Last we saw Major League Baseball, Jake Arrieta picked up a victory, the Tigers blew another game in late innings, and a pair of second-generation studs with the familiar last names of Guerrero and Bichette went yard again for Toronto.
Of course, these spring training achievements (or misfortunes) were ultimately meaningless. But this was baseball! The boys of summer were back!
Unfortunately, those wouldn’t be the only headlines on that fateful Thursday — March 12, to be specific — a date that will forever live in infamy. The rest of the day saw eight games cancelled, and the suspension of the season followed suit as a result of the still-ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Flash forward several weeks later and a potential campaign is still up in the air. The calendar has now flipped to May, making it official: a full month (and change) of baseball season was lost.
Nothing can be done to bring it back. We will never know who would have surged out of the gate under normal season conditions and settings. But we can honor “what would have been” by digging into the month-plus that never was. Let’s see what we missed out on.
What Would Have Been: The beginning of the gauntlet. The start of payback. And Houston’s first game out of the shoe comes opposite a pitcher who once comically said he hopes they feel like shit. This dark cloud brought upon the Astros’ cheating scandal everywhere they go even overshadows Anthony Rendon’s first game with the Halos and the new gigs for Joe Maddon and Dusty Baker.
What Would Have Happened: Andrew Heaney drills a pair of batters on Opening Day. There’s extra chin music during the outing, too. Heandog also strikes out 10 in six solid innings to claim the W. We’ll say the Angels take three of four in the series.
What Would Have Been: The first meeting of the year in what is arguably baseball’s best rivalry. This series would have been Mookie Betts’ first games in Dodger blue after the club managed to rip off Boston for the former MVP’s services.
What Would Have Happened: San Francisco isn’t good. Their first two pitchers in the rotation are Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, which wouldn’t even have been intimidating four years ago. The Dodgers, despite Dave Roberts somehow still being the skipper, roll to a sweep.
What Would Have Been: Fresh off inking a five-year, $118 million contract with the rival Phils, Zack Wheeler takes center stage in his old stomping grounds, being slated for the series finale. Wheeler is also out to prove to Brodie Van Wagenen that he’s more than just “two good half-seasons.” Seriously, this could be one of the best brewing feuds in the game.
What Would Have Happened: Credit to Brodie for sticking up for the organization when Wheeler took the first jab but he’s just flat-out incorrect in his assessment of the right-hander’s success. Wheeler is a legit frontline starter and shows us why once again with six sparkling innings against his old mates. Mets take the series, though.
What Would Have Been: The debut of a brand new ballpark! A mostly unnecessary one considering the 27-year-old Ballpark in Arlington (it will always have that name) is still there and in fine condition. But it’s always exciting when a new baseball cathedral is introduced to the masses, this one in the form of Globe Life Field.
What Would Have Happened: Joey Gallo tattoos a few homers. So does Ronald Guzman, and Texas triumphs in all three bouts. I say that as a completely biased Rangers fan yearning for the days of back-to-back World Series appearances.
What Would Have Been: The Nationals get their rings before the home opener. Ironically, it was the Mets that walloped them to their low point a year ago when a four-game sweep at Citi Field had Washington sitting with a 19-31 mark. Now the Nats can flash their new bling to remind everyone who got the last word.
What Would Have Happened: With how the pitchers lined up, the defending champs would have dodged two-time-reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom. So let’s say the Nats manage to claim two of three in a competitive series.
What Would Have Been: The return of Madison Bumgarner to San Francisco. It isn’t quiteMichael Jordan with the Wizards or Joe Montana with the Chiefs but it’s pretty darn close after all the southpaw accomplished in his 11 years as a Giant, including three championships. Bumgarner as a Diamondback just doesn’t sound right. It’s almost like he’s portraying another alias by the name of Mason Saunders.
What Would Have Happened: Mad Bum displays some inconsistency and has to really labor to survive five innings. He also serves up a long ball with a splashdown into McCovey Cove off the bat of Yolmer Sanchez. However, Sanchez does not tell him to go get it out of the ocean a la Max Muncy in the most underrated beef of 2019. D-backs win the series anyway.
What Would Have Been: Yes, believe it or not there was some intrigue surrounding a White Sox-Royals game in mid-April. The middle affair of this series would mark the first time the White Sox needed to use their No. 5 starter. That’s the electric young right-hander Michael Kopech, who hasn’t been on a big-league mound since September 2018.
What Would Have Happened: It’s the Royals. Kopech shines and possibly records a double-digit amount of punch-outs. Chicago cruises toward a sweep in the process, continuing an early run in contention.
What Would Have Been: Sonny Gray, an All-Star last year, takes the mound in the Bronx for the first time since he was traded to Cincinnati. Gray blamed the coaching staff for his underwhelming stint with the Yankees, saying they forced him to throw too many sliders. Gotta love a good ol’ revenge game scenario.
What Would Have Happened: Gray gets the last laugh — at least until they potentially meet again — and spins a gem. The Reds also satisfy most of the world by pulling off the road sweep.
What Would Have Been: Nothing can ever wipe away the stain on all of Houston’s accomplishments from 2016-19. The Astros can, however, get a measure of revenge when they see the man who blew the whistle on their crime. Mike Fiers was in line to make his first start back at Minute Maid Park for the first time since everything went down.
What Would Have Happened: Even the villains collect their spoils in any good plot. Here, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve bash Fiers around like a rat who squealed. In the process, the Astros win two of three. But they’re still struggling overall and everyone is happy going into May.