So many questions, so few answers. Why 25? Because I started typing and hit a wall at 25 questions.
1. When will the season start? | This is the question on all of our minds. At the end of the day, it’s all we really care about – when will we be able to enjoy baseball again? Unfortunately it seems like we’re (at best) looking at a mid-summer return to normalcy in the country, so that’s when I expect baseball to return.
2. Will there be another spring training? | Considering the delay looks to be months, yes, I think another form of spring training is inevitable. Whether that happens in Florida and Arizona or elsewhere, is anyone’s guess. Teams have instructed players to continue workout programs that will have them ready to get ready quickly, if that makes sense.
3. How many games will be played? | MLB is standing by the “we’re going to try for 162” mantra, but I don’t see how that’s possible. My guess is somewhere between 80-100.
4. Where will the games be played? | This entirely depends on when MLB is given the all-clear to resume. They may be able to start spring training v2.0 before large gatherings are allowed, so perhaps we could see some “early season” games in locations other than MLB parks.
5. Will there be a different playoff format? | I’m not ruling it out. Baseball is going to lose so much revenue because of lost games that I could see it expanding the playoff field to recoup some money. It’s a simple formula. Playoff Games = Higher Ratings = More Money.
6. How will the (potentially) reworked schedule affect playoff races? | Fewer games, in theory, allows more teams to be in playoff races. “Pretender” teams could actually be “contenders” for 80-100 games. This is going to make Division and Wild Card races much tighter.
7. Will there be an All Star game? | For some reason people are worried about this, but it’ll be one of the first things MLB cuts. Just bump every stadium a year and have it at Dodger Stadium in 2021. Is that too simple? Probably.
8. Will the London Series still happen? | (Scheduled for Jun 13-14, 2020) It’s unnecessary, so just move the Cardinals vs. Cubs to next year.
9. Will the Field of Dreams game still happen? | (Scheduled for Aug 13, 2020) It’s unnecessary, so just move the Yankees vs. White Sox to next year.
10. Will fans be allowed when games resume? | I’d be fine with starting the season at spring training (or other) facilities with no fans, but once games are played at Yankee Stadium, I want to be there. It wouldn’t feel like baseball otherwise.
11. Will players be paid full salary? | Owners and the MLBPA will need to come to an agreement, but I don’t see how they’re going to be paid in full if they only play 50-60% of the season. I just hope this question doesn’t delay things further since the two sides don’t have the best history of agreeing on things.
12. How will options and incentives be handled? | My guess is on a prorated basis.
13. How will player service time be handled? | According to a report from Ken Rosenthal, this is expected to be the most contentious issue. Owners *do not* want to lose their young players to free agency any sooner than they have to.
14. What will the affects be on arbitration? | Just like any arbitration case, teams will look to diminish players in any way possible. I’m fully prepared for the Yankees to argue that because Aaron Judge only hit 16 home runs this year, he’s doesn’t deserve the raise he wants.
15. Will minor league players be compensated? | Reports are that 40-man roster players will be covered but his leaves hundreds of players without pay – pay that is already insufficient.
16. How will player injuries be affected? | The delay helps for anyone injured (looking at you, Yankees). Yesterday, news broke that Chris Sale will undergo Tommy John surgery. They’re saying the season shutdown didn’t affect his decision, but it seems odd that just three weeks ago he was not going to have surgery.
17. Will players be fresher in the playoffs (assuming the season isn’t extended)? | I don’t see how they couldn’t be fresher. Starting pitchers will have fewer innings, relievers will have fewer appearances, everyday players will have fewer bumps-and-bruises. We could see peak performance in the most important games. If that doesn’t excite you, nothing will.
18. Will baseball workers be compensated? | Each MLB team has committed $1M to help ballpark workers. Will that be enough? Probably not, but it’s a start.
19. What will happen to local businesses that rely on baseball? | They’re screwed.
20. What will happen to major media outlets that rely on baseball? | I have friends who work at some of these major media outlets and there is a lot of uncertainty about what will happen. Sports can’t come back soon enough for these organizations.
22. Will baseball have to compete with other sports when it comes back? | Last week I wrote about how baseball might have to compete with playoff basketball this summer – and all summers going forward. Who knows what lies ahead for summer 2020. It might be a sports free-for-all. Actually, it won’t technically be “free,” which leads to the next question…
23. Will ticket prices increase? | It’s going to piss a lot of people off when their $40 ticket suddenly becomes $50.
24. Will baseball experiment with rules? | Questions 5 and 6 talked about the schedule and playoff format, but this questions is more about in-game rules. The season was already set to have new rules, like the 3-batter minimum, 26-man rosters, and more tweaks to the IL. I don’t see them tinkering with it even more.
25. Will baseball ever be the same? | You can consider this question literally or metaphorically. Literally, the 2020 baseball season will not be the same but future seasons can be. Metaphorically, we may look back at this as a change point – where baseball decided to go in a new direction with scheduling, playoffs, TV/streaming rights, etc. At least I hope so.