Major League Baseball Classic
As noted earlier, those sporting events originally scheduled for April and May which are being postponed are mostly being rescheduled for September. Inherent in that is the assumption by organizers of these events is September is a relatively safe time we can pinpoint to once again host events.
Assuming for a moment September 2020 is the time sporting events can once again be held, Major League Baseball has a real problem on their hands. At the end of the day, they are going to be left with a myriad of just bad options at their feet.
The first and least attractive option is to cancel the entire 2020 season. While we would all understand, no one wants to see that happen. Even if you are not a baseball fan, you want to see this pandemic end and for everyone to get back to their normal lives.
The other option is playing into December utilizing neutral sites. There are a number of issues with that including figuring out which cities can safely host games into the winter both in terms of the weather and COVID19. Aside from that, how can so few ballparks host so many games for 30 teams? It doesn’t seem plausible.
To that end, maybe the realistic target is to finish the regular season, whatever can be salvaged of it, by Halloween. Maybe that’s two months. Maybe three. Perhaps, it is just one. No matter what, we are still talking about neutral site postseason games for November and December.
At some point, Major League Baseball has to ask itself whether this is both plausible and whether this is worth it. Remember, part and parcel with this is these same players, pitchers especially, are going to have to be ready just a month or two later to begin the 2021 season.
Really, can baseball have a full free agency, Rule 5 Draft, GM and Winter Meetings, and a full offseason in the Month of January alone. Really, the deeper we go into 2020, the more we are going to affect the 2021 season. That’s just compounding the problem.
With that in mind, in lieu of a 2020 regular season, Major League Baseball should host the Major League Baseball Classic modeled after the World Baseball Classic.
Looking at the World Baseball Classic, there are four pools who play a round robin tournament. The top two two teams from each pool advance to the next round. Those eight teams comprise two new pools. From there, the top four teams advance to a single elimination semifinals and championship. The key for Major League Baseball is to find a way to make that tournament played over three weeks into a format which makes sense for baseball.
That is partially going to depend on the amount of time baseball has to play. For the moment, let’s assume baseball cannot resume games until Labor Day.
With there being six divisions, you have six built-in pools of five teams a piece. What is interesting about each pool is all but one division has at least one all-weather venue which can be utilized by each division. As a result, those locations should be tabbed to host each pool/division:
|AL East||Rogers Centre/Tropicana Field|
|AL West||T-Mobile Park/Minute Maid Park/Angel Stadium|
|NL East||Marlins Park|
|NL Central||Miller Park|
|NL West||Petco Field/Chase Field/Dodgers Stadium|
Based upon a myriad of factors, MLB can select a venue for each pool. Whether they feel it prudent to have six different stadiums where they can play or fewer venues is up to baseball and governmental authorities. They can also go to another location if deemed necessary.
Depending on the amount of games baseball feels it can have, baseball can focus on their biggest rivalries by treating each division like a World Baseball Classic pool. They can use this to determine the three division winners like they normally would during the regular season.
From there, MLB can go with two different options. They can limit the next round to just the three division winners with a double elimination to determine the teams who go to the best-of-seven LCS. They could also make a larger pool with six teams (top two from each division) with the top two teams moving to an LCS.
With the six teams, you could also have a double elimination between the three Wild Card teams and start the LDS series from there as you usually would.
Overall, the ideal you are looking for is to set up your typical best-of-seven LCS and World Series. By setting it up under a World Baseball Classic format, you limit travel, and you are able to go from game to game without issue. If there needs to be doubleheaders, it is easier to do since everyone is in one place.
The key is to get players in one place to let you play as many games as possible as quickly as possible. If you are able to get fans there, all the better, but at this point that may be a pipe dream.
Whether it is this plan or another plan, it is becoming increasingly difficult to have any form of a season. With that being the case, MLB should be seriously considering moving to a tournament format. Fortunately, with their already operating the World Baseball Classic, they know which venues can best accommodate a tournament, and they know the logistics which need to be in place to run that format.