Thoughts on 2020 Baseball

MLB and the MLBPA are conferring on many topics regarding the return to baseball operations.  Since a return to “normal” baseball operations is not possible, there are many discussions that have to take place and agreements that have to be reached before baseball players once again take to the fields.  First and foremost is –

“When will it be safe to start the baseball regular season?”.

Obviously, this is the most important issue to be decided.  MLB has followed CDC’s March 15th recommendation against holding gatherings of 50 people or more for eight weeks.  If MLB continues to comply with this guidance and conditions take a turn for the better, the earliest start date seems to be mid-May.  But, the players’ need for a short spring training-like camp prior to beginning to play real games could push that start date back, unless teams begin bringing players in early in smaller groups.  The only thing we can be sure of is that MLB will start as soon as possible.

“How many games will be played in the 2020 season?”

The owners have harbored hopes of still playing a 162 game season.  The eventual start date will determine if that is possible.  Let’s say the season starts on June 1st.  June through September provides just 122 dates for baseball.  If they start two weeks earlier and extend two weeks into October, that’s a another 28 dates and 150 total.  However, that pushes the start of the playoffs back, and more importantly doesn’t address off days.  According to the current CBA, contract, “no club shall be scheduled, or rescheduled if practicable, to play more than twenty consecutive dates without an open day”.  There are also restrictions regarding the scheduling of double headers, split double headers, games played after travel between time zones, and so on.  So, MLB and the MLBPA will have to come to agreement on scheduling to get the most games played in a limited amount of time.

“Do you still hold an All Star game?”

In a shortened season, 4 days off for the All Star game will cost 45 individual games.  Do trade off the these games for the mid summer classic?  If yes, you’d still hold the voting so that players who have such clauses in their contracts could still meet such provisions.

“How many players will make up an active roster?”

I’ve heard that there are discussions to expand the 26-man roster to 30 with the addition of 4 pitchers when the season begins.  Whether that continues for the remainder of the season or how it affects roster expansion toward the end of the season would need to be discussed.  Would they consider further expansion of the roster to say 35 players with the inclusion of double headers on Saturdays?  Would they consider operating under under the provision that players are scheduled off the active roster in lieu of off days?

“Scheduling?”

So, once you determine it is safe to start the season and when to start the season, do you just start playing games as already scheduled?  Or, do you re-write a new schedule, cramming in as many games as possible (with MLBPA approval, of course)?  Do you reschedule more division games?  Do you reschedule regionally, requiring less and shorter travel?

“Playoffs?”

Do you tinker with the playoff format?  I’ve already seen the “add more teams” balloon floated in social media.  Does an additional playoff round or rounds help baseball more than the games lost at the end of the regular season to add more playoff teams/games?

Other concerns.

Tinkering with the roster begets other discussion items.  Such as, how players are credited with service time in a season that is hardly likely to be 182-187 days long. Would players who were inactive for a game lose out on service time for that game?  Service time may be the biggest concern for the MLBPA.

Teams are concerned about their revenue stream.  Losing games obviously hurts the gate and concessions.  Season ticket holders will have to be refunded money for lost games (or credited on a future purchase).  I don’t know how baseball’s TV contracts are worded, but it would seem to me that the contracts require that games be played.  If the contracts require that a certain number of games be played, some national and many local outlets will be paying less to broadcast baseball this summer.

Individual player contracts will be affected by the length of the season.  Some include options that require that players meet certain objectives during the 162-game season to trigger an option for higher compensation.  For instance, a certain number of innings pitched or appearances for pitchers.  In some cases, an optional year may be triggered.  For example, in recent Phillies’ history Cole Hamels’ 6-year contract included a $20M club option for 2019 that automatically triggered for $24M if Hamels  –

  1. “has 400 IP in 2017-18, including 200 IP in 2018, and
  2. is not on the disabled list with a shoulder or elbow injury at the end of the 2018 season”

So, unless such provisions are pro-rated for a shorter season, players are going to have difficulty reaching some contract items.

MLB is also confronted with how to compensate its minor league players.  I know that some teams have decided to give the players their daily stipend which isn’t much when you consider that was just to cover the expense of their third meal each day during spring training since each team provided breakfast, lunch, and a place to stay.  (After starting this article, MLB announced an Interim Support Plan to Pay Minor League Players which addresses the dates from the time they were sent home until the day before the start of the minor league seasons on April 9th.)

“More Double Headers?”

