We all probably knew that the idea of an Opening Day in early April was not very likely when the postponement was first announced. I’m not sure, at least in the initial reaction, we thought it would be as long as it is looking right now.
The president released guidelines today that encourage people to stay away from groups of 10 or more for 15 days. St. Louis has banned groups of 50 or more for the next eight weeks. Being that even an empty baseball stadium would have more than that for a game–the two rosters are 52 by themselves–it seems clear that we won’t be seeing baseball until much, much later than we wanted.
There’s some talk about a Memorial Day start, which would be fitting. The sport of summer beginning play on the regular kickoff to summer. However, if the teams aren’t allowed to even get back together until May 15, spring training is going to have to be longer than two weeks, I think. Unless things clear more quickly than expected, Memorial Day may be a pipe dream.
Flag Day is June 14, which is a Sunday. Could we see that weekend be the grand start to the season? Perhaps. That would be a month after the eight week window we are looking at now. Assuming this all works and the virus seems to have burned out by then, a couple of days of practice followed by a couple of weeks of games and that mid-June weekend could be viable.
If things kick off on June 12, though, that means the Cardinals will have missed 69 games, which is not nice at all. That’s also supposed to be the weekend they play the Cubs in England, but while MLB may not have taken that off the table, there’s no way if the clubs miss over a third of the season (and, accordingly, that many home dates) that they are going to want to spend a weekend away from Busch. That’s assuming that international travel has been restored by that time, which might be a big ask.
If the clubs miss roughly 70 games, that’s 92 left to play for the season. The schedule would have to be thrown out and reworked, wouldn’t it? With less than 100 games, the schedules would be wildly out of whack. We’ve talked about what just missing the first three weeks of April would do for St. Louis. For instance, under this scenario, the Cards would play their divisional rivals:
16 times (Chicago)
13 times (Milwaukee, Cincinnati)
9 times (Pittsburgh)
Assuming similar imbalances, the entire division race could come down to who gets to face Pittsburgh the most. Which seems pretty wrong, honestly.
What could you do with 92 games? If you played each team in the division home and on the road twice, that’s 48 games. That’d leave you 44 to spread between the other 10 teams in the league. Play each of them either home or away leaves you 14 to either do interleague play or to let you play a couple of teams more than once. Or you start trying to make up some games with doubleheaders, play games through the All-Star Break (an ASG after a month of games would seem wrong anyway) and add two weeks to the season at the end of the year to maybe get another 30 games and you can do home and away for all the teams in the league, with interleague play just put away until next season.
That requires tossing out the whole schedule, though, and that’s hard to do when tickets have been sold. I do wonder if it wouldn’t be easier for teams to refund all ticket money, then resell tickets when the schedule got redone. If, in this scenario, they know by May 1 that baseball is going to return on this schedule, that could give MLB a couple of weeks to redo the schedule and then a month to sell tickets. People will likely jump on them once they get the opportunity.
There’s a lot of ugly logistics to work out and as much as I’d like to say I don’t envy those that have to do it, that’s kinda my thing. You’ve seen how much I like to schedule and plan. Those would be some fascinating conversations to be a part of.
That’s assuming things work out the way they look now, but nothing about this situation has been normal. Wouldn’t it be strange (yet slightly fitting, like Memorial Day above) to see the baseball season start off with a bang with some July 4 doubleheaders? That would be amazing. I really don’t want to wait that long, however.
Also, I started this series with the idea that I’d post every day about something until baseball returns. I may keep it up, but not everything may be about baseball. If you’ve got ideas for topics, please shoot them my way. Writing for more than two months straight without baseball is going to be really, really hard. We’ll see if I can manage.
And hey, another silver lining: we don’t have to see those ugly green St. Patrick’s Day uniforms this year!