There have been any number of rumor swirling around about MLB’s plans to have a cut-down version of the 2020 season. But over the past couple of days, these have become widespread enough that they seem to merit coverage. Ken Rosenthal of The Atlantic was the first to report much of the plan. The idea of concentrating teams in two or three hubs appears to have been sidelined for now, though it is looking likely that they will still be grouped geographically. Though the plan does call for the standard NL and AL divisions - no word on whether the DH will be part of the NL play this year - teams would not face opponents outside their zone. So Arizona would play only NL West and AL West teams.
After a somewhat shorted period of “spring” training to get everyone back into shape, the regular schedule would kick off in early just and run for approximately 80 games. Based o that, it wouldn’t seem likely that the regular season would require to be extended past the end of September, as some previous suggestions had proposed. The need for double-headers would also be eliminated, though it is still expected that rosters would be considerably expanded from the 26-man limit which would have been in place. Rosenthal states, “An expanded roster of as many as 45 to 50 players is expected,” which seems a bit high to me, even given the need for additional pitchers.
At the end of the regular season, the playoffs would be expanded, with seven of the fifteen teams in each league reaching the post-season. The one with the best record goes into the Division Series, with the two other division winners and four wild-card teams facing off for the other three spots there. Those wild-card games would be a best of three series. But to replace the division winners’ incentive of currently getting to skip the wild-card round, they (and the best wild-card team) would get to be the home team in all three games. It’s not clear if this would be a special modification for this year only, but I imagine it’s more likely to be a trial, sticking around if it proves successful.
Teams would, as far as possible, play games in their own parks, though without fans. This may not be possible for everyone: New York and Toronto are obvious teams who may need alternative arrangements. The question of player pay remains to be addressed. Owners want to reduce that, due to the reduced revenue from the lack of fans. But the players are holding out for their full entitlement. Said former Diamondback Chris Iannetta, now an MLBPA board member, “There is an intrinsic risk that support staff and coaches are going to undertake, and we should get fairly compensated for taking that risk for the betterment of the game and the betterment of the owners who stand to make a huge profit off the game.”
We should know more in the next couple of days. Rosenthal said, “Major League Baseball will discuss its plans for the 2020 season in a conference call with owners on Monday. If the owners give their approval, the league will present its proposal to the players’ union on Tuesday.” But it appears Trevor Plouffe may potentially have been accurate when he Tweeted last Monday, “June 10th, Spring Training 2 will start. July 1st will be Opening Day and all teams will be playing at their home ballparks.” If so, he’ll be proven better informed than a certain pundit who proclaimed Plouffe’s statement “arrant nonsense.” Oops. :)