Coronavirus has taken over every walk of life, and is affecting millions of people across the globe. Cities and whole countries are on lockdown, and the reach of the virus is immense. Obviously, this virus has affected the world of sport.
Clearly cancelling sporting events is the right thing to do, and everything from football, to the NFL, cricket, table tennis, and everything in between has been cancelled for now. While most other sports have at least had a few games played and the seasons have begun, the MLB couldn’t even start. Many of you will be thinking will you even be able to watch baseball this season? Can you bet on your favorites to win the World Series? Or will you Fantasy League be able to take off?
How is Coronavirus going to change the MLB season? Will there even be a 2020 season, and if there is one, how will it play out?
Throughout the history of the MLB, there have been a number of shortened seasons that were worked out. Whether it be due to war, or earlier in the 1900’s due to the Spanish Flu, shortened seasons were played and completed.
The 1919 season, for instance, was shortened to 140 games. Those in charge believed that after WW1, and the outbreak of the Spanish Flu, that people just wouldn’t turn up to watch the games. They ended up being wrong, with the 1919 season being a ticket office hit.
Those were different times though, and the biggest thing going against the MLB this season, is uncertainty. Nobody knows when COVID-19 will be eliminated, nobody knows when life will be able to return to normal, and unlike in 1919, everyone, the world over, is far more concerned with public health and safety than a baseball season.
The biggest question that needs to be answered is how many games will be played to allow for a viable season and how many games per day will need to be played. If the season goes ahead, scheduling is going to be the difference between a fair season and a farce.
Scheduling is the biggest hurdle as players and teams would find it very difficult to go from no training and no games, straight into multiple games a week. Would expanded teams be needed to ensure each team has a large selection of fit players that can manage multiple games in a short time span?
One option that is a possibility is playing out a regular season with a later start date, pushing back the end of the season, and just lopping off preseason or post-season games. This could be a good option, but it highly depends on timing.
For the season to end around the third or fourth week of October, the season would have to start in June. At the moment, there is a very slim chance of this happening, but it would be the best option to still ensure the closest to a “normal” season.
Another option that is a possibility is emphasising the regular season, and having a very minimal postseason. Doing away with interleague games, each team will play multiple games against division opponents.
The amount of games will be determined by the start time of the season, and then once division champions are crowned, you can then move on to the World Series. This could be a viable option, but once again, when the season starts is important.
A more extreme option, and one that could be used if the pandemic lasts for most of the year, is a 2020 season that is all play-offs. Yes, you heard that right, a round robin style tournament that leads to a champion.
8 round robin division champions then going into a championship bracket, where they play each other in a best of 7 series, with the last two teams battling it out for the World Series. This is an extreme option, but in the minds of many, some baseball during 2020 is better than none.
Unlike other sports where their seasons have already started, the MLB is in the unfortunate position of either cancelling the league all together, or coming to some sort of compromise that ensures each team has a fair shot at being champions.
Many people would agree that the best course of action right now is to let the Corona pandemic play out and for everybody to deal with it as best as they can. There is no way a MLB season should be more important than the health and wellbeing of the general population.
What will be interesting, however, is how the league and those in charge decide to move forward. There is still the possibility that the season can start on time, or it could be decided to cancel it in the next few weeks and just start preparations for next year.
Either way, what will be interesting is how the league, teams, and players choose to move forward as at the moment, a very different type of league is looking likely. Exceptions will need to be made, one-time changes, but either way, there is still the possibility of baseball in 2020.