I mentioned double headers a couple times above.  Before I could publish this essay, I saw that the Rockies manager was in favor of more double headers (2 per week, he said).  Well, that’s really cool of him since he doesn’t have to play them.  However, as I stated above, double headers are limited by contract and would have to be negotiated.  Saturday split double headers would add about 18 games to a truncated season of 4 months.  They could add to the all important revenue stream and help satisfy TV contracts.  But, I’m sure they would come at a cost during negotiations with the MLBPA.  Like service time and roster size, maybe?

I’m sure there are many, many more details to be discussed and agreed upon between the owners and the MLBPA.  But, let me publish this before I see something else that I might want to add to this tome.  (By the way, this is just an aside, but I would not be surprised to find out that MLB is insured for just such an incident as losing all or most of a season to a pandemic or other catastrophe.)

 

 

 

50 thoughts on “Thoughts on 2020 Baseball

  1. If MLB goes the route of reducing the number of off-days to the minimum possible while adding regular doubleheaders, say one or two per week, then starting pitching will be more valuable then ever. Will teams go with a six or even seven-man rotations?

  2. Off the top of my head, have the all star voting (ONLY) and bag the actual game. Or….play a virtual reality version on line for any interested viewers. I’m sure it would serve a novel curiosity by millions of virtual fans.

    I would also favor a new schedule, geographically structured, involving interleague play….the NL east plays the AL east, 3-game home and away series (6games ×5teams =30 total), along with divisional rivals, (18games × 4teams = 72 total). A regular season schedule of 102 games with lots of (*)s. Hey, for one year we can bite the bullet and perhaps enjoy an extended playoff bracket. I won’t bother to try and figure that out….it would largely depend on when the regular season actually begins. But 102 games is feasible provided play starts by June 1, considering requisite off days. Play 6 game weeks with either Monday or Thursday as off days.

      1. rocco……are you heading down. Not sure, but do not think you are allowed to walk thru.

        Citizens Bank Park will serve as a coronavirus testing site beginning Friday, March 20. City officials warn that service will be slow.
        Obviously, there will be no games at the Phillies’ home stadium through at least mid-May. The tests will run from at 2 p.m. until 6 p.m., Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management spokesman Jeff Kolakowski said.
        First in line will be health care workers showing symptoms of the virus, including fever and a dry cough. People 50 and older who have symptoms will be next in line after that, though the criteria could change, the commissioner said.
        Mayor Jim Kenney’s office said bringing a government ID, a health care facility ID or an insurance card will not be required, but it could make testing easier.
        No appointment is necessary, but city leaders warn the process will be time-consuming and some might be turned away.

  3. I read that one thing they are looking at was to skip the MLB draft and international signing in July to save money on lost rev.

  4. It is my opinion that there will be no baseball played in 2020. Even if NY and California are locked down, other states are not and if there is even a hint of the virus floating around, no sports will be played.

    China started their major lockdown Jan. 23, and even though they have stabilized, it’ll probably be another month or 2 before life looks like normal over there. So we’re talking about 4-5 month quarantine. If Trump called a federal quarantine tomorrow, we’re talking about July before it gets better. And unfortunately, I don’t think the country will take to a quarantine well, and certainly not to the level of a China quarantine. Right now, the Chinese are aiding Italy in their fight against the disease, and even they said that italy is not doing enough with their quarantine.

    So what does that mean? That means flattening the curve will be a pipe dream. It will get a lot worse for the country. That anti-malaria drug will not come in time. They need to offer it right now and have customers sign waivers to use it. I just don’t see how the country gets out from under this virus without a vaccine, which won’t come until early next year (and that’s the best case scenario).

    So say goodbye to the current NHL and NBA season. It’s very likely that no baseball will be played either. And I think there is a decent probability that the NFL season will be cancelled or delayed significantly.

    Anyways, I really, really, REALLY hope I am wrong. I’m missing sports badly. In the meantime, stay safe and please follow social distancing.

    1. I don’t know if that drug works, but yesterday 3 million doses were donated by companies.

      1. The FDA still wants to study the effectiveness of the drug on the virus, and you have to think that these clinical trials will last at least 3-6 months. This is time that nobody has. By the time this drug is approved for use against the virus, I can’t imagine how bad the infection numbers will be.

        1. “… I can’t imagine how bad the infection numbers will be.”…look at the timeline.
          1. First cases in China first week of Dec approx.
          2.China announces it Jan 14th to WHO
          3. China goes ahead with one of their New Years celebration Jan 19th in Wuhan
          4. Millions of people go and then disperse thru out their country and provinces
          5. First American case Jan 21st
          6. Trumps closes down China travel Jan 31st.

