Assuming the players and Major League Baseball come to terms on a format for the abbreviated 2020 season, an 82-game schedule is likely.
I hadn’t given the season, apart from the Orioles, much thought until last weekend when I finally got around to reading the Sports Illustrated baseball preview.
That’s been must reading for decades, and even though the magazine has changed from a weekly to a monthly, there’s still some valuable information to be gleaned.
During spring training, I’m always wrapped up in Orioles news, and this spring was no different. Aside from the battle for the starting rotation and the bullpen, only the Astros’ electronic sign-stealing affair was really talked about. I usually start boning up on other teams in the final days of the spring.
From reading SI, I was reminded that Madison Bumgarner is now with Arizona, Mike Moustakas with Cincinnati, and that Mitch Garver hit 31 home runs last year for Minnesota.
The Orioles usually play several games each spring against the Twins, and were scheduled for their second of four on March 12, the day spring training ended.
Garver was one of five Minnesota players to hit more than 30. The Twins set a major league record with 307 home runs. Former Oriole Nelson Cruz led them with 41.
But then I realized that with the temporary realignment the Orioles won’t be seeing the Twins in 2020. Nor will they see any of the other American League Central teams or any of the AL West.
There won’t be any booing of the Astros, even virtually, no appearances back East for baseball’s most acclaimed player, Mike Trout, or a welcome back for Dylan Bundy, who’s now Trout’s teammate with the Los Angeles Angels.
In 2020’s original schedule, the Orioles were set to play 20 different teams, the 14 other AL teams, the five National League Central teams, and the Washington Nationals.
Instead, the Orioles would play just nine teams: the four other AL East teams — the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays — and the five in the NL East — Nationals, Marlins, Mets, Phillies and Braves.
Fans on television will miss seeing Trout and Bundy as well as their teammate, Shohei Ohtani. They won’t see Cruz or some other teams — Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago — that they’ve been playing since the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1954.
While that tradition will be put on hold for a year, there are some advantages to this new schedule.
The Orioles will get a look at the Phillies’ Bryce Harper, who they used to see regularly when he was with the Nationals. They can also see some of the excellent young players for the Atlanta Braves — Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr., as well as another look at Nick Markakis.
As I read each team’s preview in SI, I paid particular attention to the Miami Marlins, whom the Orioles saw on February 29 in Sarasota and on March 4 in Jupiter.
I remembered that Jonathan Villar played center field in the game in Jupiter, and that Max Scherzer pitched for the Nationals the day before in West Palm Beach.
The Orioles and the other American League East teams are likely to play a huge role in deciding the NL East race, and while these circumstances are awful, fans have one real advantage.
Under this one-time setup, the Orioles will play each of their games in the Eastern time zone. Barring lengthy rain delays, and multiple extra innings, games should be over well before 11 p.m., allowing fans to actually watch the final innings of games without yawning.
One of last season’s most unforgettable games was Stevie Wilkerson’s 16th-inning save in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels. The game ended at 4:26 a.m. Eastern time, and there couldn’t have been too many fans awake.
There won’t be any long flights, and with a shortened schedule, players won’t be as tired as they would after a Seattle-Baltimore flight.
With 14 teams in an expanded playoff format, Oriolesfans can watch some of the best teams in the AL Central and West in October.
Perhaps in 2021, MLB will decide to keep intact this season’s original schedule that had the Orioles visiting Wrigley Field to play the Cubs for two games, and trips to St. Louis and Cincinnati. The Orioles were supposed to be hosting the Cubs in a two-game series as well as Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.
One feature of this year’s schedule was an off-day on Friday August 7 just before the Nationals were going to play two games in Baltimore. The Orioles were scheduled for two games in Washington on September 15-16.
Negotiations continue and perhaps in a few weeks spring training can resume and Oriole fans can examine a new and different 2020 schedule, hoping that there will be something to excite them in this most difficult of years.