What will a revised schedule for teams look like once baseball returns to action in 2020 following the coronavirus outbreak?
At least the injury bug can’t bite now, right?
The sports world has halted, ladies and gentlemen, thanks to the outbreak in professional sports of the coronavirus. It began in the NBA when Utah Jazz star center Rudy Gobert contracted the virus, followed by it being passed to other star Jazz player Donovan Mitchell. Fast forward to Tuesday, and four Brooklyn Nets players have the virus, as well as two minor leaguers from the Yankees’ Organization also tested positive, the only known cases to this point in professional baseball.
MLB, because of this, has shut down the remainder of the spring season and announced a minimum two-week delay to the start of the regular season, but let’s be real: there’s no way the delay lasts just 14 days.
In all likelihood, we may be looking at a Memorial Day starting date or possibly even later, which would approximately play out to a 105-game schedule, if that’s the case. With that, MLB is probably looking to revise their schedule prior to the start of the season, but what exactly would that look like?
In-Division Play Schedule
Generally speaking, you play teams in your division 19 times a season. That may be cut back quite a bit this year. Hypothetically speaking, let’s just say MLB decides for teams to play teams within the division 10 times in 2020, which, for one team’s sake, that’s 40 games, leaving about 65 games left on the schedule devoted to other opponents.
Many times, teams play their in-division rivals a lot down the stretch as division races wrap up and come to a head. If in-division play gets cut back in 2020, MLB may try and spread out the course of the matchups to the entirety of the abbreviated season rather than backload division play. In this hypothetical scenario laid out where in-divisional teams play each other 10 times, teams in the division would probably face-off in 3-4 series. I don’t think that MLB will try to push all those series to the back-end of the schedule, and we will see a more spread-out look to the schedule than we’ve seen in recent years.
In-League/Interleague Play Schedule
This is where things get difficult. Generally, teams play two series a year against teams within the division. In the hypothetical scenario of a team playing only 10 games against each division opponent, that only leaves roughly 65 games to play. From there on out, MLB could dump some series and simply not have every team in the league face each other. In most cases, teams within the same league face each other twice a season, but those series could be dumped all together if the season is shortened enough. If that’s the case, don’t be surprised if games between teams across the country are the games that are dumped, as it’s the easiest way to shorten a schedule and make the players happy who don’t want to travel.
Let me elaborate with an example: it would make sense for the Cleveland Indians and Yankees to play at least once, as the travel gap isn’t that big (Ohio to New York). Meanwhile, the two series that would’ve taken place between the Yankees and Oakland A’s get scratched because the two teams would travel across the country to play each other, and limiting that travel also accommodates the players while keeping the schedule in a 105-game area.
As for interleague play, that depends on what MLB wants to do with in-league play. If Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to stretch out as many games as possible with teams in the same league thanks to a shortened schedule, we may see interleague play get dumped all together. If not, interleague play should go on as normal.
No one has the answers as to what MLB is going to do, and that’s no exception here. As of now, all we can do is speculate about the future of Major League Baseball, and until we get a start date, there’s no telling how the schedule is going to play out. Until then, players will work out and prep as necessary until they get word on the future of the MLB season.