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There’s Nothing Left For The MLB Season To Do But End

Empty seats at a baseball stadium
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Baseball's regular season ends today in the most baseball way of all—by having peaked a day too early.

Its biggest story, the American League single-season home run record, finally ended when Aaron Judge, who most of America is now sick of through no real fault of his own, hit his 62nd home run in Texas against the legendary Jesus Tinoco. It gave us one last brain-crushing debate on MLB Network between Greg Amsinger and Harold Reynolds about the legitimacy of previous home run records. Evidently Judge is the first 60-home run hitter who isn't being declared some sort of bastard on the theory that every player before Judge was a cheating, philandering cannibal and traitor whom he was invented to make us forget. Yay, sucking the fun out of a great year.

Its second biggest story, the Passion Of Shohei Ohtani, saw our hero taking the collar in an almost unattended game in Oakland, thus finishing a year in which he pitched and hit at an elite level but did so for a team representing the federal witness protection program. His unicornitude was only slightly muffled by the 32 games the Angels finished behind the Houston Astros, and when he doesn't win the Most Valuable Player award that Judge will, many non-baseball fans will shriek in outrage because they haven't been made weary of Ohtani as they had Judge, a function of never watching the Angels.

Thus ends the one lingering regular-season debate except to those tedious types who like arguing to fill in the chasm-sized dead spaces between the last thing they said and the next time they get to talk. If you still come across any of those folks, just say, June 2, Yankee Stadium, Judge 2-for-2 against Ohtani including a homer. Now either buy me a beer in shame and ignominy or go back to your table and your very angry family.

No, today is reserved to that one immutable final day tradition—who can play the fastest game. There is nothing left to play for outside of personal statistics which nobody except fantasy players cares about, and let's be honest, who is spending time with those social misfits? The players are either heading for the playoffs or the duck blind, and none of them care whether the Yankees can win their 100th game or the Reds can lose theirs. The level of hustle, first-pitch hitting and minimal time between pitches is never on greater display, and the only thing getting in the way of sub-two hour games across the board is that most repulsive of last day traditions, Fan Appreciation Day: Hey look, Dad, some stranger four sections away just won a trip to spring training. That's the coolest thing I've ever seen. Can we go now?

Sure, Ohtani pitches today in Oakland, which is a nice way for Arte Moreno to make him work until his shift is totally over, but it will at best be a matter of pearls before upholstery, as Oakland's fans have made their point about punishing the owner they can't stand by taking every opportunity to miss an opportunity to attend games. Ohtani won't win the MVP, as Judge coming within 11 homers of Barry Bonds is now a thing. He almost surely won't win the Cy Young, either, as Houston's Justin Verlander finished off a magnificent season by neatly spearheading a no-hitter against the Phillies. In short, his will be the most amazing season ever without a discernible trophy unless the Angels give out ribbons and fast food coupons for finishing 11th. On the other hand, he will at least win something for negotiating the largest raise ever by an arbitration eligible player, from $5.5 million to $30 million, making him $24.5 million less underpaid. The idea that he will still make $8 million less than Anthony Rendon next year is hilarity itself, but all that means is his 545-percent raise next winter takes him $163.6 million, which is closer to his market value in Japan alone.

As for the rest of today, it's just killing time until the playoffs start Friday, and since the matchups are all decided, this is the place where news goes to die unless someone is in an all-fired hurry to fire their manager before boarding the charter. The unluckiest teams in baseball this day are Toronto and Baltimore, who have a doubleheader scheduled because of a Tuesday rainout. I don't know about you, but if I'm the umpiring crew chief, Bill Miller, I'm calling this bad boy for weather if my sink kicks up a drop while I'm brushing my teeth. I'm not taking a foul ball off my windpipe just so Gunnar Henderson can have three more plate appearances.

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