strangest season: all three teams finished with winning records and qualified for the playoffs, rebounding from the early adversity.
Miami reached their first postseason berth since 2003 and had only their seventh season with more wins than losses in their 28-year franchise history.
The Marlins have a quirky place in baseball history: two postseason appearances, two world championships, zero first-place division finishes. In both 1997 and 2003, the Marlins qualified for the playoffs as a second-place wild card team, only to go on a hot streak and defeat everyone in their path.
Even if they don’t go on a third miracle run this time, this season has been an unmitigated success for Miami and CEO Derek Jeter, the former Yankee star who, as a player, was on the losing end of the Marlins’ 2003 World Series win.
Jeter’s Marlins have been trying to turn the page from a total team makeover in the wake of the tragic death of superstar pitcher José Fernández, a 24-year-old wunderkind right-hander who died in a boating accident in 2016, the last time the franchise appeared to be on the cusp of winning baseball.
Fernández, a Cuban refugee who escaped to Miami as a teenager, had already established himself as a multi-time All-Star and an enormous fan favorite at a young age, but after his shocking death, (toxicology reports later confirming he was under the influence and piloting his boat at the time of the crash) the Marlins went into a full rebuild, including a sale of the team. Jeter’s group took control of the team after the 2017 season, retaining the team’s incumbent manager, Don Mattingly, a former Yankees teammate of Jeter’s.
Last Friday, the Marlins clinched their first playoff berth in 17 years on September 25, on the fourth anniversary of Fernández’s death, a date that Mattingly reflected on in the hours before the start of the game that night.
“I’ve got a bracelet that I’ve worn ever since with his number on it that I never really take off,” Mattingly said. “Changed my exercise programs to instead of 15 reps, 16 reps for his [uniform] number, [#16]. It is an emotional day. You think back about José and what he meant and just what kind of spirit he was.”
Fernández’s legacy in Miami is a complicated one and would be a far more interesting discussion in more than a few paragraphs in a newsletter issue.
For a better perspective, former Marlins team president David Samson, who was with the organization from 2002 to 2017, spoke for about an hour on The Dan Le Batard Show about Fernández and various other Marlins topics:
In Other Words
Baseball is a game of resilience. It’s one of the life lessons you learn from baseball. That you have to keep doing your best and learn how to confront adversity. That you have to find a way to achieve your goals even in the face of the consistent and frequent failure inherent with trying to hit a baseball.
No matter how grim things may look at their lowest, no matter what kind of adversity we face, we all have the ability to use that adversity at the kindling and the inspiration to bounce back and be the resilient people that we are.
We are a resilient bunch, all of us that call this incredible planet home.
We live, we grow, we try to leave our marks.
We fall down, we get back up. We dust ourselves off and we keep going.
It can be hitting a baseball or adjusting to the ever-evolving realities of living through a global pandemic in a nation that is slipping towards instability. Sometimes it’s both of those things at once. Last week, I used the term “cascading crises” to describe the avalanche of adversity we’re facing now.
The still-widespread virus. Natural disasters intensifying by the day from the climate emergency that threatens us all. Centuries of structural racism and targeted oppression. Political extremism and creeping authoritarianism being perpetuated by the current party in power. All of these dynamics combining and cascading and dominoing to make our lives a lot harder.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world is moving forward without us, launching global initiatives to ensure equitable distribution of future COVID vaccines.
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Countries so eloquently referred to as “shithole countries” by the current president have handled the virus better than our so-called developed nation.
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But we, as a country, can bounce back. We, as Americans, are resilient.
It’s in our DNA, it’s in our blood, it’s even in our centuries-old pastimes.
Even if there are two outs in the 9th inning, you can foul off pitch after pitch until you get a pitch to hit. You might hit it hard and over the wall to win the game. You might hit it hard and find a glove for the final out. It happens that way sometimes. You show up at the field the next day and try to win again.
The best way to show up is to have a plan.
That means double-checking, triple-checking, quadruple-checking your voter registration status, polling location, and your state’s voting information.
Everything You Need to Vote - Vote.org
"For this Nation to remain true to its principles, we cannot allow any American's vote to be denied, diluted, or…
If you’re like me and you’re registered to vote in New York City and you’ve already requested an absentee ballot, NYC has launched a new ballot tracking system that is accessible online at NYCabsentee.com/tracking.
This tracking system works only for NYC residents and after you’ve submitted an application for an absentee ballot. Keep in mind, you can still request an absentee ballot in any state right here. The sooner, the better.
Absentee Ballot Tracking | NYC Absentee
Check the status of your Absentee Ballot and track your ballot
The MLB playoffs got started yesterday with eight best-of-three series, some that can end as early as today, as 16 teams battle for a World Series title.
Next week, when they whittle the field down to eight teams, MLB will move towards a bubble format for the first time, as two regional pods will be used to facilitate the rest of the postseason, one in Texas and one in California.
Call it a “double bubble” of sorts. That doesn’t sound out of place for baseball. And yes, in case you’re wondering, chewing gum is still permitted this season.
The Texas bubble will host all National League games starting next week, with games in Arlington, TX, and Houston, TX. The California bubble will host all American League games, with games in San Diego and Los Angeles.
Globe Life Field in Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers baseball club, will host the World Series in late October. It is a brand new stadium that has not yet hosted a single baseball fan since it first opened amid the pandemic.
So after a season in danger of not happening at all, eight baseball teams will compete for a championship in unfamiliar neutral site stadiums, in a sport where the architecture of the playing surface is different in each ballpark.
Just another adjustment to make, more adversity to conquer, another chance to be resilient. That’s baseball; that’s life. Until that 27th out, you’re still alive. You still have a chance. Keep battling until you get your pitch, then hit it hard.
That’s where it feels like we are now. 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth, staring down bigger stakes than anything America has seen in 150+ years.
Be it the general election, congressional races, even down to the local elections that make a major impact in your community, electing not to vote is like going into the batter’s box without a bat. (Not a recommended strategy.)
Ballotpedia, a digital encyclopedia of election info, has a plethora of important information for voters, including a ballot lookup tool so you can familiarize yourself with candidates up and down the ballot, even local races.
Get the latest news from Ballotpedia in your inbox. Submit your email address below and we'll help you choose from over…
The year 2020 will be the subject of countless stories when it’s all said and done. There’s certainly no debate about that. I suppose that The Good Press is something of a weekly running diary of my own 2020 experiences.
Do your part as an American to exercise your hard-earned right to vote and participate in our democracy. Get informed, make your plan, follow-through, and together we can show the whole world what resilience looks like. The resilience of this great nation can be the defining story of the decade.
Together, we can make it happen.
Previously in The Good Press
The Good Press — Issue #23: Fervent
Paying tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and bracing for the battles ahead
September 23, 2020
The Good Press — Issue #22: Fantasy and Reality
“Are you ready for some football?!” Grappling with how to answer that in 2020
September 16, 2020
The Good Press — Issue #21: Impact
A tribute to the late, great Tom Seaver and thoughts about impact
September 9, 2020