2020 Olympics Postponed Until 2021, Is Stanley Cup Next?

Due to COVID19, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been postponed until 2021. The who, what, where, why, and how still need to be figured out, abut this was ultimately a decision which needed to be made for the safety of the athletes and the world population.

The postponement of these games may seem premature, but in the end, it may be necessary because no one can be quite sure who will and who will not still be affected by this disease. With that in mind, the IOC is going to take a month to review plans over the next month to reschedule these games.

When we have a quadrennial event being postponed, we really have to wonder what is next.

The sport likely most in danger is hockey. With arenas and ice rinks being closed, there is no avenue for players to get out there and skate. With the warmer weather, there really isn’t an avenue for players to create rinks in their backyards. Couple that with players not having access to gyms or other athletic training facilities, there is just no way for players to stay in hockey shape.

Remember that at this time, there is no way for the ice surfaces to be maintained because those workers are not there. Also, as astutely noted by Abbey Mastracco of nj.com, players may have an issue with playing on the ice in July. With the heat outside, it is going to be difficult to maintain those ice surfaces, and that is before you consider those surfaces have not been maintained for months.

With each passing day that players can’t work out and there is no maintenance of the ice across 31 NHL arenas, we should be slowly coming to the realization there may be no Stanley Cup awarded this season. Of course, the NHL could instead opt to postpone the season indefinitely and revisit the remainder of the season and/or the Stanley Cup playoffs after the summer.

Looking at the situation, the NHL could realize playing through July or August isn’t ideal even in the best of circumstances. Under the current circumstances, there are players who need to get into shape as arenas are getting ice surfaces into shape. Fact is, everyone is going to need time to regroup.

Ultimately, the question for the league and the players may be whether it is better to start in September and have some form of a playoff and to delay the start of the 2020-2021 season and/or truncate it, or whether it is better to just face the reality, cancel the rest of the season, and start anew in October.

This is far from an easy decision, especially when the next expansion draft is going to occur in June 2021. The NHL needs to decide free agency, service time, and qualifications for that draft. Mostly, they need to figure out a way to handle the 2019-2020 season in a manner that best protects its players and its fans. Once they do that, everything else will flow from there.

Ultimately, everyone wants to see the 2020 Stanley Cup awarded even if no one knows if it can realistically be done.

 

Rick Porcello, Steven Matz, And Michael Wacha May All Be In Mets Rotation

During Spring Training, there was what seemed to be a contrived race for the fifth starter spot in the rotation between Steven Matz and Michael Wacha. That was even with the case of Matz being the better of the two, and really being a better pitcher than Rick Porcello over the past few seasons.

As we were headed towards the end of Spring Training, we really had no indication of who was in the lead for the spot, and we even heard the Mets were toying with the idea of mixing and matching Matz and Wacha as the fifth starter using them based upon the match-ups.

Of course now, it is a moot point as no one quite knows when or if we are going to play baseball again. When that happens, there is going to be an abbreviated return to Spring Training before we get back to games. Typically speaking, that would be fine as players, especially pitchers, were ramping up to begin the season.

However, teams have shut down their Spring Training facilities to their players and sent them home. Players live in different areas of the country, and places where they would typically go to work out have been shut down as well to help prevent the further spread of COVID19. In the end, this means we have no idea how in shape players will be.

That’s not an issue of laziness or them not being serious about their craft. Rather, it is a practical reality based upon the reality of the situation. It is difficult to ask people to be prepared for the season when they can’t work out at a facility or work with an instructor. To a certain extent, you know they are all doing something, but it may not be sufficient.

For pitchers, that is going to be especially dangerous. As has been noted, there is a fear the ramp up, cool down, and abbreviated re-ramp up can lead to pitcher injuries. This is going to demand teams be judicious in how they use pitchers and allow them to use the earlier part of the season as an extended Spring Training.

Fortunately, the Mets are actually well-built to do that with their having six starting pitchers.

With their having six starting pitchers, they can institute a plan similar to that they implemented at times during the 2015 season. There was push-back from some of the starters, namely Matt Harvey, but ultimately using pitchers like Jon Niese in the rotation and later Logan Verrett, it did help keeps arms fresh. That was a key to the Mets winning the 2015 pennant.

That’s exactly what the Mets need to do here. They need to use a six man rotation to help keep these pitchers fresh and to help them get through the season. They can do it strategically by taking into account the off days. At times, they can mix in Robert Gsellman here and there given his presence as the long man in the bullpen, and possibly, they can use a Stephen Gonsalves or Corey Oswalt for the occasional spot start or even as an “opener” for starts made by the other pitchers in the rotation.

