More doubleheaders? Warm-weather sites? Baseball weighs options for salvaging season
PHOENIX — It’s been another ideal week of March weather in central Arizona, with highs in the 70s and plenty of sunshine.
Perfect for an opening day baseball game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves that isn’t happening as planned because of the coronavirus pandemic.
That reality was starkly apparent on Thursday, as a nearly deserted Chase Field sat in strange silence.
But the pleasant weather was also a reminder of what could happen when and if the games resume.
After all, it’s a lot like what November or even December baseball would feel like in this part of the world.
In the upside-down universe of Major League Baseball — which is on hold until at least mid-May and quite possibly longer as the world fights the coronavirus spread — just about anything is possible if the 2020 season ever begins.
“Every year, you hope to host the World Series,” Arizona owner Ken Kendrick said earlier this month when discussing options for a pushed back season, including neutral sites in the playoffs.
“Maybe we have a little edge in that happening,” he said.
His comment drew a few laughs and Kendrick grinned, too, but he added that he wasn’t trying to make jokes about a serious situation like the coronavirus spread. While a neutral-site World Series seems a bit far-fetched, these are strange times, and the sport must adjust as it figures out what the season might become.
“There are still a lot of unknowns, and our leadership team is working tirelessly to make sure our organization is handling this situation the best we can,” Washington GM Mike Rizzo said. “It’s a very, very fluid situation, and this thing is not in the general manager’s manual.“
While no one knows exactly what will happen, here are a few options if games can be played:
Let’s play two
It’s hard to envision teams playing the traditional 162-game season if games don’t begin until mid-summer. But one way to squeeze in action would be a throwback option: Scheduled doubleheaders.
Doubleheaders were once a regular part of MLB’s schedule but have mostly faded away with the exception of make-up games due to weather. The 2020 season could be different, with teams playing eight or even nine games in a week.
If that’s the case, there would be talk of expanding rosters to help keep players — especially pitchers — from getting overworked. MLB had already changed the rules to allow 26 players on the active roster this season and that number could jump to 28 or even 30 in a condensed situation.
Twins pitcher Taylor Rogers said the teams and the players would want to play as many games as possible.
“It’s in both of our best interests to do that and it’s in the fans’ best interest,” Rogers said. “So, I think whatever thing we can put together to get the most games in, everybody’s going to win on that account.”
Baseball has made schedule adjustments on the fly before. Nearly 40 years ago, there was a strike in the middle of the 1981 season that wiped out games for nearly two months of a season known for Fernando Valenzuela’s electric rookie season and the Dodgers’ World Series win.