What would the return of baseball mean for the Phillies and their fans?
According to multiple reports, MLB owners have approved a plan to play the 2020 season, rather than nix the entire year. This new proposal is expected to begin with spring training in early to mid-June, with the regular season beginning around early July, some setting Independence Day as the current mark.
The plan now must be passed by the MLBPA, with the result coming in the coming weeks.
This passage by the owners is huge for baseball, and for its fans. The premise for the opening of the league as soon as June is essentially two-fold. For one, owners need income, teams need income, everyone needs income, or the league can’t exist. That’s the obvious motive here.
Secondly, this is opening the gate for the rest of professional sports to begin thinking about how to salvage their seasons (mainly the NBA and the NHL). The NFL has planned to begin their 2020-21 season on time.
The proposed schedule would be 82 games, the same length as an NBA season, but in about half the time. The spring training will feature a shortened layout, with players getting all the rest they need and then some during this quarantine. Interleague play will be limited, with only teams that exist in the same region getting to play each other. National League teams will also be permitted a designated hitter.
Also included in this proposal is the idea of an expanded postseason featuring 14 teams, or nearly half the league. Each league will receive four wild card bids, instead of the usual two.
Other measures to ease Covid-19 concerns include not allowing fans to attend the games, and teams may play spring training in their home ballparks to mitigate travel. The All-Star Game is likely to be canceled this season, due to its global audience. No mentions were made about a minor league baseball season.
This is big. Very, very big. The fact that 30 ownership groups came together and put forth a 2020 initiative is a big step for sports in general, let alone baseball. It means we may see a pitch this season, we may hear the crack of a home run, the thump of glove, and clearer than ever before, given no fans in attendance.
Giving some insight into this plan, the shortened season was obviously a must. The playoff expansion idea is thought-provoking, but it exists mainly to ease team concerns about not having the ability to go on that second half run that we see so often in professional baseball. Teams that struggle early will still have chance to push themselves into the wild card mix. And in any case, the games might be even more entertaining, because each regular season match-up counts for double in this proposition.
As for the coronavirus concerns, the owners and players will likely need more time to work it out. Playing regionally and without fans are certainties, but teams will have to discuss traveling concerns, family disruption, and potentially isolating players from everyone for months at a time.
We know the players want to play; we know how much every major leaguer has riding on every season. With this proposal being sent to the MLBPA, it will soon become a matter of creating a playing environment that is safe yet conducive to some sort of fan experience, because without fans, there is no money, and no baseball. With a players decision likely to be made later this week or early next week, this is the most excitement baseball fans have had in the past two months.