In the end, this is still a Mets team built on pitching, and they need to keep their pitchers fresh and healthy to succeed in 2020. That is going to require them to utilize a six man rotation at times, so in the end, it means that Porcello, Matz, and Wacha will all win a spot in the rotation.

From there, the Mets can judge based upon who is pitching best in the regular season, and they can adapt to injuries in the even they unfortunately come.

 

Seton Hall Pirates Win NCAA Tournament

With the COVID19 outbreak, we have lost out on many sporting events. Right now, the worst of it is the loss of the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Tournament is one of the biggest sporting events of the year with everyone filling out their brackets, entering pools, and trying to find ways to watch the games played on the Thursday and Friday afternoons.

For different fan bases, this means the loss of the opportunity of seeing your team and/or alma mater make a run. This year, things were presumably wide open enough for teams to make a run they had not previously made, had not made in a long time, and for some, may never make again.

For example, Dayton was projected to be a possible one seed, and they had last made the Final Four in 1967, which was well before the current field of 64 (or 68). This experience wasn’t just limited to mid-major schools. Baylor, a team from the Big 12, has not been to the Final Four since 1950. They too were projected to be a Final Four team.

Gonzaga could have returned to the Final Four and maybe this time won the championship. Maybe UCLA basketball could have been rejuvenated with a Cinderella run under Mick Cronin. The possibilities were endless for many teams.

That include Seton Hall.

Seton Hall was having its best season since P.J. Carlesimo left the school for the NBA in 1994. Since that time, Seton Hall had gone from perennial tournament team with a Hall of Fame caliber coach to a team with just seven tournament appearances over the subsequent 25 years. Over that time frame, they have only been the Final Four once, and they had never been above a six seed in the tournament.

That was all about to change. Seton Hall was projected to be a three seed with their getting a favorable draw, at least in terms of travel. They would have played the first two rounds in Albany, and with some luck, they would have played the regional final in MSG.

This was a team with Myles Powell, who was the team’s first First Team All-American since Walter Dukes in 1953, and the third Pirate to ever achieve that honor. He was also the Big East Player of the Year making him the first Pirate to accomplish that since Terry Dehere in 1993. He also could have been the first ever Pirate to be the Naismith Men’s College Basketball Player of the Year.

Between Powell, and other players like Quincy McKnight, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Romaro Gill, Myles Cale, and others plus Kevin Willard having his best season as a coach, Seton Hall fans are wondering what if?

On that note, the New York Post in conjunction with What If Sports simulated the NCAA Tournament, and the Seton Hall Pirates were National Champions.

To a certain extent, this just shows how special a team this was. After all, this was a team with one of the best players in the country and the second most quad one wins in the nation. Seton Hall winning a simulated tournament is something to celebrate.

But, in the end, this is bittersweet because we didn’t get to see it or celebrate it. To a certain extent, this is once again John Clougherty with a horrendous foul call on Rumeal Robinson helping give Michigan the National Title. Put another way, Seton Hall fans were once again cheated of experiencing and enjoying seeing the Pirates win a the NCAA National Championship.

Irrespective of that, this should be enough for Seton Hall to raise the banner in Walsh Gymnasium they couldn’t raise in 1989. After all, Seton Hall won the National Championship in this simulation. Let us all enjoy this to the extent we can.

Onward Setonia, finally, we are bound for victory.

Rule Changes MLB May Need To Institute In 2020

Even with the KBO playing practice games, it’s too early to know when or even if MLB is going to return in 2020. In the event baseball does return, it appears we’re going to get a limited season, and if that happens, baseball needs to make some changes.

The biggest reason for the changes is the pitching. The pitchers were ramping it up for the start of the season. Now, they’re effectively shut down and will have to ramp it back up when baseball can return. This is just asking for injuries.

After what will be an abbreviated second Spring Training, pitchers are very likely not going to be able to go full tilt to start the season. Not even the Jacob deGroms and Max Scherzers of the world. This means, MLB teams will be hitting their bullpens early and often.

Roster Expansion

Even during the best of times, teams feel like they never have enough arms in the pen. In 2020, that’ll definitely feel like the case. That goes double when you consider the new three batter minimum and the absolute cap of 13 pitchers. If you are going to keep those rules in place, and push some relievers early at the outset, you run the risk of them getting injured as well.

Honestly, baseball cannot have a situation where every team effectively becomes the Tampa Bay Rays. You can’t have 30 teams with just two starters going at least five with the rest of the team mixing and matching to figure out how to get through the other three games. It’s very likely back-end starters and relievers will not be up to the task, and that is before you consider the presence of an extra inning game which could decimate an entire bullpen.