          So between the first week in Dec and Jan 30th….people were flying in and out of China to the US with regularity on a daily basis.

          So there could have been tens of thousands of cases….and also many personal recoveries, especially women, but do they still have the contagion factor within them

          1. I don’t think we can compare USA to China in this respect. China has a lot more population density, but their citizens are more fearful of the virus (remember all those images of people wearing water bottles on their heads) and very fearful of the government if they defy the quarantine order. All beaches are not closed in Florida and who can forget the images of kids still partying it up in Miami. That stuff wouldn’t happen at all in China.

            1. Yeah…totalitarian rule has a way of making people change their intrinsic and innate need for independence.

      1. Good read……kind of goes hand -in- hand with metrics and analytics that this site has some fascination with.

      2. Very compelling article which suggests (correctly, in my opinion) that the hype and hysteria have far exceeded the spread of the actual virus itself. People are generally more concerned about what government officials will decide far more than catching the virus. The author’s data points are well framed. (v1 would love this piece!) I also agree with the author that shutting down schools, businesses and public facilities is actually detrimental to the big picture. The elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are susceptible to the coronavirus. If you share a common space with someone who has it for extended periods of time, you have a 10% chance of catching it. The average person in the US has a .5% chance. And finally, the bell curve of viruses like this isn’t very long.

        So, opening day will ultimately be determined by all the bureaucracy and media/political power plays than what’s legitimately harmful to the public.

        Should CoVID-19 be taken seriously? Yes.
        Is the overarching reaction to it in proportion to its actual danger? Not even close. But here we are….swallowing up all the fear peddling AND/OR experiencing the imposition of authorities who tell us what we can’t do and where we can’t gather. Because fear of uncertainty is more impactful than fear of getting sick.

      3. ….and now, unfortunately AND suspiciously, that post has been removed from the website called the Medium (whose link Daniel originally attached above). I can only suspect that someone decided that the truth contained is inconvenient. When I sent it to friends, I later saw that the article was removed and “under investigation.” Anyway, the author’s last name is Ginn (can’t recall his first name).

    1. rocco…maybe time to get tested at CBP…..you are of age.
      Let us know how it works….assume they will use the large parking lots.

        1. Not a word….I assume he is in either Cumberland or Caoe May counties…they are the two lowest in Jersey with a total of four cases as of Friday.
          The majority of all the cases are in north Jersey outside NYC..

  5. I would re-do the schedule, maybe try to get 11-120 games in. No inter-league play and get as many interdivisional games as possible in. Do 1 double header per week. Vote for the allstars but no game played to make sure the players get their AS bonuses. 30 player rosters, especially increasing the number of pitchers allowed. Playoffs start around the same time, maybe make it best of 5 games until the WS. Gotta have the draft, i know scouting will be a bit harder but these players have been scouted for years, what’s a few months less among friends. Service time counts starting the original day the season opens. Sorry owners you’re just gonna have to bite the bullet for the games’ sake. Players contracts thing is tough but they are gonna have to give something up to get something. Oh and phillies win WS. Those are just my thoughts.

  6. The U.S. death rate for coronavirus on March 20th was 0.07/million. Italy’s is 67/million. If God forbid the U.S. death rate spiked to 100/million in a country of 330 million that would translate to 33,000 dead or as the CDC numbers would compare a below average flu season. So all of this for a below average flu season…

    1. In all actuality, the 10 year anniversary…Mar 2010…. reveals that H1N1 took 12K American lives. That swine virus started in the spring of 2009….national emergency declared in the US Sep 2009….and WHO had an end date of Aug 2010 for the H1N1.
      The economy had already been in a prolonged horrific recession, so the effects were not felt as bad….and do not recall the hysteria back then, that has happened now…ie the run on toilet paper, disinfectants, et al
      Though, obvuiusly COVID-19 is more highly contagion.

    2. I agree 100%. The media has blown this way out of proportion. I think in time, once the vaccine is here, it’ll just be another flu strain that that we will lump into other flu strains.

      But here we are. Mass hysteria, hoarding, borders closed, social distancing. We will eventually get to a better place but until then, we’re stuck in this predicament, no matter how ridiculous it is.

