Last week’s conference calls with Oriole’ executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde were full of generalities and short on specifics. That’s understandable because so little is known about what the 2020 season will look like.
The coronavirus-shortened season won’t be fun, not for players, nor for fans.
Elias wants to play as many games as possible, but with what kind of schedule?
Without delving deeply, fans might suggest that interleague play be done away with in 2020 and concentrate on playing within your division and league, but that’s impossible.
Interleague play is an essential part of the schedule because of having an odd number of teams in each league. With 15 teams in a league, there must be at least one interleague series at all times.
Yes, there may be doubleheaders to make up for lost games, but how many lost off days would players agree to?
Extending the schedule by a week or two could be possible, but postseason play in late October or much into November in New York, Minnesota and St. Louis might not be pleasant.
The chatter that Major League Baseball could move postseason games to domes and warm-weather sites is shortsighted.
How many fans could travel on short notice to Miami or San Diego for a World Series?
Sure, it’s a unique time, but fans who’ve lost huge amounts of money and leave time because of the effects of the virus aren’t going to be able to take a week off for a World Series at a neutral site.
Whether it’s a 110, 120 or 130-game schedule, the season is still ruined because the rhythm of it is affected.
Yes, the postseason might still seem compelling, and the players and owners might have some ideas to get people excited, but the regular season will seem unnatural whenever it starts.
In a conference call with Toronto reporters on Sunday, Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro suggested that a four-week spring training might be necessary. That means if the virus’ effects abate by mid-May, play wouldn’t resume until mid-June.
Would teams then return to Florida and Arizona when it’s already hot and play exhibition games in front of tiny crowds? It would seem more likely that teams would train in their own ballparks and play exhibition games there.
In Elias’ conference call on Thursday, he refused to speculate on the shape of a second spring training.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “I have no indication of what that period would look like right now.”
Earlier in the call, he did indicate that he thought the training period wouldn’t be lengthy.
“If we do have another spring training-type atmosphere, it’s probably going to be pretty short, and we still have a very large camp roster that we’re going to need to whittle down in a hurry,” Elias said.
It’s an unprecedented time for Elias and Hyde, who are used to having a six-week spring training and cutting players from the camp roster with Opening Day in mind.
The Orioles still have 50 players on their roster.
When play resumes, larger rosters could be part of the shortened season. The players and owners are negotiating a number of these conditions. One is the question of service time. While fans might not be terribly interested, it’s a key component of any agreement because players don’t want to have their opportunities for arbitration and free agency to be delayed.
While the country gets used to a time when little is happening, and the televised sports are replays of games from the past, there’s little hope that this will end soon.
The action in the NFL free-agency market was a positive thing for sports fans. Many in the NFL worried about the optics of a free-agency market while the country suffers, but it was a distraction to read about Tom Brady and Philip Rivers’ new destinations.
Ordinarily, this weekend would have been nirvana for college basketball fans as the field in the NCAA tournament would be trimmed to 16. The Orioles would have been playing their final games in Florida before Thursday’s scheduled opener.
Because of lost time and wages for so many who are suffering, baseball attendance is likely to take a major hit, and perhaps games will have to begin in empty stadiums.
No matter how ragged the play, and how unsettling a June opener might be, fans would accept the season that will be unlike any before it. Like Elias and Hyde, they’ll just have to wait.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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