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Could we see a shortened MLB season due to Coronavirus?

Depending on where you live in the country – or the world – Coronavirus has been talked about and reported on at length. But yesterday in the US things hit the sports world when the NCAA announced their tournament will be played with no fans in the crowd and the NBA suspended its season. That leaves the question on all of our minds: What will Major League Baseball do?

Listen, there are a million more important issues facing the world as it pertains to this virus than what MLB will do about its season, but I am a baseball fan and this is a baseball website, so that’s what I’m going to talk about.

No official announcement has been made. I can’t imagine MLB will allow Thursday to pass and not have a statement or a plan, although that would be so typical MLB to sit on its hand while the writing is on the wall that spring training and the regular season should be suspended indefinitely.

In an article posted today, Ken Rosenthal laid out possible actions baseball can take and the ramifications:

  • Starting the season on time, but with no fans in attendance
  • Relocating regular season games
  • Shortening the regular season

Shortening the regular season

To me, this seems like the most realistic option. There was one thing in Rosenthal’s article that caught my attention, however:

“Ideally, the owners would want to play a full season and not sacrifice any money from attendance, TV contracts and other sources of revenue. One extreme step would be for MLB to cancel the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium and use that week to make up games. The idea of extending the season beyond its scheduled conclusion on Sept. 27 and playing postseason games at neutral sites with domed or retractable-roof parks already has been discussed, one source said.”

I get it, owners don’t want to lose months of revenue. Foregoing the All Star week to make up regular season games seems like an easy compromise, but that may only scratch the surface. (I could also see them scheduling double headers to allow for more games to be made up.) But lets say the regular season doesn’t start until June 1. That means the season will be shortened to about 100 games. Skipping All Star week and scheduling a few extra double-dips may only get them to 110-115 games. Is that really going to make a difference?

That is where the part about extending the regular season past the planned end date and playing postseason games at neutral sites with domed or retractable-roofs comes in. October could turn into a month of regular season baseball, and we could have a November playoffs at [insert crappy team with domed stadium]. THAT WOULD SUCK! As a fan I’d gladly give up a month-plus of regular season baseball to be able to watch my team play its postseason games at home. The entire thing would feel like a sham, not to mention the ramifications of playing into late November, something these players have never done before.

Is a shorter season really that bad?

Again, I’m coming from a fan perspective here. I’m sure I’d feel differently if I was a billionaire worried about millions of dollars lost because of canceled regular season games. But is a 100-ish game season really that bad? The baseball regular season is too long anyway, in my opinion. We’ll know the good teams from the bad after 100 games, just like we do every season. For the person making the argument: Well what about September playoff races? Those will still happen, they’ll just come down to games 90-100 instead of 152-162.

A shorter season will also allow for players to be fresher for the playoffs. We could end up seeing better performances because Gerrit Cole doesn’t have 200-innings under his belt or Gleyber Torres doesn’t have 145+ games worn on his body.

MLB has implemented and proposed changes to the game that minimize importance of the “regular season grind” anyway. Adding the Wild Card playoff round boils a 162-game season down to one game for 4 teams each year. Guess what? It’s exciting. As much as I hate the proposal and think it’s bull crap, changing the playoff format to 7 teams in each league with the first round being a best-of-three further diminishes a 162-game gauntlet. An 80-win team can easily take 2-of-3 from a 95-win team… it happens all the time. The point of the baseball regular season is that the 80-win team isn’t there in the end because they were not good enough and not deep enough. But if we’re going to throw all that out the window, what is even the point of 162 games? Just make it a 100-game sprint and sit back and enjoy the action.