The MLB Florida-Arizona plan for a resumption of the 2020 season is a winner. Add some bells and whistles, and this could turn into a home run for baseball.
The MLB Florida-Arizona plan to resume the baseball season at the appropriate time shows that with some imagination and positive thinking, lemons can be turned to lemonade.
In a story yesterday, I outlined the basic format of the proposal. New details will continue to emerge as the idea gains traction. Today, for instance, we learned that each league would be divided into three divisions, each consisting of five teams.
These divisions can then be used to form the postseason schedule. As an example, I can see a format in which of the three divisions has two teams qualifying – the division winner and a wild card team.
MLB would then have six teams from the Florida Grapefruit League and six from the Arizona Cactus League in the postseason. In effect, each team in both leagues have a 40% chance of making the playoffs.
Some will even argue that in this experimental season, MLB should consider upping the ante to sixty-percent, so that and extra wild card is added in each division. What the hell – why not?
MLB: Don’t Stop – Go All The Way With Innovations
For MLB, a unique opportunity is presented. Fans know that whatever schedule and rules are adopted, it’s not going to be baseball as usual.
So why not go for it by adopting ideas that have been floated before – some controversial and some not. What can it hurt?
Here are a few ideas that can quickly be adopted and executed immediately:
On The Field Microphones
Bring the fans close to the game. Install in the ground microphones at home plate and all bases. This is better than wiring players up as it takes away the need for the player to be “on stage.”
Two Television Announcer Silent Innings
This is a follow-up to the mikes on the field. Pick two innings, say the third and the seventh, and stop the chatter in the television booth.
Allow fans to see the game through their eyes. Later, when the CDC and MLB declare it safe, there’ll be the roar of the crowd added to the “in the ballpark” experience.
MLB Institutes The Robo-Umpire At Home Plate
Purists, knock it off. We need the calls to be right, neutral, and fair for both teams. Venus Williams can argue all she wants, but cameras do not lie or make mistakes – that ball was out. Calls on fielded balls at the plate remain in the jurisdiction of an umpire – no jobs are lost.
This one is presented on an as-needed basis for this year to get in as many games as possible.
But if it shows merit, MLB has the option of using it in future years as a vehicle to provide more days off for players, and a reduction in innings played (by four) for every two games on the schedule.
The Universal Designated Hitter (DH)
At least for this season, MLB will see the DH in all games played as a no-brainer and the only way of doing business within the disjointed Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.
Again, baseball purists will have a fit, but so what?
The diehards will get over it, and National League managers will adapt in the same way they will change to the new rules regarding the use of relief pitchers.
Extra-Inning Games – Man On Second
This is a good rule MLB can test as a potential keeper. As much as I love baseball, it gets to be a bit much when a game is four-hours old in the thirteenth inning.
Starting a half-inning with a man on second creates drama, the opportunity for managers to think outside the box, and the need for closers earning the big bucks to do their job.
MLB World Series At A Neutral Site
Whatever MLB’s plan becomes to revive the 2020 season, the World Series will be played at a neutral site, presumably in a seasonably warm climate.
While the idea of games played in a rockin’ Yankee Stadium, for instance, images of players with face-warming masks and heaters in the dugout are not baseball. There’s a reason why the NFL has its Super Bowl in a warm climate or a climate-controlled venue.
But you know what? If the Yankee’s Aaron Judge is coming to bat against the Dodgers Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the World Series, the temperature should be reading 71 degrees – not 41 degrees with the wind blowing in at 25 mph.
MLB: And That’s Not All
The time to innovate and experiment is when there is little to lose. When you are down 10-3 going into the eighth inning, and you say – what the hell – let’s bring the kid in to see what he can do.
Or, when faced with a virus that turns itself into a pandemic, you say – what the hell – can it hurt to try this drug or that therapy?
The 2020 MLB season has reached that point. There will be baseball this year; we just don’t know when or in what form we’ll see baseball, or even if we’ll recognize it as our National Pastime.
But the widespread acceptance of change is fleeting, and it has a minuscule window of opportunity. For MLB, that time is now. Don’t waste the opportunity.
Go all in. See what works and keep it. Dismiss the rest. Fans are ready – are you?