According to numerous reports, owners of MLB’s 30 teams agreed to a proposal on Monday that would have the season starting in July. Commissioner Rob Manfred plans on presenting the proposal to the league’s players on Tuesday.
There are a million and one obstacles still to overcome. Not the least of which is how to handle safe and responsible coronavirus testing, including plans for when players seemingly inevitably contract the virus.
Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle outlined a large number of concerns on Twitter, and they’re all things that need to be addressed before the season can begin (click through on the tweet to see the thread).
Bear with me, but it feels like we've zoomed past the most important aspect of any MLB restart plan: health protections for players, families, staff, stadium workers and the workforce it would require to resume a season. Here are some things I'll be looking for in the proposal...— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
Doolittle is certainly right, and a lot needs to be figured out financially to go along with the health concerns.
With that said, I want to put that on the backburner for now, simply because it’s very clearly an issue that will require a lot of negotiations, and most of the things I have to say about it right now are either obvious or useless.
So instead, I want to look at the proposed baseball details, as reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, which are easier to comment on. And I’d like to play a little game of pros and cons with bits and pieces of the proposal, as it pertains to both baseball as a whole, and the San Francisco Giants specifically.
Spring Training 2.0
A so-called spring training 2.0 that begins in June with a season set for early July
Pros: You need time to get ready. This isn’t an ice bath. You can’t jump in blindly. Giving the players time to not only get back to baseball, but get in shape again isn’t just good, it’s necessary.
Cons: Spring ends on June 20. Assuming “Spring Training 2.0” starts halfway through June, then it’s really not Spring Training at all. It is Summer Training. Then again, normal Spring Training starts in winter, so ... long story short, baseball is bad at the whole nomenclature thing.
Half a season
An 82-game season
Pros: Eighty-two games is a helluva lot better than zero games, and it’s a helluva lot better than playing 162 games and ending in January, and it’s a helluva lot better than playing 81 double-headers.
Cons: Baseball is a sport that depends on the law of averages. You simply won’t get a fair representation of each team’s talent with only 82 games. You’ll get bad teams sneaking into the postseason under the 82-game guise of goodness, and good teams missing the postseason under the 82-game guise of badness.
As a reminder, last year’s World Series winners, the Washington Nationals, were 41-41 after 82 games.
Giants pros: Let me repeat myself: “You’ll get bad teams sneaking into the postseason under the 82-game guise of goodness.” The Giants figure to be a bad team. Any increase in variance helps them.
Giants cons: If increased variance gives the Giants a good chance to overachieve, it only follows that it gives them a good chance to underachieve as well. Underachieving would make for quite an ugly season.
An expansion of playoff teams from 10 to 14
Pros: More playoff teams means more chance to correct for the aforementioned Nationals example.
Cons: We all know that once you’re in the postseason, anything can happen. A five or seven-game series can easily be won by either team. Increasing the postseason size — especially in a year with only 82 games — greatly increases the chances of a bad baseball team winning the World Series.
Giants pros: The Giants are bad. Increasing how many teams can make the postseason benefits their chances greatly.
Giants cons: More embarrassment when they inevitably miss the postseason.
A 30-man roster with a taxi squad that would have upward of 50 players available
Pros: Good for not wearing out players, and providing a cushion for the inevitable coronavirus positives.
Cons: Maybe if you need a labor bubble to account for when your players can’t play due to contracting a virus that has caused a pandemic, you just shouldn’t have baseball.
Giants pros: The Giants are playing for 2022 and beyond. But with the contracts they have, there are limited spaces on the roster for prospects. Expand the roster, and you start to add players who have a chance at being on the next good Giants team. That’s good for development, but it’s also just fun to watch.
Giants cons: Expanding rosters just further highlights how much worse the Giants roster is than many other teams.
The use of home stadiums in areas that have local and state governmental approval
Pros: Players get to spend time at home, with their families.
Cons: This also means they need to travel, which increases the risk of both contracting and spreading the virus, making a questionable plan even more questionable.
Geographical schedules, in which teams play only in-division opponents and interleague opponents in a similar area (i.e., American League Central teams play only AL Central and National League Central teams)
Pros: Less travel.
Giants pros: Less travel, and a higher percentage of games in hitter-friendly parks, thus increasing the odds of Brandon Belt getting the damn respect he deserves.
Giants cons: It’s bad enough having to play the Los Angeles Dodgers a bunch of times each year. Now they’re supposed to play the Houston Astros a bunch as well? Fangraphs projected those teams to have the two best records in baseball this year, with the Oakland A’s finishing seventh. That’s a lot of quality baseball teams to have to play.
A universal designated hitter