April 29, 2020


As the death toll continues to climb in pandemic hot spots, MLB and other sports leagues are still scrambling to find a way to re-start their seasons.

MLB has been kicking around several proposals.

Now another possible plan is gaining attention after USA Today reported MLB is considering a three-division plan in which teams would play exclusively against division opponents.

According to Bob Nightengale, a schedule of at least 100 games would play out beginning in late June, or ideally no later than July 2.

The plan would eliminate the American League and National League for the 2020 season and would end with an extended postseason format. No other details about how that format might look were shared.

The most notable detail included is that the plan would be based around all 30 teams playing some or all of the season at their home ballpark, albeit without fans in attendance. Of course, the plan would need the approval of medical experts to become a serious consideration. Nightengale says he spoke to three anonymous executives with knowledge of talks who expressed optimism this plan could have legs. Yahoo Sports shows the alignment:

The problem is that there will still be quarantine and logistic questions for every team and every player. Will travel be restricted to buses and charter planes? Will players be able to go to their families during home series? Will homestands be longer than usual so teams do not have to travel as much? If teams can travel in a modified schedule (the travel and hotel industry have been crushed by the lock down) why not pick up the real schedule?

One would assume that all games would include a DH, to the chagrin of NL purists. One would also assume that since there will be no minor league baseball, teams will have expanded rosters (maybe up to 40 players).

But how will history take this strange solution? Will this year's records have an automatic * attached to it? Will the postseason merely be a "seeding" format for a World Cup soccer elimination tournament?

This could also be the excuse the Commissioner wants to put in his controversial rule changes that fundamentally change the nature of the game.

Playing baseball just for the sake of playing baseball to generate TV games and revenue is not the key patriotic move in this situation. Individual states are still trying to control who and what can happen in its borders. The fear of the virus contagion has paralyzed rational thought. Some states are going to start to relax restrictions while other states are going to start enforcing virus rule prohibitions. MLB owners want to salvage their season, but at what cost?

April 13, 2020


Another week, another proposal to salvage the MLB season.

The latest trial balloon is to have the spring training sites turn into regular season venues. Teams and regular season games will be confined to the Grapefruit (Florida) and Cactus (Arizona) leagues.

The whole issue with confined teams playing limited schedules with no long distance travel is logistics. The players are one thing; but the team support staff and third party vendors (hotels, cooks, cleaners, etc) are a large, interlocking swarm of individuals who, if not locked in, will have to be tested daily before game contact.

Undefined is whether each team will start with a 40 man roster. The reason is simple: this summer there appears to be no minor leagues. Clubs are not going to house, fed and train 200 minor leaguers at the same major league lock down facility. It is not cost effective and not needed.

This two-state set up is great, until the summer heat will bake players to a crisp. In June, the average temperature in Phoenix is 104. If you can only have night games to beat the heat, that adversely affects the number of games that can be played. Florida is not much better, as heat plus humidity is a real factor. Florida has two domed stadiums; Arizona has one.

More players are saying that they are against the idea of being team quarantined for four months away from their families.

More fans are upset with the potential realignment causing their favorite team playing harder opponents. The call for a universal DH rule has NL purists upset.

As MLB struggles to figure out what to do, it will probably have to look to what leagues in Asia find as an acceptable solution. Korea and Japan are still on hold, but the small Taiwan league said it was going to start playing games (with no fans).

April 8, 2020


The "leak" that MLB was kicking around the idea of playing all the 2020 season in a quarantined bubble in Arizona had many people wondering if it is even possible.

The idea is to have all 30 teams live and play in Arizona. No long distant travel. Half of the leagues have spring training facilities in Arizona.

All the teams would be quarantined in their hotels. There would be no fans at any games. The players would be shuttled to parks and hotels.

It is like the players would be inmates in professional baseball jail.