With that in mind, at a minimum, baseball needs to immediately go to expanded rosters. Under the 2020 rules, that is only 28 players in September. If all three were pitchers, that might be enough. It might not. Perhaps to start the year, it can be bumped up to at least 30 or maybe 35 and then tier it down as the season progresses. By doing that, you are ensuring less wear and tear on arms which may lead to fewer pitcher injuries.

Taxi Squad

If baseball wants to stick with 25 or 28 man rosters, they need to find ways to make it work in light of pitcher workloads. Maybe, instead of expanding rosters, MLB could limit teams to just 25 players for one game while creating a taxi squad of three to four players who can be activated or deactivated at any time. Maybe more than that.

Again, there is going to be a strain on pitching, starters and relievers alike. The goal here is to keep pitchers healthy as baseball does not want there to be ramifications for the 2020 season spilling into 2021 and 2022. Overall, baseball wants its best players on the field.

To prevent abuses, there could be a rule where there must be five pitchers designated as starters who must always be active, and there can be provisions put in place to designate a pitcher a starter (akin to the two-way player rule). If need be, there can also be provisions on how long a reliever must be “active” once removed from the taxi squad.

The institution of a taxi squad could have an added benefit. Right now, MLB and the MLBPA are trying to figure out issues related to compensation and service time. By instituting a taxi squad, there will be an avenue to give some extra players more service time and compensation. That could go a long ways towards positively resolving those issues before baseball is ready to return.

Doubleheaders

Now, baseball has said they want to play a full 162 game slate. At some point, that may not be possible. When the red line is for when teams cannot play 162 games is up for debate, both publicly and as part of the MLB/MLBPA discussions.

In any event, it is clear baseball will want to play as many games as possible, and that may require doubleheaders to be played. There are other reasons to play doubleheaders for teams as well.

First and foremost, it may behoove teams to stay in one place for longer as airline and rail travel gets sorted out after this coronavirus outbreak. Obviously, there are going to be many logistical issues there. Perhaps by having doubleheaders, you eliminate some of those logistical issues.

The bigger point, as baseball may be concerned, is the possibility of more revenue. Doubleheaders means more commercial time. If you can do a day/night multiple admission, that means two gates. Of course, that assumes fans can go to games at all, and being honest, that may be too many people in a ballpark in one day. Still, if it’s possible, you know baseball will find that revenue stream.

Really, baseball wants to play as many games as possible, and in the end, that may just require doubleheaders. What can be done in terms of admission and the like is still up for debate. To that end, the need for doubleheaders, or even shoehorning in as many games as possible over a few calendar months, only serves to highlight the need for expanded rosters and taxi squads to help prevent pitcher injuries.

Altered Postseason Format

It is going to be difficult to justify playing games into late November or early December. That may only be possible with Northeast teams playing at neutral sites in Miami or San Diego. Assuming fans can attend games, it is going to be difficult to tell Mets fans they need to go to San Diego to watch their team try to win their first World Series since 1986.

If you’re baseball, that isn’t going to work, and they are going to need to figure something else out.

One thing they could do is a greatly expanded postseason. If anything, this could be a beta test of the new postseason format Rob Manfred wanted to try anyway. They could have fewer regular season games while selling their TV partners of a greatly expanded postseason. That could help them overcome some of the financial issues they may face.

They could also condense the postseason somehow, but honestly, no one anywhere is going to go for that.

In the end, more postseason games and fewer regular season games may be the trade-off baseball, the players, and TV partners may wind up agreeing to in an effort to generate ratings and increased revenues. We may also see some series, like the NLDS, played in one park due to travel restrictions and the like. Who knows?

Overall

The who knows part of this is the driving force. No one knows when or if games can be played. No one knows what if anything players are able to do to stay in game shape. No one knows if fans can attend games or the restrictions on travel when games can return.

The key for baseball getting through this COVID19 crisis is to be flexible and responsive to the challenges which have arisen and may still arise. Honestly, that is not something which has ever been baseball’s strength, especially not under Rob Manfred.

In the end, we can only hope games will be played and that we get to see as many games as we can as soon as they can possibly be played.

With KBO Beginning Play, Mets Fans At Least Have Chris Flexen

South Korea is where we soon hope to be as a country. They have widespread testing, and as a result, they’ve been able to return to normalcy much quicker. They’re even at the point where baseball is soon to return.

Yesterday, the KBO, the Korean Baseball Organization, returned to play with practice games. With these intrasquad games, we can finally see some real baseball being played. Fortunately, some of these games are being streamed on YouTube:

If that pitcher for the Doosan Bears looks familiar, it should. That’s former Mets pitcher Chris Flexen. He would have a scoreless appearance.

