If we see a restart in 2020, it will be given great attention. Maximizing that attention could come with never-before-seen creativity—and a postseason format like the World Baseball Classic may fit the bill.
FanGraphs author Jon Tayler follows a premise that people really want to see the perennial contenders of recent years—Dodgers, Yankees and Astros—and a carefully curated restart could match top teams against each other right away. A standard big league schedule has lots of matchups where divisional fourth- and fifth-place teams square off, lesser-viewed contests that can mean more for player development than actual outcome. An MLB restart is highly anticipated already, but a restart with lots of marquee games, or games with something on the line, could really pique fan interest more than a standard regular season may entail.
An everybody-gets-in World Baseball Classic style postseason would pique fan interest for every base of fans, and would give every team a chance to contend. More importantly, it would give people in every MLB market something to believe in during some hectic times.
A lead-in regular season would mean all sorts of seeding possibilities. If NCAA March Madness has shown us anything, some serious stuff can happen out of any seed. If the Rockies brought Kyle Freeland’s 2018 Wild Card performance into a first round pool of four and the team advanced, we could then be looking at the most postseason games in a season by Colorado since 2007.
A watered-down 2020 postseason it would be: yes. A less exciting one in a shortened season: hell no.
A regular season slate of games and a second ‘spring training’ would need to occur for 2020 to be worthwhile for pitchers to on-ramp their arms again. If that on-ramp session started in May or June, pitchers could prepare for a season a lot closer to normal, sort of like the 1995 MLB restart post-strike. That restart would be far more standard compared to a start in September, or whenever the point of a league restart isn’t worth the stress on million-dollar arms. Those arms would be anticipating another on-ramp the following spring on an abnormal schedule.
Possible scheduling projections can change often, just like projections on the virus over time. FanGraphs author Jon Tayler wrote “The only thing we know for sure about the 2020 MLB schedule . . . is that it won’t be 162 games.” Patrick Saunders shares a good take on what we hope to know soon—the possible changes to the 2020 slate given our current April outlook.
He’s up for games being played in different locations. He mentioned how every Rockies player he talks to hates the idea of no fans in the stands, but would go along with zero attendance in the short-term. He says it would be “wise to embrace postseason wildness” in a shortened season—even a November neutral-site World Series out of the cold.
There are plenty of takes on how people ‘think’ the season may return, many interesting in their own right. The longer this haul goes on, however, the more those takes are subject to change. It started with just the Mariners considering home games in Phoenix after Seattle banned large gatherings in March; a flood of media reports ensued on the ‘possible outcomes’ it meant for the league. Within days, all sports were shut down, a whole new flood of reports forecasting outcomes far beyond an on-time MLB Opening Day.
As we all work to ‘flatten the curve’, pro sports commissioners will be left to decide if the back end of that curve is enough to resume play—and whether that can convince fans they are safe in the stands. One positive test by a player led to all professional sports shutting down—what do we do if play resumes and another player tests positive?
Until then, new takes on the schedule will resume, some thinking late-May or June resumption is enough. Others may say All-Star break. Even ESPN’ Kirk Herbstreit says he’d be “shocked” if there is football in the fall.
FanGraph’s Jon Tayler says it best: unique schedule changes are “nothing more than thin gristle to chew on while we wait for more substantive news.” We’re left to devour that thin gristle in hopes that the feast of an actual season will ensue—no matter how unique.
A “thus-far-successful response” to COVID-19 in South Korea has led to the KBO planning on scrimmages across the league later in April. While we’ve got plenty of virus projections to look at here in the United States, the projections in South Korea and the actions of the KBO may paint a clearer picture for how MLB can precisely resume play.
A small silver lining for the Rockies: Peter Lambert is currently missing no games after suffering a forearm strain just before the shutdown. A CBS article said it could lead to serious missed time, even throwing Tommy John surgery in the discussion. While there is never a good time to undergo UCL reconstruction, guys like Chris Sale and Noah Syndergaard are currently rehabbing without missing any games. If Lambert hasn’t underwent the procedure by now, it could mean his injury isn’t as severe as once suggested.
It could also mean complications in the medical community too, however; Dr. James Andrews has stopped performing Tommy John surgeries amidst the current health crisis, and many may follow suit.