The Tuesday Discussion: Once Baseball Returns…
This week we asked our writers for their thoughts on the following:
“If you were the commissioner, how would you handle the 2020 season once it begins? Should the schedule just pick up on the day baseball begins? Should there be a modified schedule? Should more double-headers be added to the schedule? What other ideas do you have on this topic?”
Here are their responses:
Mike Whiteman – Were I the commissioner, I would accept the need for modified schedule, and not necessarily cram the schedule to get to a certain level of games. I would not rush spring training once the season is resumed, as I’m sure a sustained break would result in a need for players, particularly pitchers to get back into shape. A quality 100-game schedule with healthy players is better than a rushed 120 game schedule with significant player injuries.
As an aside, Major League Baseball should also remember and embrace it’s role in helping the nation heal as it has in previous national emergencies. It should realize that many fans will have recently gone through economic struggles, and should encourage clubs to offer ticket pricing at a level that can reach these fans.
Lincoln Mitchell – This is a tough question because there are still so many unknowns. However, I would begin by making it clear to everybody associated with MLB that they need to be on message. That message is that Corona Virus is real and that the best thing to do, not just for themselves, but for the public at large, is to follow the instructions of the health experts and essentially lay low, limit contact with others and stay home. I would strongly discourage Tweets and other demonstrations of not being afraid of the virus. Ballplayers are still role modes and this is a time when they need to act that way. Unfortunately, that is the easy part. Figuring out how to salvage the 2020 season will be tough. It now looks like a mid-June start is one of the more optimistic projections. With that in mind, I would recognize that even a truncated regular season is not possible. Instead, I would move to some kind of tournament play within each league. Perhaps a double or triple elimination situation based on best of three or best of five series. This would culminate in a World Series between the winners of each league. Again, it is very difficult to plan in any detail because we do not know when it will be possible to resume play.
Derek McAdam – If I am Rob Manfred, I do not modify the schedule to accommodate the same Opening Day matchups. Instead, I pick up right where the season will currently be at. Many fans are already scrambling to figure out what they are going to do with their tickets, but more importantly their travel plans. Re-doing the entire season’s schedule is going to force baseball fans to either cancel their travel plans or reschedule them. However for families, this may not be an easy task to do. So to make it easier on fans that come from long distances, I would do my best to just add games to create double-headers later on in the season. If 162 games cannot be played, 140 may be an appropriate number to aim for.
Patrick Gunn – If I were commissioner, I would just cut off part of the season and start it in June-July. Maybe push the All-Star Break back to August so there’s more time in between. Baseball is a sport that can still have a mostly full season due to the sheer amount of games that baseball has. Even if they lose a third of their season, MLB would still have about a 109 game season. I would avoid adding more scheduled double-headers because that would be worse for the players. As for player salaries, I would try to give players as close to full salaries as possible, given the difficult times now. Who knows when the season will start, but the Boys of Summer will take the field soon.
Ethan Semendinger – With the news yesterday that baseball won’t be back until at least May, I think this opens up a realm of possibilities for how, if I were the commissioner, would try and make the remaining season play out. If baseball can start back up in May, then I think the best possible option is to honor the games already scheduled and play everything like it was normal (so, in effect missing about 30 games for each club). It would mess up order as some inter-division rivals may have been played more or fewer times, but it’s the best way to mitigate fan concern over tickets. However, once the season starts to get pushed back into late June and maybe even July, the season has to be completely overhauled to be something unprecedented.
One crazy thought I’m having- if the most drastic things happen and the season has to forego ~60% of what would be expected- would be to forget about normal playoffs and use a 30 team single elimination bracket, à la March Madness. All 30 teams would get ranked by winning percentage (ties to be determined by point differential), regardless of league or division, and then square off in continuous “Best-of-3” series’ until the semi-finals (Best of 5) and then the finals (Best of 7), which would place the end around the end of October. It would be a crazy experiment, but would draw massive interest in seeing if a Cinderella team (Miami Marlins) was built well enough to do well in short-term competitions.
Michael Saffer – If I was the commissioner of MLB, I would a have an abridged season of about 145 games. In the interest of nostalgia there would be double headers on Sundays. Since these are special circumstances I would propose a single admission double header with two 7 inning games.
Paul Semendinger – I believe that baseball should just pick-up with the existing schedule when the games are allowed to be played. To me that seems to be the simplest solution. It will be a shorter season, no doubt, but I don’t see that as a problem. I’m sure that the better teams will rise to the top, even if the season is only 100 or so games. I do like the idea of Sunday, single admission double headers. That would be fun.