A couple articles to share with you today on MLB’s timeline going forward, first from Jeff Passan here, and second from Jayson Stark here. We know that the regular season could not start before mid-May at the very earliest, and we also know that no one can give you any kind of certain dates while the COVID-19 pandemic is still growing. But you do start to get an idea of general sentiment around the league.
Among the things that seem to be suggested by the articles …
- It’s possible a shorter Spring Training Part Two than we’ve been envisioning would be possible (think two or two and a half weeks, rather than four) if the league and players agree to have expanded rosters when the regular season begins, which would allow more pitchers to stretch out/be protected.
- There’s a hope that early June could be targeted for starting the season (which would track with a mid-May beginning to Spring Training Part Two), but there is also some push for July – around what would have been the All-Star Break – as more realistic. In that case, you could have a weird and interesting situation where some version of the All-Star Game actually kicks off the season. (I would add that the 4th of July would certainly make for a compelling opener, if the circumstances dictated an early-July start.)
- Here’s something just from me, who is not an expert or a scientist: I have read a number of articles where experts do *HOPE* the rate of transmission of COVID-19 drops when warmer weather arrives. So, when you consider that hope, it makes even more sense for a longer delay to the start of the season, rather than a shorter one. At least give yourself as much time as possible – within reason – to make smart, safe decisions.
- It hasn’t strictly been accepted yet that the regular season would be extended past September 27, but since all parties want to get in as many games as possible, that writing is on the wall. Thus, it’s also very possible that neutral-site locations (domes and warm-weather) are on the table for late-October/November/December, if it comes to that.
- Stark indicates that, whenever a new season is set, it probably will not involve an entirely newly-created schedule, and would instead involve just picking up where things were already on the schedule, and then adding games to the end. That stands at least some part in contract with Passan’s mention of lots of double-header additions to the schedule, and it would also leave out the possibility of scrapping the All-Star Break as part of making more regular season game dates available. There’s also the issue of an extremely unbalanced schedule for teams. I get that stadiums are booked, travel plans are made, etc., but we’re talking about months and months away from now – everyone else has had travel and schedule plans completely disrupted, and then had to rearrange things after the fact. Why would this be any different? I don’t quite get it.
- Games starting with no fans in attendance is certainly going to be on the table, depending on the timeline. But as Stark points out, for some smaller market teams or those without huge TV deals, games played without fans might actually cost them more than they bring in. That is to say, teams might not all be on the same page on that one.