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Baseball and Synchronicity

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An epic coincidence of cheating and pandemics

Minnesota Twins Summer Workouts Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

In the realm of psychology there’s a term called synchronicity, which can be defined as:

The experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, yet are experienced as occurring together in a meaningful manner.

Though I tend not to be the superstitious type, this phenomenon has indeed been experienced in my sporting pursuits. For example, about every 10 years (1987, 1998, 2009, 2017) the Minnesota Vikings make an NFC Championship Game and tear the heart right out of my body. Completely “causally unrelated”, yet these events happen like clockwork.

Over the past two seasons, Major League Baseball is experiencing a near-historic level of synchronicity revolving around cheating and pandemics.

Consider:

In 1918, an H1N1 flu pandemic descended upon the world that would ultimately claim the lives of roughly 17-50 million Americans.

Baseball Player Wearing a Protective Mask Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

As a result, the 1918 baseball season was shortened to 130 games (from the normal 154) and the World Series—won by the Boston Red Sox over the Chicago Cubs—was wrapped up before the calendar flipped from September to October.

In 1919, MLB looked to bounce back from the shortened campaign but was instead beset by the enormous “Black Sox” World Series cheating scandal, in which White Sox players conspired with gamblers to lose to the Cincinnati Reds.

Group Shot of 1919 White Sox

Fast-forward 100 years...

In 2019, the Houston Astros were found guilty of using technology to steal signs during—at minimum—the 2017 & 2018 seasons, most notably the ‘17 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers in which they were victorious.

Houston Astros v Atlanta Braves Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

After an offseason of, well, just look at that photo above, MLB wanted desperately to move on from this blot on it reputation. In a sort of mirror-image to a century of years previous, it was rocked by a worldwide pandemic (COVID-19) that delayed the start of the ‘20 campaign until late July. Not only that, it emptied stadiums and made eerie sights like this commonplace:

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Exactly 100 years apart, subsequent-season large scale cheating scandals and nationwide pandemics rocked (and continue to rock) the pastime. Synchronicity by its very definition.

It almost makes one wonder what the 2119 cheating scandal will be—my bet is drone surveillance—or what sort of disease mutation will befall 2120 (won’t we all be watching robot players immune to plagues by then, though?).

Unless some serious advances in medical/AI technology take place very soon, I won’t be around to see what transpires. I guess I’ll have to settle for wondering how Kirk Cousins will break my Purple heart sometime in the late 2020s.