Fantasy baseball isn’t for me. I haven’t been simulating the first weeks of what would have been the Orioles’ season.
I have been closely following another kind of fantasy baseball — the proposals that have been floated for beginning the 2020 season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines limiting gatherings to 50 people remain in effect for another four weeks, and it’s not known if that will be lifted on May 10.
Until then, there will be more reports such as the one from USA Today on Friday. Unlike another one from earlier in the week that suggested all 30 teams could be quarantined in Arizona for the season, the other would send teams back to their spring training sites in Arizona and Florida to at least begin the season.
Fifteen teams train in Florida and Arizona. Based on geography, the Orioles would be part of a five-team division with Boston, Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Atlanta.
The Yankees and Blue Jays would be in a division with Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
The five teams that train on the East Coast — Houston, Miami, the New York Mets, St. Louis and Washington — would be in another division.
The traditional American and National League setup would be discarded.
This plan seems more workable than the 30-team Arizona one, but there are still many details to be sorted out.
How would you account for the 15th team each day? Presumably in a shorter schedule, there would be more games and fewer off days.
During spring training when 15 teams are on the schedule, there’s always one split-squad game. That’s fine for spring training, but unless one team plays games in the morning and evening against two other teams each day, I don’t see how that works.
The weather in Florida isn’t as brutal as it is in Phoenix, where temperatures in June, July and August average over 100 degrees, but it’s plenty hot and, in many parts of Florida, afternoon rain in the summer is nearly a daily occurrence.
Florida has two major league stadiums, Tropicana Field and Marlins Park that are domed, which could help the weather issue.
Many of the 13 spring training sites in Florida are fine for Grapefruit League games but would have issues for major league games.
Replay capabilities would have to be added, and many of the parks are short on space.
Supposedly there wouldn’t be crowds; games would likely be sparsely attended in many parks, anyway. Recent polls indicate that fans would be leery of attending games with large crowds until there’s a vaccine for the coronavirus widely available.
Selfishly, I’d want to know if the press would be allowed. Many of the spring training parks have very small press boxes where social distancing would be impractical.
Most of the Grapefruit League parks are used for the High-A Florida State League (Sarasota is an exception), and the lights are passable for exhibition games but not up to major league standards.
With the expanded rosters that would be needed, the training camps could be used to keep replacement players ready. There’s been no chatter about what would happen to the minor leagues in this scenario.
Let’s say the Florida plan becomes reality. We can assume the Orioles would play the majority of their games against the Braves, Rays, Red Sox and Twins.
Last season, the Orioles were a combined 14-30 against Boston, Minnesota and Tampa Bay. They were 7-12 when facing the Rays and Red Sox and dropped all six games against the Twins.
They didn’t face Atlanta and weren’t scheduled to play them this year.
The schedule probably would be brutal because the Braves, Rays and Twins were considered playoff favorites and, while the Red Sox seemed to be taking a step back, they would still be a tough opponent.
One of the few favorable parts of this scenario would be avoiding 19 games with the Yankees. In 2019, the Orioles won two of their first three games at Yankee Stadium, then lost 17 in a row.
Geographically, nine opponents are within a 90-minute drive, cutting down on travel.
Oriole games would be on television, but would viewers starved for live sports find games in small, empty parks to be compelling?
Until more progress is made against the virus, nothing can be solidified, and it’s fine that proposals continue to be floated. It shows there’s some level of cooperation between Major League Baseball and the Players Association, but everyday life must return to some form of normalcy before baseball and other sports can return.
Call for questions: I’ll be answering reader questions later this week. Please email them: [email protected] or leave them in the comments section.