There is so much to worry about between now and then. This is when a month can feel like years. When everyday is a dangerous obstacle course with the potential to derail an entire endeavor.
But the first time you hear that Opening Day could include the Yankees in the nation’s capital to take on the defending champions, when you realize that threading the needle will mean Gerrit Cole vs. Max Scherzer, when you remember why you hoped MLB and the union could work this out and there was a way to navigate a major league season amid a pandemic.
If you are a baseball fan, it is OK to dream a bit today, to want to see this.
Never have provisos meant more. First, the schedule has been agreed to by the union, but is not finalized yet.
Coronavirus cases are going up, not down in this country. It threatens to force another reimagining of the season or a complete shutdown. If you were a betting man, would you bet that we would get to Opening Day or not with 30 teams in 30 places and thousands of people trying to make a season possible this week with the beginning of a second training period?
If the 30 teams get to the starting line — and it isn’t as if Rob Manfred can give the go ahead to 27, but tell, say, the Astros, Rangers and Diamondbacks sorry — then there still is the possibility of players being unavailable because they have contracted the virus.
Overcome that and you still have the strange conditions in which to prep for a season that will likely promote more injuries.
Yet, if they could get there, if they could just get to the starting line, there will be the Yankees in D.C. There will be Cole vs. Scherzer, just like in last year’s World Series.
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In an age of diminished starters and the broadening appeal of openers, how many rotation names could you throw atop a marquee and want to see? Five. Six. Ten at most. Cole and Scherzer are in that small group. Maybe because of the abridged spring training, you will only see them for nine outs or 12 or 15. But if this works out, you will see them. You will be rewarded for waiting, for caring.
This, rather than March 26 at Camden Yards, would be Cole’s Yankee debut after signing a pitching record nine year, $324 million contract. He will have a much smaller window now to make a good first impression with his new fan base. And this is how it begins, where it ended with him in Houston, against the Nationals last October. Against a lineup with the great young Juan Soto.
This would be the fourth Opening Day assignment for Scherzer as a National — yep, it is still Opening Day in July. Had the season gone off without interruption, he would have been at Citi Field on March 28, facing Jacob deGrom. So the competition is similar, even if the atmosphere will be so different.
If you are a baseball fan, let’s hope Aaron Judge is healthy, and Giancarlo Stanton, too, to join Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu taking swings at Scherzer.
In a season in which every game has near the worth of a three-game series in a standard season, think about where we might be in a month and the value of a game started by Cole and Scherzer.
There is a long way from here to there.
But it is OK to dream.