There will be an MLB 2020 season after all. But as frustrating and painful the last three months have been, the real challenge lies ahead – making it happen.
To no one’s surprise, there will be a 60-game MLB 2020 season. Opening Day will be either July 23 or 24 and the regular season will conclude on September 27.
Individual team schedules have been released, and already there is moaning and groaning in some quarters. Divisions remain intact, and the bulk of games played (10) will be against intra-division teams. Critics point out the advantage of the Dodgers (weak division) over a team like the Yankees or Nationals (strong division).
But they will get over it, and there will be baseball following an abbreviated Spring Training beginning on July 1, the first day teams can accept players into camps.
Hold the applause, though, because the hard part is yet to come – making the games and season happen. Consider the following:
MLB 2020: How To Squeeze 60 Games Into 66 Days
If the 2020 season begins on July 23, there are 66 calendar days to reach the September 27 season date.
The original MLB 2020 season calendar called for a March 28 start and a September 29 end to the regular season. Between those dates are 186 calendar days, leaving 24 scheduled off-days for each team.
Six scheduled off-days in the revised 60-game schedule is proportionately only five percent fewer than in the original calendar.
So it’s doable, but weather, especially in rainy September, will be a possible hindrance to completing a schedule that boils down to teams having only six days off in nine weeks.
And remember, the minor league season is history, which means teams will not have the luxury of calling up a fresh arm for two or three days. Pitching coaches will earn their money during the MLB 2020 season.
MLB 2020: Enforcing The Agreed To Safety Protocols
It’s one thing for Congress to pass a law. The trick, however, is to execute and enforce the law. The Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, for instance, has been on the books for a half-century, and still today, we are challenged to execute the law’s basic provisions fairly.
It on the players to “follow the law,” and it will be Rob Manfred’s responsibility to investigate and “prosecute” any player who acts beyond the guidelines.
What, for example, are the repercussions attached to a rouge player or two who get bored following the protocol encouraging they say in their hotel room during road trips, and the players decide to go out to a crowded club for a night of dancing?
I’m not going to spell out the details because you already know the risks associated with that kind of behavior. Conceivably, an entire team can later test positive, requiring a 14-day quarantine – during the 2020 season – with replacement players coming from – where?
The honor system prevails, and nearly all players are and act like adults. But it’s the old story – all it takes is one.
MLB 2020 Season: Issues Still In The Wind
The Universal Designated Hitter
Baseball purists have long objected to the DH in the National League, pointing out the loss of strategic moves available to NL managers that often affect the outcomes of games.
But the critics don’t pay Zack Greinke or Clayton Kershaw‘s $25-30 million salaries. Pitchers batting and running the bases, risking avoidable injuries, no longer makes sense.
If the universal DH is still in, it’s a one-year experiment, renewable or not for 2021.
Universally popular with fans, players, and owners, the most discussed plan called for the addition of six teams as qualifiers for the postseason.
Extra games translate into more revenue for both owners and players to share, thanks to the major television networks ever-increasing interest (read ads revenue) in all major sports.
Original discussions also included the 2021 season, but we’ll need to wait on that as well.
This one is not a biggie unless you’ve been talking to last year’s NL Rookie of the Year, Pete Alonso, who is wild about the idea.
Making the game “younger” is an expressed goal of major league baseball, and this is a tool to bring fans closer to the players and the game itself.
It should be a no-brainer, but again it’s a wait-see.
Summing Up – Hoping For Smooth Waters
The MLB 2020 season is on, all we can do now is to grant it our best wishes for a safe and exciting display of why baseball still reigns as our National Pastime.
The road ahead, though, is a rocky one, with a reminder from Milo Murphy that – if anything can go wrong – it will.
COVID-19 lurks in the grass like a snake all coiled up and hissing. Warnings from noted scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci to expect another surge in the fall when the temps cool will be tested.
One day at a time, one step at a time is the best practice—that, and maybe a good dose of luck.