  7. The Blue Jays president thinks that MLB wil need 1 month of ST/Exhibition games before the regular season can start.

  8. I’m not sure when any sports will be played but I can all but guarantee people won’t be in attendance until 2021 watching live. If sports happen in 2020, it won’t be with 20k+ people in a small space.

    1. Correct…I have two games thru May 2nd….which I believe we will get option for refund or future tix…..next coming up after those two dates would be June 18 and July 22,
      ….I think I can sell them to rocco! LOL

    1. I actually don’t mind the Red Sox but I am definitely looking forward to the whole city of Boston having a long dry spell.

  9. 7-inning doubleheaders? Taxi squad of 4 pitchers? Trash the new 3-batter rule for pitchers for this season? Throwback Thursdays–no mound visits, not body armor on batters, no replays, $1 dogs.

  10. I think June 1st is a generous start date. Scientists are stating this thing could go on for at least 18 months.
    I want baseball to start ASAP but will we get that wish?

    1. June 1st is a pipe dream. In order for that to happen, USA and CANADA would both have to have no new cases by May 1st. The odds of that happening are extremely slim.

  11. I sense Americans are going to quarantine until April 1st then that’s it. You’ll see massive resistance to quarantines and people putting extreme pressure on their local governments to re-open businesses. This path we’re taking is doing MASSIVE damage to the economy. 30% unemployment. 40-50% of private businesses seeking bankruptcy protection. It’s going to make the 2008 Great Recession look like a stock market boom. The cure is worse than the virus.

    1. I agree that it’s bad, but the alternative is deaths in the hundreds of thousands. People can recover from lost jobs, but they can’t recover from death. No seniors would be able to leave their homes for the rest of the year if the virus was running around.

      1. Exactly, this is a life and death situation for most humans, the economy is going to suffer greatly, which only matters to each of us if we are alive. Breaks my heart that we have proven leaders that could be helping our country and the world through this being forced to the sideline. The leadership and involvement of former Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, as well as former VPs Cheney and Gore, as well as others, could be very beneficial.

        1. “Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, as well as former VPs Cheney and Gore, as well as others, could be very beneficial”…..
          IMO, rather depend on the scientist and medical professionals who are trained.
          Did not see their leadership doing any significant betterment for Haiti over the last 15 years from their devastation.

        2. I wouldn’t say it’s life or death for most humans, that sounds so over the top. Look at Italy the worst hit, even if they had 600,00 deaths, that would mean roughly 99 out of every 100 people in the country would still be alive.

          To look at it another way last year we had 80,000 deaths from the flu in the US last year and around 650,000 globally and yet people didn’t bat an eye.

    2. I’m afraid I agree with Hawkeye. The “cure” is worse than the virus. The panic which has set in – due largely to the uncertainty of how government officials at the federal, state and local levels, NOT the virus itself – will do as much harm to the overall wellbeing of so, so many people. Closing schools, for instance, leaves many children in domestic abuse situations at home when they could spend more time in a safer environment in their class rooms. Shutting down businesses altogether puts stress on people’s minds and hearts.

      36 million Americans have contracted the flu since September. 22 thousand of those have died. While the death rate of coronavirus is higher, we’ve heard virtually nothing about the common bug. The media has made their programming and coverage decisions based on the fact that panic sells. And so many have unfortunately bought it. Sponsorship and ratings thrive when so many people can’t keep themselves from their device screens. In all this frenzy, let’s not forget – corporate America and the bureaucrats get to fight over what’s real and what’s not. Or at least what’s reasonable.

  12. Just to let you guys know, I called in on Saturday and was able to cancel my subscription to mlb.tv for 2020 (which I paid back in February) and get a refund.

    If and when the season starts, I can buy back in later.

    1. Aaron Ginn’s article on probability and statistical evidence was taken down for some unexplained reason.
      Wondering if this will also be taken down….it is a LA Times based article so perhaps it will not.

      1. Exactly, Romus. Somebody with enough clout who didn’t like the rationale behind the data decided it would be too inconvenient for them to advance their recipe for hysteria. So, they managed to get the article removed. Sad. Free press? Yeah, right.

        1. Though Michael Levitt, in the article , does reinforce the social distancing….for a long period of time.
          Interestingly, whenever the economy does poorly the suicide rate climbs, and in this circumstances, men are considerably more vulnerable to death than women with COVID-19, and typically more men commit suicide than women…the suicide rate may actually climb to disproportionate numbers among men…..from fear from an economical downturn stand[point…and also a sense of futility if they catch the virus

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