An Alternative Schedule
Ok, we’re all in this together. We’re sheltering in place, and we’re staying out of groups, which gives us plenty of time to wonder about when this all ends, and what it will all mean for baseball. Which brings me to what could we potentially do to actually play a “legitimate” baseball season in 2020.
What if we really can’t play the 2020 season in a way that resembles a 162-game schedule, which appears ever more likely to be the case. How can we be fair to all teams if we don’t start playing until July? There have been suggestions about playing in domed stadiums or southern stadiums in December, as well as other ideas for lengthening the season…but what if we just…can’t. Or what if playing baseball into December or January isn’t really in the best interests of baseball or for the potential normalcy of the future 2021 season. Pitchers, most significantly, may really need some time off, so finishing the season around the new year, and then beginning spring training in February, seems not to be the best option.
What if we don’t get to see baseball until July or after? How would it be fair for a team to play their scheduled games against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, As, Mariners, etc…while others play more of their scheduled games against the Royals, and Orioles etc….? Given scheduling difficulties, is it anything beyond a fantasy for us to imagine playing a revamped, more equitable schedule, rather than just picking up whenever the season begins? If we have to do the latter, which seems the only realistic possibility, then inequity in the schedule could potentially be huge.
In the grand scheme of things, not having our favorite sport for a few months is not the end of the world. But when we do return to some sense of normalcy, that normalcy is going to include whining about the unfairness of some things, maybe a lot of things. It’s possible that baseball might be one of them. If MLB plays a 100-game or 82-game schedule, there simply will be no way to assure that the Twins and Indians, for example, will play the same amount of games against the Yankees and the Royals, and that will be inherently unfair. If one team plays all of its games against the perceived “better” teams, and the other plays far fewer and more against the perceived “weaker” teams, how could we get to a fair ending?
I have an idea, that doesn’t seem to me as if it would be that difficult to implement. It would allow baseball to follow the schedule put in place and allow people who have made plans to travel to certain cities at certain times to keep those plans in place. It would allow as much certainty when it comes to the schedule that people already have in their hands as we could manage.
Maybe, and I’m just spitballing here, we simply end the regular season as it is presently scheduled, regardless of how many games are played. Then, the top two teams in every division will simply have to play a three-game playoff against each other to determine who wins the division, since their individual schedules will be so skewed.
This would mean, for example, at the end of the regular season, the first place Twins (hopefully) will take on the second place Indians or White Sox in a three-game series to determine the central champion. That would make the “regular” season meaningful as only the first two teams in every division would be included. After that playoff is determined, we then have our three division winners pretty much right on schedule, the fourth team, the wild-card team could be the remaining team with the best record, and we’d proceed sort of normally from there. The wild-card team plays the team with the best record. The second-best team plays the third, and the winners face-off with the winner of that heading to the World Series. This way the season could end pretty much when we all think it should, after all, by early November, it’s time to move away from baseball for a few months, and then next spring, hopefully, we could get back on track.