One week from today. That’s probably something I would’ve typed a lot today in a world without the pandemic.
The 2020 Major League Baseball season was due to kick off one week from today in an event that would have seen every single team starting the season on the same day. The Cubs were going to be heading up to Miller Park – the last year it will be called Miller Park, though it will remain Wrigley North. It was gonna be cool.
I still suspect there will be an Opening Day this year, and when it happens, it’ll feel even more dramatic – even if it might feel weird in the absence of fans.
That’s the thing. I don’t know if there will be fans at Opening Day this year. I don’t know when Opening Day will be this year. No one does. But, one week out from the previously-scheduled Opening Day, we do know that the start the season has already been significantly altered – by CDC rule, it cannot open before mid-May – and more announcements are likely coming.
Among the first official confirmations we’ve been expecting just dropped. The Mexico and San Juan Series have been canceled:
The Mexico City series scheduled for April 18-19 between the @Padres & @Dbacks & the San Juan series scheduled for April 28-30 between the @Mets & @Marlins have been canceled due to the delayed opening of the 2020 @MLB season. Games will be rescheduled in the home teams’ cities.
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) March 19, 2020
What is to become of the next two marquee events – June 13-14 between the Cubs and Cardinals, and the All-Star Game on July 14 – is still up in the air. There is almost no optimism that the events will take place precisely as previously scheduled, though.
Meanwhile, as detailed by Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic, the league and the players continue to negotiate on a range of critical issues to be addressed by the sport in advance of its return, whenever that is. No one is treating these issues as MORE important than stemming the spread of COVID-19, but there will come a time when everyone really does want some nice parts of life to return (like sports), so there is at least an opportunity now to spend a lot of time getting these things right. It’s worth a read, as it tees up the many issues (including how much salary players get paid and when, how much service time they accrue in a shortened season (can you imagine if a bunch of players fell short of free agency or arbitration because of this?), contract terms that were based on a 162-game season, etc.).
As for the schedule, what little tidbits we’re seeing from the league and players suggest they remain committed to playing as many games as possible, regardless of the start date.
We haven’t seen any kind of projections or cut offs or anything like that from MLB yet, but I did take note of what the NBA has been told by medical experts:
Sources: The ex-US surgeon general Vivek Murthy delivered NBA Board of Governors call a message consistent with other credible health organizations on grim potential impact of coronavirus pandemic in U.S., but left owners with hope of re-starting season/playoffs before July.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 17, 2020
So, for the NBA, sometime in June is a maybe? If that’s the case, then you could probably say that baseball in June – perhaps without fans – is also a maybe?
With that kind of timeline in mind, I did think it was interesting to see a player – remember, they’re involved in this planning, too – talking about what a season could look like if they were able to pull off a June 1 start date:
‘You figure if the season ends Sept. 30, just throw another month on the back and there’s 30 more games. You take away the All-Star Game break and that’s four more games. Mix in some doubleheaders and that’s another 10 games.’ — Mikolas on 162gm schedule. https://t.co/tPJatDnM8z
— Derrick S. Goold (@dgoold) March 19, 2020
With 55 games lost in the first two months, Mikolas figures, you could get back almost all of them by adding 10 doubleheader days and then another month onto the end of the regular season. You ditch the 20 interleague games, and you’ve got a doable season in the 140-game range. Seems exceedingly optimistic, but he’s doing some logical thinking.
A couple issues there, though, that would have to be worked out: (1) to ditch interleague, you’d have to reconfigure the whole schedule, which I’ve understood MLB to strongly prefer not to do, given that tickets and dates and locations and all that have already been locked down for the games on the schedule; (2) if the regular season doesn’t end until the very last of October, you’re talking about a World Series that pushes into the start of December. Obviously that doesn’t play in most of the country, so you’d have to go neutral site/warm-weather for much of the postseason.
In the end, Mikolas’s main point was that it’s important to do whatever possible to play some games this year, and try to be part of making things close to normal again, whenever that can happen. I appreciate his perspective, and also just that of a player. There’s a lot more from him in the article.
If and when baseball can start up again, it’ll take a ton of planning and compromise to make it happen, and it probably won’t look like what we’re used to. That ship has sailed. But it’s OK to want baseball back at some point. It’s OK to simultaneously be concerned about the current pandemic – to take it seriously – and also to want to think about and plan for and hope on a baseball return.