Friday afternoon is usually when bad news is dumped on the public. Nobody’s paying attention, the weekend is coming so it’s not covered, it’s the best time to put something out there that you really don’t want to discuss. I don’t know that yesterday’s news counted in that regard–though one portion of it really might have–but it was a little bit busier yesterday after lunch, even if it was more confirming things we’ve already talked about. We’ll talk about one today and leave the other for tomorrow, because we need the content for this series.
Jon Heyman put out there that MLB and the players union would resume talks next week about plans to start the season back up. It seems like it probably will be–again, assuming they can work out things and that the virus doesn’t ramp back up, which is definitely something to watch–I know I’ve been following Arkansas’s cases and the amount of new ones has been starting to climb, though there are still more recoveries so the net trend is downward–what we’ve seen around a bit, an early July start with spring training starting in mid-June.
The idea is to have spring training at the local sites, which is great, except that there aren’t going to be any games that way. Do the players need competition against others to really hone their skills? There could be some intrasquad matchups, but there’s talk about staggering drills so that they can social distance and the like. I’m not sure how you can have a full game, with expanded rosters for both teams, when you feel like you need to social distance the squad you have, but that’s an issue for them to figure out.
Heyman also put a few other things out there that could be on the table, such as:
—Limited travel. That’s something Allen and I discussed on the last Musial, I think. Mainly, do you have a team stay in town for much longer than three games? Say you are going to play every team 12-18 times this season, do you play your 6-9 home games in one shot? So that we have the Brewers in town for a week, then go to Cincinnati for a week? Or is it even more pronounced, where half the teams will play their home schedule all at the beginning, then go out on the longest possible road trip while the other half stay home? Travel honestly is the biggest hurdle, I think. At least if a team stays put for a while, it’s more likely you’ll see when someone develops symptoms and perhaps they wouldn’t have infected as many teams.
—No cross-country flights. That would lean toward this regional plan that we’ve seen, where pretty much every team would go up and down the country, rather than across. It also limits the teams that go into New York or Los Angeles or Chicago, which probably helps as well.
—More divisional play. Could we see that three division regional plan, but with more of an emphasis on the teams that you would normally see the Cardinals play? Maybe you move Atlanta back with the East and Pittsburgh back with the Central to help with that, even though that adds to Atlanta’s travel.
—Expanded rosters. This is pretty much a given. Early on you need it to insure pitchers aren’t forced to go too long after such a layoff, then you’ll need them for the regular doubleheaders that….well, we’ll get to that.
—Taxi squads. I think we’ll probably see this as well. You don’t want to see 35 or 40 men active for every game or things will take forever. That’s the reason they (foolishly, in my opinion) cut what the September rosters were supposed to be to 28 from a possible 40. I could see all 40 men being available, but only 26 designated for that day. You’d only have one starter on there, so that adds a few more arms or bats than you’d normally see. Players wouldn’t need to be optioned or anything and they’d all be around, but you can’t use one pitcher per out.
—More experiments. Here’s where it gets dicey. Heyman mentions the runner on second in extras idea, which I think we’ve all roundly panned and don’t see how that helps games at all. Move the runner to third, sac fly, and the other team does the same. I’m afraid this is where it’s going to get into the realm where we might not recognize the game. However, both sides would have to agree on it and it would be silly for an insistence on something new to be a hangup keeping the game from returning.
—More doubleheaders. Well, any doubleheaders that are scheduled are more than what we’ve seen recently, but my feeling is that there will be at least one doubleheader a week and probably more like two. They’ve got to get these games in somehow and especially if you are seeing the same team for a number of games on end, it makes sense to try to get some of them over with.
—Less days off. This goes with the last point and I think they’ll work hand in hand. It may be that you can have more off days if you play more doubleheaders, because you aren’t losing ground. Without the twinbills, though, you might see regularly two or three weeks without a day off for the players.
—High-fiving/spitting discouraged or forbidden. That kind goes along with what we talked about a few days ago.
Save for whatever the experiments are, there’s nothing there that’s too crazy. I can imagine there will be some differences of opinions, but I also think that both sides have a vested interest in playing and trying to return quickly. So, if circumstances will let them, I imagine they can hammer out most of these points in a day or so. Now if money is still a problem, that’s a different story.