Major League Baseball recently released a proposal for a shortened 2020 season. The plan has been submitted to the MLB players association (MLBPA) for agreement. Chances the players union agrees to the first draft of the proposal is very unlikely. We should all anticipate a lot back and forth negotiations. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced league officials to get very creative if we want live baseball in 2020. Most of the details were reported last Saturday by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The players union will officially review the proposal on Tuesday.
Spring Training Part Deux
Prior to opening day, the league will need to come up with a Spring Training 2.0 plan. It would likely occur mid-June, be an expedited process, most believe 2 weeks will be all the time the teams are given. The location for Spring Training Part 2 has yet to be determined. Temperatures in the Phoenix area have some teams wondering if it’s even safe for players to train in that kind of heat. For example, it was 105 degrees in Phoenix on May 7th, which could make training too dangerous for the players. Some have hypothesized that teams could hold training and play games at their home ballpark. But for teams like the Mariners, the logistics of that could be challenging. The Oakland Athletics are the closest team to T-Mobile Park, just a short 800 miles away from Seattle. Holding training at the home park, just keeping it to team scrimmages would be the easiest and safest route.
The current plan has Opening Day set to start in July with a shortened ~80 game schedule, and the postseason would be pushed into November. Most medical experts believe we’ll have a second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks, and that will likely happen in mid-late Fall. Something the owners and players union must consider. It’s safe to assume the All-Star game, scheduled for July 14th at Dodger Stadium, will be canceled for 2020. The league will need the All-Star break to play games.
Limiting Travel and Player Safety
Player safety is the top priority, and one way to keep the players safe is to limit travel. But how do you limit travel in professional baseball? Currently being considered is for teams to play a regional schedule. This is easy to do with a team like the Phillies, but difficult for teams like the Mariners and Rockies. Cities like Seattle and Denver are geographically isolated from other teams. How do you limit travel for a Seattle team whose closest opponent is 800 miles away?
The current plan has both East divisions playing each other, the two Central divisions playing each other, and the same with both West divisions. Interleague play is not a thing in 2020, as the DH will apply to both leagues now. This will protect the pitchers; injury concerns are at an all-time high.
The league is also planning on expanding the rosters, teams could likely carry up to 50 active players on their roster. It would probably seem like you’re watching a Spring Training game with the different substitutions that will occur. Managers will have their work cut out for them this season. No minor league system this year, another reason for the expanded rosters. Teams could find a sister stadium to use as a pseudo work out facility for the additional players added to the rosters.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the league will propose an expanded seven-team postseason. This is not new information; this was leaked several months ago. This playoff scenario was pitched for 2022, now the league feels it’s best to implement in 2020. According to Sherman, below is what the league will most likely want for 2020:
-7 teams make the playoffs
-Opening round byes will be rewarded for teams with the best record
-Two division winners and top wild card teams will be home for all three wild card games
– The other division winners and one wild card to pick their opponent
What does this mean for the Seattle Mariners?
If what is getting reported is correct, then the Mariners’ opponents in the 2020 season will be limited to California, Arizona, Texas, and Colorado. The league wants to play as many home games as possible. The result would be long road trips, and long home stands. The Mariners are in a different situation then teams like the Yankees, Mets, Phillies, and Red Sox. All those teams are near several other ball clubs. The Mariners will log more travel miles in 2020 than any other Major League team. As stated earlier, the nearest team to the Mariners is 800 miles away.
What used to be a Los Angeles road trip will most likely turn into an entire West Coast road trip. Start with the Bay Area teams (Giants, A’s), then travel down to Southern California (Angles, Dodgers, Padres), then finish up in Arizona against the Diamondbacks. Then for the other teams, travel to Denver to play the Rockies, then move down to Texas for the Rangers, and Astros. For Mariner home games their opponents can do the opposite of that, or maybe do the same and start the road trip in Seattle.
Since there will be no minor leagues in 2020. With the expanded rosters I could see the Mariners using the Tacoma Rainiers stadium as a place to keep their additional players. I really doubt you’ll see all 50 players at T-Mobile park, the Rainiers facility could be utilized as a direct pipeline to Seattle if more players are needed. It’s a way teams could continue some sort of player development.
None of this will be possible unless the league has access to tests and good contact tracing. These proposals mean nothing until the league can actively test every player, coach, and other personnel. At this point, I can’t imagine fans being allowed at the stadiums, but a lot could change in two months. At least there’s hope that we’ll have live baseball in 2020, in whatever form it may take.