CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A look at the calendar reveals that Major League Baseball will likely need a combination of good fortune and flexibility to have a 2020 season. One they can control, the other they cannot. What is out of their hands is the timeline of which the United States starts to get back to business as usual. If that can happen in the next two or three months, baseball has a chance for an 81-game season.
Let’s start with the finish. MLB intentionally started early this year, Opening Day on March 26th for the Indians, to avoid having the World Series run into Election Day on on November 3rd. Assuming they want to adhere to that deadline, and if they want to play 81 games, give or take a game, Opening Day needs to be Monday, June 29th. To even achieve that a lot will have to happen.
Players will likely need three weeks for a(nother) spring training. Report day would be June 6th or 7th with workouts beginning on the 8th. Right away there are legitimate questions about whether or not this country can, in only 11 weeks, accommodate that, and how would you really know all the players and people involved in the organizations are actually healthy. For this exercise, assume all of that is in the clear. There is a little bit of wiggle room on the report date.
After three weeks of training the 2020 season starts on June 29th. Teams would have to play the existing schedule. Trying to change it to overcome the loss of the early season divisional games would be a logistical disaster. The travel plans are already in place for the existing schedule, just pick up on June 29th.
Teams would likely get one or two games in June, the Indians have two, other teams might only have one. The four day All-Star break in July has to go away. Schedule each team with a three game series that week. With that addition teams would have around 27 games in July, 27 more in August and 25 in September. That’s going to get teams to right around 80-81 games.
“Just have them play double headers!” is something I’ve heard. It’s not very realistic to start slamming teams with lots of them. If you got super creative and decided to add double headers, say, to the second game of a three game series, you could potentially add a few more games. Playing even a 90 game schedule that way could still be challenging.
This type of schedule would pull baseball into a post season beginning right around October 1st, which is what they were aiming for.
That is if everything goes well.
What if it does not?
If Major League Baseball decided to play into November, through Election Day and into when the weather gets cold, they could buy themselves more weeks on the front end. Remember that wiggle room? Every week into November played buys them another week in June. Want to have spring training start on July 1st? The World Series will wrap up around Thanksgiving. At that point weather becomes an issue and a decision will have to be made about playing games at domed neutral sites. If they want to play into December that would be an absolute must.
The other thing to factor in is the 2021 season. If the 2020 season ends on time, no problem. If the the 2020 season ends one or two weeks late, maybe no problem. If the season ends a month late, that can start to be a issue. Do you want guys playing till December 1st, give or take a day, then reporting for spring training in 2021 10 weeks later? Maybe not. It’s another hurdle.
Major League Baseball could be the one of the four major sports most impacted by COVID-19. The NFL does not even get to training camps until late July. Even a small delay there could be overcome. The NBA and NHL need 2-3 months to finish their season. Under this proposed, much abbreviated schedule, Major League Baseball needs almost five months.