Earlier this week, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced that his league will cancel at least the first two series of the 2022 season for each team due to the continued owner-mandated lockout. In the meantime, we'll hope that the owners and MLBPA can come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, as that is the only way the owners lift their voluntary lockout.
As we look forward, let's try to stay as positive as we can and instead of focusing on the canceled games, try to figure out what the 2022 season might look like.
We'll go chronologically, which also happens to be ranked in order of how we'd prefer them. Off we go.
With the first two series being canceled by Major League Baseball, this is the earliest the season could begin and that will only happen if there's a deal within the next week or so.
If there's a deal by, say, March 9th or 10th, most of the players could be in camp by the end of next weekend and they could start playing spring training games around the 15th. That would be enough time to play a season only lacking just the first two scheduled series and, honestly, it won't really crush us to have seen a 156-game season once the dust has settled. This wouldn't be bad at all and really the only negative would be the sour taste left in our mouths from the off-field fighting.
Unfortunately, I don't find this realistic.
The two sides aren't going to ramp up talks again within the next few days and they realistically need at least three weeks -- and will probably push for four -- of spring training before starting the regular season. I do not think the first two series being canceled are going to be the last and I also firmly believe there's something to the theory being floated from the player side that enough of the owners (it only takes eight in a 30-team vote) really don't want to play in April.
May 1 is a Sunday and could be a nice starting point for a few "showcase" games followed by the traditional "Opening Day" on Monday, May 2.
For the week of games starting May 2 (remember, MLB weeks run Monday through Sunday), the Yankees-Blue Jays, Braves-Mets and Giants-Dodgers series provide some juicy national TV candidates.
The sweet spot here for a deal would be the range from Thursday, March 31 through Sunday, April 3 and it's very reasonable to believe lots of headway can be made in the time between now and then in negotiations. The entire month of April could then be spring training and hopefully help the local economies in Florida and Arizona that are being hit right now with a lack of MLB spring training.
In losing all the games through April, most teams miss around 26-30 games. Perhaps the two sides can agree upon 140 games by putting in some doubleheaders with the remaining schedule? We'll say it's 135-140.
This is our realistic best-case scenario and it's still a very good one.
Memorial Day weekend
Memorial Day this year is May 30, meaning Friday night the 27th is when a long weekend unofficially kicks off the summer for many people. Weather-permitting, it's a weekend full of outdoor activities that generally include grills, cold drinks and sports. While we'd rather be into the regular-season grind by then, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for this weekend to kick off the 2022 MLB season.
All 30 teams are in action on Saturday, May 28. There are some fun matchups that could anchor national coverage, such as:
Between MLB Network and Fox, you could fill the day with those five games, staggered throughout.
A deal would need to be in place by May 1 at the latest, but ideally Friday, April 29. I'd again hope that the league would stage spring training throughout the month of May in Florida and Arizona, as best it could due to the local economies.
At this point, the number of regular season games per team would be around probably 120, depending upon how they truncate the schedule.
If negotiations last into May, we're left picking up the scraps in this direction. July 1 is a Friday, which means American Independence Day falls on Monday and it's a long weekend for a large majority of MLB fans. Fireworks, grills, cold beverages, water sports and now MLB's extended, opening weekend? That would be fun.
Unfortunately, the regular season -- now surely without an All-Star break -- would probably fall around 100 games and even that is aggressive. Teams generally play 27-29 games per month in normal seasons.
A deal somewhere in the ballpark of Memorial Day puts things on track for this scenario and, unfortunately, I think "summer camp" is what happens with the players getting ready to play in their home ballparks -- just like in 2020. This time around, however, teams will sell tickets. With a big drop in COVID protocols compared to the 2020 season, too, there would be a lot more exhibition games between teams regionally close to each other and those tickets would sell.
If there are another few weeks in negotiations, say until Friday, June 10, MLB could opt to leave the All-Star Game in Los Angeles this time and just start the season with it. They could still hold fan voting and just send the most popular players and start the 2022 season with the All-Star Game, as scheduled, on July 19, with the very-rightfully-popular Home Run Derby on the 18th.
That would leave Opening Day for July 21-22. We'd be looking at about 70-75 games then, depending upon how aggressive MLB wanted to be with doubleheaders.
If negotiations last until around July 1 and then somehow a deal is reached, we're left with the summer camp scenario for training purposes, with the aforementioned exhibition games.
And then we'd have the second 60-game season in the last two years. Perhaps they'd go to 16 playoff teams again just to make it look more like the 2020 season.
It's a total bummer even imagining having this again, but with the benefit of hindsight, the 2020 season we had was exponentially better than not having a season at all. We'd take it, even if it's far down the list of priorities.
Only a tournament
Let's say we get into August or even mid-August and the two sides finally end up striking a deal. First off, that would be a colossal failure, but let's move past that. The players are motivated to play the absolute second there's a deal in place. Surely the owners would want to find a way to make some extra money -- after all, that's what they are all about. There's no time to put in any semblance of a regular season that isn't a farce, so why not make every game a playoff game?
A 30-team playoff needs two teams to get byes, so it's easy to simply divide by league and seed based upon last season's finish.
A deal by mid-August would give the teams a month to prepare with a summer camp and they could televise exhibition games between teams. In the middle of September starts the first round. They could play five-game series in the first round. The next round would have 16 teams and again, a five-game series works.
That gets us to October with eight remaining teams. In this case, they could fit in seven games for the divisional round before the seven-game LCS and seven-game World Series.
It would be an incredible letdown to the fans even imagining this scenario. But if we had no baseball into the middle of September, I think we'd rally around this and it would end up being really fun by the end.
Let's not find out, though.
Let's just try to put this out of our mind for now. It's only March 3. We don't need to jump to the Doomsday Scenario just yet.