As the world looks to fight the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), professional sports leagues are looking for ways to make up for time lost due to the pandemic. MLB and its commissioner Rob Manfred are proposing radical changes to scheduling and travel for the 30 teams in the league.
MLB and its officials are working toward beginning the season in late June and no later than July 2, according to a report posted this past Tuesday by USA Today. The regular season would include at least 100 games, which would take place in major league ballparks without fans. The teams are holding out hope that fans will be able to return to the stadiums in the late regular season or when the playoffs begin.
This plan's major difference from what MLB had been planning before is the location where the games would take place. One of the earlier proposals was to play the season in Arizona, Florida and Texas.
Arizona and Florida are where MLB holds spring training every year, so there are enough facilities to have all the teams play in these states. The players would have stayed at hotels close to the stadium and only been allowed to travel to the facility and back, with close monitoring and frequent COVID-19 testing.
This plan would have required the players to spend the season in isolation from their family and friends. While this plan could have possibly been implemented by MLB, the resistance from players including Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout made it clear that keeping the players in one place would not work out.
While the teams will return to their normal ballparks under the new plan, the scheduling is anything but normal for baseball. Under the new proposal, the league would be divided into three 10-team divisions based on geography, and the teams would only play other teams in their division to reduce travel.
The new divisions keep many of the existing rivalries in baseball intact and add new matchups that would normally be seen in inter-league play only once a year, if the matchup happened at all. In the Central division, the battle for Chicago would be seen many times this year as the Cubs would match up with their cross-town rival White Sox. In the East, the Subway Series (New York Mets and New York Yankees) and Battle of the Beltway (Washington and Baltimore) would be talking points for fans during the shortened season.
While the impacted season could provide unique matchups for fans to watch, the financial aspects of it need to be worked out before any games can be played. Some team owners have requested that players take a pay cut due to the losses they have already taken due to missed games. It is currently unclear how the players and owners will work this issue out, but if both sides are serious about playing baseball this year, they will come to a settlement that allows games to be played.
Rutgers alumni infielder Todd Frazier and outfielder Brian O’Grady are two players who will look to play professional baseball again this season. Frazier, who made his big-league debut in 2011, has spent parts of his career with Cincinnati, the White Sox, Yankees and Mets and is currently with Texas. O’Grady made his major league debut last year for the Reds and will look to earn a spot in Tampa Bay's outfield this year.
“MLB will keep fans updated on decisions regarding plans for the 2020 schedule in days and weeks ahead,” MLB said in a statement. “The Clubs remain committed to play as many games as possible when the season begins.”