With the Coronavirus throwing a wrench into the 2020 MLB season, the league, Dodgers, and other teams are looking at all available alternatives.
The end of April is just a few days away, and baseball as we know it still has yet to begin. A global quarantine brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic has seen to that, along with the other normalities of daily life. What was supposed to be the end of MLB’s winter slumber, one which the Dodgers front office spent building a World Series contender, has extended well into the spring. Beleaguered fans waiting for the boys of summer to take the field are instead left with memories of days gone by and fewer answers as to what comes next.
While they may not be answers, but there may be some clarity coming together as to what is next for the 2020 MLB season.
In his latest article, ESPN’s Jeff Passan discusses some of the potential options and hurdles that Major League Baseball faces as it prepares to return to the field following the Coronavirus shutdown. While Passan hits on some of the obvious questions that need to be answered (start date, testing, location, etc.), he drops an interesting nugget in the story that is sure to divide baseball fans.
"“If a second wave of the coronavirus arrives and threatens to shut down the country again, MLB could try to wait it out and just hold a giant playoff.”"
The thought of a huge tournament rather than a standard or truncated season is intriguing, to say the least, as is Passan’s own layout of a potential structure. It would certainly enable the league to create an invested experience for the fans, even among those that would typically not be considered contenders. The thought that any team can go on a run, hot or cold, and turn the tide of a tournament adds a March Madness vibe that would instantly add flavor to a league that some feel has lacked in recent years.
Of course, skipping directly to a playoff tourney scenario also begs it’s own questions.
Typically, statistics from postseason or exhibition play are not considered counting stats when it comes to career milestones. However, if a full season is not played and is instead replaced with a tourney format, would the league make an exception to not lose complete years for players like Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, etc? Would the league want to award MVP or Cy Young trophies for a month’s worth of statistics?
Likewise, would a tourney champion be crowned as a World Series winner or would this be its own thing? It would seem odd to crown a team as a champion of MLB without having to survive the long marathon of a season and then outlast the best of the best. Then again, how invested would fans be in such a tournament if there wasn’t something big riding on it or if the top title wasn’t defendable in the years after?
Then there is the MLB Draft. Typically determined by reverse record from the prior season, would a tourney structure with limited gameplay be fair in determining the recipient of the top pick in the draft? It seems like giving the pick to a top team that happens to play badly in a short stretch would be detrimental overall. The same could be said if an otherwise weaker team gets on a hot streak and sets their club back a few years.
On paper, a tourney could be a fun alternative to a season and could create some immediate juice for baseball. It could also be a solid experiment. If it proves successful, maybe the league opts to try it as a consolation event for those teams that didn’t make the playoffs, allowing those fans to remain invested and potentially letting those teams battle for something meaningful (like the top pick in the next year’s draft maybe).
Of course, this is all conjecture at this stage, as even Passan admits that there are no plans in solid plans in place until the ability to open fields becomes a realistic possibility. However, this plan offers a glimmer of hope. And with the current structure of payouts from teams to players and non-playing personnel running out on May 31st, we have a potential time for the resumption of the season.
Which positional players contributed the most to the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise over the past decade?
How would you feel if MLB was forced to utilize a tournament structure to get back on the field in 2020? What would you like to see from one if it happened? Would this such a format help or hurt the Dodgers?