Welcome to the 28th edition of Around the Horn, a recurring op-ed with a satirical slant that riffs on whatever’s recently noteworthy in baseball. Think of it as a stripped-down Last Week Tonight or The Daily Show in a column format with recurring segments about the good, bad, and ugly in the world of America’s pastime. Additionally, as often as possible, we’ll end with an interview as well.
With our global pandemic continuing to pose more questions than answers, it appears we have one question that may finally be answered:
At this point, almost everyone involved with the process agrees: There will be baseball in 2020. The details are the tricky part.
At ESPN, 20 Questions dives into the details — when, where, how — with a comprehensive look at what and who are driving it: https://t.co/qJfGNLerLW
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 27, 2020
So, let’s get right into it.
Our Main Story
Baseball is coming back, in some form. That much appears certain. Just about every team has guaranteed baseball-operations employees that they will receive payment through May 31. Apparently, this date was chosen for a reason, and for those employees looking for resolution, the end of May can’t come soon enough, especially after MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote this in a letter to those same employees:
“While I fully anticipate that baseball will resume this season, it is very difficult to predict with any accuracy the timeline for the resumption of our season.”
In that letter, Manfred told managers, coaches, scouts, and other non-players that he intends to suspend the contracts this month which would allow teams to not pay them if they so desire. And that’s a pretty big deal when you consider that it means baseball could, in theory, be back as soon as June.
Of course, as amazing as that sounds, this still does not address the question of where games will be played.
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the “Arizona plan,” which involves having all MLB games played in a place hot enough in June to do this:
Texas and Florida are also being discussed. Georgia, Colorado, and Minnesota are scheduled to have stay-at-home restrictions lifted, which would allow even more teams to host games without fans in their home state. With each new week, we get new information on both the coronavirus and our hopeful return to some normalcy.
Now, MLB will have to facilitate a rigorous testing process to ensure the safety of its employees. Not sure it will look good to have baseball hoarding medical supplies from clinics and hospitals for the sake of their “revenue stream.” Needless to say, that part still has to be worked out a bit, but at least there are promising signs of a return soon.
After all, the Korean Baseball League returns May 5th, sending fantasy baseball Twitter on fire as they try to learn the names of players they’ve never heard of and adopt teams to root for based on literally nothing of any consequence whatsoever. Hey, desperate times, right?
So what will MLB’s likely plan look like? This, from Jeff Passan:
“Finalize a plan in May. Hash out an agreement with the players by the end of the month or early June. Give players a week to arrive at designated spring training locations. Prepare for three weeks. Start the season in July. Play around an 80- to 100-game season in July, August, September and October. Hold an expanded playoff at warm-weather, neutral sites in November.”
Obviously, this represents the most logical, perhaps even the most realistic plan. Except for one thing.
The 2020 season will already look like nothing we have ever seen before. If we’re only going to play 80 games…
Am I right?
Let’s go WBC format. Break it all up into six divisions of five teams each. Rock the round-robin and have winners advance. Make losers enter a double elimination battle royale and push the top two into the final eight. Cut it in half and let two divisions of four teams play for the final third of the season, with the finale being a classic best of seven World Series.
Go full fantasy style with two 15-team leagues. Major league rosters will be expanded due to a shortened spring training and no time for pitchers to build up arm strength. Let minor leaguers play scrimmages to keep their skills fresh, and have them be the equivalent of a deep league dynasty league roster. Play it like H2H categories, and watch as teams start stealing bases and swinging for fences like there’s no tomorrow. It would be unbridled chaos. It would be beautiful.
Or, with expanded rosters, make double-headers standard fare on weekends. If we can’t attend games, at least find a way to gorge us with it on television during our free time. Any games still tied by the 9th inning goes to a home run derby, soccer shootout style, with each team picking their best power hitter and power pitcher. Hurlers throw straight gas and hackers swing with reckless abandon. Whoever can hit the most dingers off 98 mph heat wins.
Maybe go NFL style with eight divisions – North, South, East, West in both the AL and the NL. Then, shorten the games to 7 innings, little-league style.
Mic up players for every game. We’re not in the stands, so let’s get intimate. In one season, letting the players be themselves would suddenly catapult baseball up the ratings ladder and create celebrities the league foolishly had no idea it had been sitting on for years.
Are these all good ideas? Not even close. Do you think I’m an idiot for even proposing some of them? Probably. Would the league and the player’s union almost certainly have a cadre of lawyers frothing at the mouth if any of these suggestions even sniffed the negotiating table? Unequivocally, yes.
And neither does COVID-19. So let’s get creative and have some fun. An abbreviated season where every game not only matters but truly feels like it does? Sign me up.
Out of the Park
A Look Beyond the Boxscores for the Best in Baseball This Week
When I said, let’s get wild, I meant it.
Sources: Yasiel Puig is very close to sign with San Francisco Giants, a source tells me. The contract amount is unknown, but would have a one-year option.
Both sides, Puig and Giants are waiting for MLB to clarify the return date of baseball to make the official agreement. pic.twitter.com/I6f7xWT7go
— Francys Romero (@FrancysRomero10) April 26, 2020
The only appropriate response to this would be…
— theScore (@theScore) April 29, 2020
… which means it’s probably happening. With Madison Bumgarner no longer in a Giants’ uniform, I suppose the risk of clubhouse implosion just went down.
Though, the prospect of Yasiel Puig enraging Bumgarner, now a Diamondback, and inciting a brawl that pits Bumgarner against his former teammates just went up precipitously.
— CBS Sports MLB (@CBSSportsMLB) May 30, 2017
Where Baseball Got Caught Looking
As if we thought baseball couldn’t get any weirder.
Our Board of Directors has voted unanimously to cancel 2020 Induction Weekend, due to health and safety concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Class of 2020 will be inducted in 2021, alongside any Class of 2021 electees, on July 25, 2021 https://t.co/iecNYeoH95 pic.twitter.com/O99EIXWpqm
— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ⚾ (@baseballhall) April 29, 2020
And no, I’m not talking about the fact this building resembles a boys’ boarding school dormitory more than it does a sacred house of baseball’s greatest moments. If there’s one good thing to come out of this unfortunate postponement, it’s that these two clowns, whomever they may be, won’t get their way and will now have to see Jeter be enshrined as part of an even bigger class:
A pair of Derek Jeter only ballots have been revealed as Baseball Hall of Fame voting has started this week, and hopefully, those are the only two we see this yearhttps://t.co/vAvZD0rx9J
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) November 22, 2019
Raise the banner. pic.twitter.com/Nlb2xJX7Vp
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 3, 2020
That’s the ballgame for this week! Thanks for joining me, and I’ll see you all next week!
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)