In the sports world, asterisks are taboo. When they are placed next to a player’s or team’s name, it is a message that they did something bad enough to be forever omitted. Across the baseball community, many things have been asterisked over the years. Barry Bonds’ home run records, the 2017 Houston Astros Championship, Armando Gallaraga’s “complete game shutout,” to name a few. Now, in an unprecedented time for the world – and sports – debates around placing the infamous symbol next to the 2020 World Series winner – if there is one – have begun. I would like to end that controversy right now: absolutely not.
We love baseball. We would do anything to get it back as fans, players would do anything to get back on the field, and MLB would do anything to collect the millions in revenue that it is bringing in every year. Whether that means robot umps, no fans, or changing the leagues to Grapefruit and Cactus, I would be in. If any of these wild proposals see the light of day, their champion should be respected just like any other.
As we all know, before their championship in 2016, the Chicago Cubs hadn’t hoisted the World Series trophy for 108 years. In 1908, after a 99-55 record, winning the National League by one-game, the Cubs bested the 90-63 Detroit Tigers – who won the American League by half-a-game, playing one less contest than the Cleveland Naps – in five games. No one ever puts an asterisk next to this World Series. My question is, why not?
There were only 16 teams in the entire league, the league was entirely white, and the champion didn’t have to undergo the haul of a month-long playoff. They just had to have the best record in their league, then win four games, and boom, they were champs. In fact, those same complaints can be made for every champion before 1947, so should we take all those teams out of the record books? The 14 years after Jackie Robinson should have an asterisk as well, as those teams also didn’t have to win championship series or defeat more than seven teams in their division.
In 1961, the “Classic Eight” era ended, with the expansion franchises of the Los Angeles Angels and Washington Senators taking form, and the Championship Series being created. But this is only creating one extra round. Nowadays, the best teams have to play in three. So you can throw that asterisk next to all the champions before the Wild Card’s creation in 1995 too.
The case can even be made to take away the championship from all the winners before 2012 when the second wild card was established since who knows how many teams didn’t get their fair shot at the playoffs in those 18 years. In just eight years, we’ve already seen the second wild card team hoist the trophy. So, in conclusion, there are eight World Series Champions without an asterisk. Scratch that, seven, since the 2017 Astros actually should have one.
These may seem like the ramblings of a lunatic, but there is a point. MLB – and all sports – are rapidly evolving. The sport that Abner Doubleday – or whoever – invented, is unrecognizable to the sport we know and love. The game has changed, often for the better. Who knows if we will get baseball this year. Maybe we do. Maybe every game is seven innings. Maybe teams play at their spring training complexes, and the Yankees and Phillies are division rivals. Maybe there’s a new rule where fielders now have to peg runners with the baseball to maintain social distancing. Maybe the entire league resets and we have a fantasy draft, because why the hell not. I don’t know what’s gonna happen. But I do know a couple of things. First, when a team – without a widespread sign-stealing scandal coming from the executives in the organization down to the players – wins the World Series, it means they were the best baseball had to offer that year and they have just as much a claim to that title as any other squad. And second, the 2020 World Series Champion (if there is one…please let there be one), will be remembered like no other.