Nothing ever seems easy for Rob Manfred & MLB.
Of course, matters that I find have rather simple solutions for the sport and the league are traditionally mismanaged by the commissioner and his band of merry hacks. But we can explore that another time.
In this unique case--the league's crucial handling of a pandemic--well, no professional sports league confronts a more difficult challenge.
1. AN ENTIRE SEASON
Baseball isn't just gearing back up for some tidy little playoff to crown a champion. An entire season must be conducted--a season for a sport that practically coined the phrase "it's a marathon not a sprint" (or was that Track & Field?).
Baseball can't just come back to play twenty games, head to the playoffs and hand out a trophy. That's simply not how this game operates. I mean, imagine conducting two full Spring Trainings for a paltry 20 games each, followed by some complimentary season-ending talent show and awards banquet?
The league must figure out how to play at least 80 games, and if there remains hope of playing postseason games at the home fields of playoff participants, then they need to get those 80 games in before November, and even that would be pushing Mother Nature to the brink.
So, it's a race TO the clock & then a race AGAINST the clock.
The league must decide NOW how to play amid a global pandemic, and how to contend with the many potential pitfalls that accompany such an endeavor, while other American pro sports leagues get to lounge back, watch Rob falter or fly, and apply what they learned from pro sports equivalent of space monkeys to their own operations. I'm not sure I feel comfortable giving MLB such an awesome responsibility anymore than I want my favorite sport to be used as a guinea pig. But such is baseball's plight in 2020. And let's hope they come up with a plan as good as mine...
2. SIGN UP SHEET
First and foremost, who wants to play?
Spoiled owners have neither the time nor the patience to pour over plan after plan with spoiled players in hopes of finding the perfect solution. Cause they ain't gonna find one!
Even if MLB devises a truly excellent plan, players are still going to complain. Some won't want to take pay cuts. Some won't want to put their families at risk. Some won't want to follow strict off-field protocols. Some won't want to follow strict medical protocols. Some won't want new funky rules. Some will only eat orange M&M's. Some will balk at not having their personal trainers with them day and night.
So... MLB can only devise the best plan possible, complete with ringing endorsements from state and national governments, along with top health officials. They need to present a fair financial plan, and then they have to place a sign-up sheet on the proverbial bulletin board, reading...
IF YOU WANT TO PLAY MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL IN 2020, THIS IS HOW WE'LL BE PLAYING. IF YOU WANT SOME MONEY AND SERVICE TIME AND A SHOT AT A WORLD SERIES AND STATS TO PAD YOUR LEGACY, THIS IS WHAT YOU'LL HAVE TO AGREE TO, CUZ THIS IS IT! NOW, WHO'S IN?
And whoever's not in, fine. Hopefully we'll see you in the Spring. Stay safe. Enjoy time with your families.
3. HUB CITIES
Sorry. The more I think about this, the more I'm convinced it has to happen. MLB has to control as much of the overall environment as it can. The league plays in 18 different states. How in the fudge is Rob Manfred going to be able to manage the reactions of 18 different governors and 18 different populations? How is he going to predict the spread of a virus? Dude can't even solve how a pitching change works.
Limited travel. Trusted facilities. Established hotels/rooms. Trained medical pros on standby. Highly paid quarantined cleaning crews. As limited contact with the rest of the world as can possibly occur (and that includes wives and children). And please, baseball players, I've known too many of you in my lifetime, do not act like you're going to miss your wives.
In the end..
4. THE SEASON
Five hub cities of 6 teams each...
You'd have to consult with scientists, and not some talk show schmuck from Seattle (me), but my one check of one "flattening the curve" article 'kind of' shows that these MLB cities might be contending best with the pandemic...
- San Francisco
We're not going to regionalize jack. What's the point? Can't have fans anyway. And under my system, can't go home to see Ma, Pa, or the youngins. So, why the need for regionalization? Create six divisions by drawing them out of a hat, for all I care (although something weighted based off last season's results is probably the preferable route).
As the season matures, and hopefully the curve is flattened, what then would stop baseball from pivoting to other cities, other established home sites? Seriously, once July concludes, what would keep them from creating an August schedule on the fly? You planning to rent out T-Mobile Park for Monster truck races or Yankee Stadium for "A Night with Bell-Biv-Devoe"?
Make it fluid. One month of competition against hub teams. The next month? Maybe we could expand, try something different. Or maybe we can't. More hub baseball! Better than no baseball at all.
In the end, we still get our six division champs, our four Wild Card teams and perhaps we're ready for traditional October playoff baseball.
Doesn't matter how you align them. Not this year. Doesn't matter that it won't be AL v. NL. In fact, for one time and one time only, I'd be excited that it's not.
And speaking of change...
4. GO CRAZY
If every there was a time to experiment with rule changes, this is the year.
- Universal DH? Go for it.
- Extra Inning HR Derby? Yep. (My idea first btw, Justin Turner)
- 30 man rosters? Let's do it.
- Taco Wednesday? Why the fuc* not?
Get it out of your system, Rob. Because 2021 needs to be on point.
As for 2020? Well, you can look at it as trying to salvage a season, or how to prevent catastrophe. OR...
You could approach this summer as an opportunity to create something truly memorable. Something that could actually grow the league, and not threaten to destroy it. Sooooo... It's on you. Rob, players, please, don't screw this up.