September 17, 2001
The Daily Prospectus
ResetAnd on the sixth day, they played.
Bud Selig and his colleagues made the correct decision. Perhaps for the wrong reasons--because the NFL cancelled--but they made the right decision.
I believe that it was easier for the NFL to cancel its games because its commissioner and other league officials were in New York City last week, and had a clearer view on what last week's attacks did to America's greatest city. Being in Milwaukee for quarterly meetings, Selig and company weren't as close to the situation, and were more willing, albeit not eager, to get back to business. Both leagues were under pressure from Washington to play, and both should be given credit for standing up to that.
I know that I'm not capable of impartial analysis of the decision. I was in the city on Tuesday. I grew up on Manhattan, lived there for most of my life, and still identify myself as a New Yorker. There's a gaping hole in my hometown, one filled with 5,000 of my own. My family and my closest friends escaped loss, but we await word of people we know, cops and firefighters from my old neighborhood who most likely lost their lives saving other New Yorkers.
To play games, to ask people to cheer, to celebrate, against that backdrop last Friday would have been awkward, even garish. The players, to their credit, were out front on this, and the combination of their concerns and logistical problems helped the two leagues make the right call. People spent the weekend lighting candles, giving blood, donating, volunteering, hugging their friends and family, praying.
Now, nearly a week later, the scene at the southern tip of Manhattan is no less garish, but I know that I, personally, feel better for doing all those other things the last few days. Where I couldn't fathom watching or writing about baseball four days ago, I'm now looking forward to it. I don't pretend to be a barometer for the rest of the world, so take this with a grain of salt, but my feeling is that baseball now will be a good thing, something we can embrace on many levels. As Chris Kahrl puts it, "I know that I would really, really like to sing the National Anthem amidst 40,000 or so of my fellow citizens at the game."
To what do we come back? ESPN, bless them, is televising a game tonight, Bud Smith's first start since his no-hitter on Labor Day, as the Cardinals play the Brewers. The Braves and Phillies get started on a four-game series that will determine whether we have a race down the stretch in the NL East. Randy Johnson starts for the Diamondbacks, needing just 48 strikeouts to break Nolan Ryan's single-season record. Johnson may get an extra start due to the rotation reset, something that could make a big difference in his chase.
The great NL wild-card race also continues, with the Cards, Dodgers, and Phillies in action. Four teams--none of them the Padres--are separated by 1 1/2 games, with the Phils 4 1/2 back. Every day from here on out will feature at least one, and often two or three, big matchups in the National League.
Finally, I get an occasional e-mail from people who say nice things like, "You guys are great! If you ever charge for this stuff, I'd gladly pay for it!" It's nice to know that we have that kind of support, and right now, I'd like to call on it.
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Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.