As the sports world shuts down as part of a global effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, baseball fans are left pondering what the 2020 season might look like. What learned Monday that the, though even that now seems optimistic. So how could an abbreviated season work? That's what we're here to discuss.
The owners hope to still play 162 games, but that is likely a pipe dream that would come laden with doubleheaders and a lack of off days. It would run players into the ground and extend the postseason into late November. We can't have World Series games being played around Thanksgiving for myriad reasons. Sorry, owners.
Moving forward in this post, we're going to assume any pushing back of the playoffs is minimal. The league almost certainly won't try to play the World Series any later than, say, the second week of November.
We know the players are going to need at least two weeks to ramp things up (again) and get ready for the season. They could do this either at the spring training facilities or their regular season homes and could possibly get a jump start on the season by holding those spring training games without fans. Sure, there's no ticket revenue, but they'll make more money on regular-season games. Those are far more important.
After that, they'll be ready to go. When? We can't be sure of that. Here are five realistic options as to what this season might end up looking like.
1. Memorial Day weekend start
This feels kind of perfect, no? It's a three-day weekend, the weather most everywhere should be nice -- at least not cold! -- and it would be quite the feel-good moment to see the American Pastime back on an American holiday. This now feels like the best-case scenario, but it is a scenario.
Most teams have roughly 105 games remaining if we started things up on Friday, May 29 and that's a plenty decent sample size to sort out who the playoff teams are. They would likely still be able to have the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium as scheduled in July, too.
The playoffs could even start on time if it's OK with each team playing about 105 or 110 regular season games.
2. Middle of June
If they need a couple more weeks, Monday, June 15 could work fairly well.
That is, however, too late to keep the All-Star Game on the schedule. Removing it does give us three games to wedge in during that break, and something like a 95-game season could still be in play.
Perhaps pushing the playoffs back a week and limiting off days means we could play a tidy 100 games. That's a reasonable sample and would still be plenty of basebal.
3. Fourth of July
A Saturday in the middle of the summer with fireworks, beer, BBQ and Opening Day after a months-long hiatus? That would be legitimately amazing -- so long as we ignore how much longer it'll be before we get to watch meaningful baseball again. Obviously, the All-Star Game would've been long since canceled.
Starting with July 4 and ending on Sept. 27 as planned gets the season over on time to leave the playoffs scheduled as they are. That is 85 days. MLB would have to get the players to agree to only having four days off, but they would have all this extra time off and know the season is less than three months long. If that happened, we'd be able to play exactly half a season at 81 games.
4. August 1
We're starting to get on the short side of things as far as baseball history goes, but "baseball" > "no baseball."
If things have to get pushed back this far, we're looking at no off days and a 58-game schedule. In this case, I think we'd be forced to push the playoffs back two weeks and that gets us to 72 games. I don't love it, but it's workable. If there were not off days, they'd have to let teams carry at least 28 players and maybe 30 or more.
This doesn't sound ideal, but, again, baseball beats no baseball.
5. Cancel the season
If most guidelines to stop the spread of the virus -- like the CDC recommending not having gatherings of more than 50 people -- remain in place into August, the league might have to just cancel the season. We can't have something like a 40-game season. It's too small of a sample size, and it would cheapen the sport's history.
For example, in 2018 through 40 games, the following teams would have made the playoffs: Mariners, Diamondbacks, Pirates and Phillies. The following wouldn't have been in. the postseason: Dodgers, Brewers, Cubs, Rockies. The Indians would have won the AL Central at 20-20.
I know I said baseball beats no baseball, but if we have two months or less, it's just not enough time for play a season. If this bleeds into August, it's cut-your-losses time and pack it up for 2021.
I don't think it'll come to this, though. Let's root for a Memorial Day kickoff while hoping they're playing ball by the Fourth of July.