Here at Pinstripe Alley, we’ve been spending a lot of time talking about how the pandemic-shortened season will create a ripple effect throughout the league and cause a lot of change and uncertainty.
Yesterday, for instance, Ryan talked about how the league’s moratorium on scouting may affect the trade market, while earlier in the week, Peter discussed the potential contract disputes, Andrés the weird statlines that may occur due to the smaller sample sizes within the season, and Tom the possibility of using expanded rosters at the start of the season.
So far, there has been little discussion throughout the league about how the season will change once it gets underway, and for good reason — it’s hard to tell how it will need to change without knowing when it will begin, after all. But make no mistake, the 2020 season will play out very differently than previous years, so what needs to change?
Let’s start by taking a look at the important dates in the baseball calendar:
- Thursday, March 26: Opening Day
- Wednesday, June 10 through Friday, June 12: Amateur Draft
- Saturday, June 13 through Sunday, June 14: London Series, Cardinals vs. Cubs
- Thursday, July 2: International Signing Period Begins
- Monday, July 13 through Thursday, July 16: All-Star Break, Dodger Stadium
- Sunday, July 26: Hall of Fame induction
- Friday, July 31: Trade Deadline
- Thursday, August 13: Field of Dreams game, Yankees vs. White Sox
- Sunday, August 23: Little League World Series game, Red Sox vs. Orioles
- Tuesday, September 1: Rosters expand to 28
- Sunday, September 27: End of Regular Season
- Tuesday, September 29 through end of October: Playoffs
Right off the bat, multiple things are changing. Obviously, Opening Day won’t be happening until mid-May in the absolute best-case scenario, and probably not until at least June. Multiple things may see the London Series postponed or outright canceled, from travel bans to the season not getting underway until after it was supposed to occur. The Little League game may not happen because the Little League World Series may not happen, if youth baseball doesn’t happen. While these are small changes to the schedule, they nonetheless reflect the bigger issues that may occur.
For the sake of this exercise, I’m going to map out three possible timelines that we may see, one with the regular season starting on June 1, and two on the Fourth of July. Any season that begins later than that will, in all likelihood, see much more extensive alterations, if not outright cancellation.
If the season were to get underway on June 1, we’d miss the first 60 games of the season, leaving a regular season of 102 games. With only 35 games until the All-Star Break, I would remove it from the calendar, which would give us an extra three days to make up games, bringing our total number of games up to 105. Similarly, by playing through until the end of October and using neutral sites for the playoffs, we could add an extra 28 games to the schedule, bringing us up to a season of 133 games or so. Essentially, this would result in us only losing a month of baseball, and a World Series that would end at around Thanksgiving. We would then have an abbreviated offseason, but hey, that’s the worst time of the year anyway, so I’m not complaining too much.
Were the league to adopt this model, some adjustments would have to be made. For starters, the trade deadline would be occurring at what would normally be the end of May in a normal season. Thus, it would have to be moved to August 31, so that traded players would still be on their team for about two months, would make the most sense. Similarly, expanded rosters — assuming they’re not expanded for the whole season, that is — would need to begin on October 1, not September 1. In essence, all this does is shift everything back a month.
Should the season not start until the Fourth of July, things would get a little dicier with the schedule. At this point, 88 games would have been missed, with less than half the season, 74 games, remaining. Obviously the All-Star Break would be skipped since it’d fall only two weeks into the season, but that’s still a drop in the bucket. At this point, we have two options: add only four more extra games to the schedule, bringing the total number of games played to 81, and starting the playoffs only a few days late, or adding an extra month’s worth of games and reaching about 105 games or so.
In a normal season, the trade deadline occurs two-thirds of the way through the season. If we were to keep this ratio, then we’d be placing the half-season trade deadline at August 31, and the 105-game season a little bit later than that, probably around September 15. Expanded rosters, meanwhile, would likely occur at the same time for the 81-game season and two weeks later, on October 1, for the longer version.
Notice how in this discussion, we don’t actually touch any of the special location games and neither the Amateur Draft nor the International Amateur signing period. Truth is, none of these events require any alteration at this time. If needed, the special location games could simply move to the locale of the home team, while there is absolutely no reason that the events involving the acquisition of amateur talent should be affected in any way — it’s not like they will have any effect on the 2020 season!
Of course, we’re not going to know how Major League Baseball is going to alter the schedule until we have some idea when the season will actually be played. When that happens, however, the league will have a number of options to try and salvage the season as best as possible.