Well, we are still awaiting the finalization of the MLB 2020 season start. The sides are at odds with each other over the money split as we have discussed in this newsletter before. MLB can mandate a 48-50 game schedule so at a minimum that is what we are going to get. We may get an appeased agreement where there are like 70-80 games. Let’s explore this concept of 48-50 games.
Looking back at 2019, specifically at Spring Training, we find that teams played 27-30 games. In 2018, they played 29-31 games. Let’s make things simple and say a normal Spring Training consists of 30 games. Now let’s look at 2020 to make a comparison. This year there were 18-19 games played in Spring. The games were canceled starting 03/24 and today is 06/11 which is officially 79 days. Of course, we are going to need another time frame to get the players into game condition and their bodies safe. Whenever the date of the agreement is, you can bet the teams will be in camp with 7 days and likely use another 14 to 20 to become ready to play. Taking the 7 days to get into the camp, and then a couple of days for negotiation, we likely will see 90 days of inactivity and certainly 100+ days from the end of Spring to the start of the season.
The reason I bring in Spring training as a comparison is that I believe a season this short would be like an extended version. There are many concerns and injuries are one of them. There is really a concern here. Injury to hamstrings, thighs, or obliques would likely shut that player down for the rest of the season! On average an MLB player misses 24 games due to a hamstring injury. A nagging injury for a normal season is now a season-ender for the 48-50 game season. Another issue I have is “true” competitiveness. Few Spring games are played to win. Some managers are trying to establish new cultures at times, so there is a level of wanting to play well, but there are no pitching moves or pinch-hitting appearances made to win a game. Everyone is trying to get their body ready to play and work on something to make themselves better for the season.
Think this concept through. No one is trying to win these games. Going into a real season of MLB where the data produced will count on a player’s record, I can’t imagine each one will have that desire to win every one of these games. Look an ace pitcher. He makes roughly 30-32 starts in a season. Over a 48-50 games season assuming he will start every 5th day, he might only get 10 starts! I can only imagine a guy like Justin Verlander throwing roughly 60-80 innings as a complete season, then having that few of innings having any significance to him. There are also the Covid19 concerns and several players WILL NOT play anyway. How would you be able to know whether say Clayton Kershaw was sitting out due to health or if he just was like “Who cares about these tens games?” I assume there will be very guarded reasons some don’t play and will be disguised as Covid19 concerns. I don’t mind either way, but I want legitimate baseball too.
How do you manage young players? In a regular season, I young guy will get some minor league at-bats into mid-May then will get called up to be given a chance to play every day at the big-league level. The key here is those guys have played daily and are primed to play at the big-league level because of it. Now they won’t have those at-bats. Most managers would opt for the proven guy, so will he have to fail before the young player gets his chance? And exactly what kind of productivity do you think the young player will contribute due to inactivity? I think this becomes a lost season for many of those guys.
Ok now let's try to see what the standings were after 50 games last year. The AL saw Yankees, Twins, Astros leading their divisions. NL saw Phillies, Cubs, and Dodgers. The World Series Champs Washington Nationals were 20-31. They would have missed the playoffs (even an expanded version), likely fired Davey Martinez, and possibly traded away some of their pieces. The Phillies and Cubs missed the playoffs in 2019 yet if they only played 50 games, maybe each team would still have their manager. In 2018, The LA Dodgers were 22-27 after 50 games. This team went on to have a 92-71 record and play in the World Series.
I just don’t believe a 50-game season has credibility. I believe there won’t be enough incentive for the teams, players, or managers to “go all out” to win. This creates a lesser quality game with lesser quality results. I suppose this is to appease the idea of not having a season which would be catastrophic for baseball as a sport, but I sense this is just like an extend Spring training where the games are an exhibition rather than a true contest of seeing what uber-talented team will win a game or series. I am not optimistic about this season. If we could get at least 82 games, I likely would change my tune. Half a season is what feels like more of a legit competition. Let’s hope we see the best players in the world care for a short span and put on a show for those games! It is all we can do.