If the idea takes root, a late May early June start was mentioned in reports. That would mean baseball could be the first professional sport to return to action. It would also mean that players would be isolated from the public and their families for 4 months or more.

The reason is simple: medical experts believe there will be no vaccine for COVID-19 for at least a year. Then whether it is effective treatment is uncertain as the virus will continue to mutate.

The players want to play. The players do not get paid if they do not play. The players want to get paid.

The owners want to play games. The owners do not get any revenue without games. The owners want to get paid.

Even if this is a feasible solution, the human cost could be great. For example, will a veteran baseball player who has already made his multi-millions want to stay away from his family during a pandemic? Maybe not.

What happens when the first isolated player comes down with the virus? Is the whole team shut down? What about the hotel workers and team staff? Are they also isolated? The problem with any quarantine is that there will always be some outside contact. Vendors have to supply the hotel. Teams come and go on buses. The locker room is being used by three teams a day. Players will not be in hazmat suits 24/7.

What happens when a player gets injured? Are teams going to start the isolation with their full 40 man rosters? So teams will be paying players not on the active 26 man rosters?  If a player gets injured, he will have to leave confinement to get treatment. He may not be allowed back into the quarantine area because he could have possibly exposed in the outside world. Does the 15 day disabled list turn into a 30 day (15 off and 15 in self-isolation)?

Owners project that 30 percent of their revenue is from fan attendance. If there are no fans, will the players take a 30 percent pay cut? The players are upset with service time issues. A pay cut on top of that would be hard to take.

Arizona summers are hot. Surface of the sun hot. If you have 30 teams trying to play 15 games a day, where will they play? There is only one domed stadium in Phoenix. Night games at spring training facilities? West coast time night games may not cut it for East Coast television broadcasts.

Will MLB force feed new rule changes under the guise of unique circumstances? For example, the runner at second to start the 10th inning. Or not having any extra inning games (allowing ties). Or having a 10 run slaughter rule after 5 innings.

MLB is thinking of ways to salvage its season.  But as the days and weeks drag on in shuttered businesses, work at home environments and daily death tolls reported on newscasts, people may slowly lose interest in rebooting any professional sports season.

April 2, 2020


Baseball players have a lot of free time on their hands.

Too much free time.  Dodgers Justin Turner told his network about his idea on how to get more excitement into extra inning games.

Turner says everyone in the game, from players to owners, are on board with playing as many games as possible whenever the season can resume, and notes nothing is off limits in achieving that goal. He said there have been conversations about multiple doubleheaders, roster expansion, and new extra innings rules.

Turner offered his own idea for how extra inning games should be settled.

“This is my opportunity to push for a Home Run Derby extra inning,” he said.

 “Instead of playing 17 innings, you get one extra inning, you play the 10th inning, and no one scores, and you go to a Home Run Derby. You take each team’s three best hitters and you give them all five outs and see who hits the most homers.”

Turner thinks the idea would keep fans in the stands until the end of the games. Obviously, it would prevent games from dragging on, extending bullpens, and tiring players who will be working on short rest throughout the season. He compared the idea to the shoot-out at the end of overtime in hockey games.

IT IS A TERRIBLE IDEA based on questionable logic.

Fans don't leave during extra inning contests. It is sudden death. The home team has the last chance.

Extra innings are played under the same rules. Games should be played under the same rules to preserve the integrity of the sport.

A hockey comparison is not fair. In hockey, teams play an overtime under the same regular period rules (except with two less skaters). The shoot-out was created so some team could "win." However, there is nothing wrong with a "tie."  Hockey used to have lots of tie games. But someone thought that fans would like top see "winners."  But in shoot-outs, it may be more luck than skill that gives a rival an extra point in the standings.

A home run derby finale has nothing to do with who was the better team on that given day. Some believe a home run derby can screw up a hitter's mechanics.  Why risk putting terrible habits on your best three hitters in order to win one shortened game?

Turner should go back to grooming his beard instead of thinking about rule changes.