Seeing actual baseball and seeing a familiar face pitch is a needed reminder there’s still hope we can all get back to normal. We may not know when, but it can happen, and hopefully, that day will come soon.

Until then, we get to see Flexen. For parts of three seasons, that’s something which would’ve made many Mets fans cringe. Now, seeing Flexen on the mound is hope, and it is something to be enjoyed at least until we get to see Jacob deGrom back on the mound to begin the 2020 season.

Get Us Gary, Keith, And Ron Announcing Simulated Games

With no sports available to be broadcast, NBC Sports Washington is taking a novel approach. Instead of replaying a classic game, they’re going to play simulated games for the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards.

These video game simulations are using EA Sports games. So, instead of seeing actual games, we’re seeing machines play games. It’s like e-Sports meets Real Steel.

It’s certainly worth trying for a sports starved country.

For Mets fans, what would be better? Watching Johan Santana‘s no-hitter for the umpteenth time, or seeing a video game simulation of Pete Alonso hitting home runs and having crazy home run celebrations?

Perhaps you can find a way for MLB to work with teams and RSN’s to broadcast the games simultaneously. If they could do that, could you imagine how much fun Gary, Keith, and Ron would have broadcasting these games?

Listening to Keith’s bemusement of this while he’s sitting home on Skype (or some other device) while Hadji is running around would be reason enough to watch.

As for baseball, they could have some fun with it keeping records and standings. We can get Harold Reynolds and other MLB Network personalities trying to break it down, or simply having a breakdown about how computers have once again ruined the game.

If done well, this could be fun and give baseball fans something to watch until we get games. If done poorly, well, it’s still better than nothing.

In any event, NBC Sports Washington is taking the first crack at this. Hopefully, it is a success, and it brings us closer to having something to watch to bridge the gap.

Parents You Made It Through One Week Of Homeschooling

The first week of homeschooling our children while working from home is complete. Believe it or not, the worst part of this is all over because the adjustment periods are always the toughest. So, take a deep breath, and find time tonight to have a drink and celebrate.

After that, we should all strategize for week two to make it all go smoother starting Monday.

Now, if you are anything like my home, or the homes of friends I have seen through FaceTime, or the countless pictures on social media, your kitchen or dining room table was the battle station. That is where the laptops and school stuff was during the week.

If that is the case, lean into it and accept it. Take time this weekend, and find ways to organize your work and your kids school stuff so it is easily accessible and can be straightened out at the end of the school or work day. At least in terms of the kids, the best way might just be putting everything back into their school bags and putting it where they normally put it when there is actually a school bus. Maybe, you have some extra kitchen storage or counter space you can use.

Space allocation aside, there is also the time management issue. The general construct of the schedule my family devised has worked well, but only as a general construct. There are work calls or emails which have already superseded the schedule, but you have to do what you have to do.

One way we adapted to all of this was realizing the earlier our child can start schoolwork, the better. To put in in perspective, our school district has been sending out the class assignments at roughly 7:00 A.M. To allow us to be better available for our work demands, we started our son on his school work almost as soon as it was released.

This gave us the chance to focus more on his school work at a time when no one from work was really looking to contact us. That’s the good part. The downside is he’s been done with his work before lunch leaving us to figure out what to do with him for the rest of the day while we struggle to work and manage a two year old.

Really, you can only go so far with read a book or play with your brother. However, that is a better problem to have than paying half-attention to work and half-attention to your child’s school work. At least, that is how we see it.

In week two, that is just another adaption we are going to have to make. Given how many kinks we have already worked out, that seems like an easier hill to climb. We’ll see.

In any event, we have all survived the first week, and we will survive the next. We will continue getting better at this until this is no longer necessary. When that time comes is anyone’s best guess. Until then, remember that even though we are all doing this apart, we are all in this together.

This Is Minor Leaugers Time To Unionize

There are several barriers to unionizing minor leauge players. First and foremost, with how little they are paid, there is really no mechanism for the union dues to set up a union infrastructure. Players are too far spread out, and there are language barriers. There is also the fear of retribution from owners. That could come in the form of release of a player or a player not getting called up in favor of a player who is not looking to set up a union.

With salary, benefits, and perks being exponentially better, minor leaguers desperately need that Major League call-up, and they can ill afford to do anything to interfere with that.

That is the case during normal times, but this is far from normal times. From a purely baseball perspective, Major League Baseball is talking about shutting down a significant number of minor league teams. That means fewer jobs for minor leaugers. That could mean baseball will miss out on the next Mike Piazza or even the next T.J. Rivera.

Even with the low wages and poor working conditions created by minor league baseball, it at least creates an opportunity for players to one day develop into Major League Baseball players. Without that opportunity, there is no chance whatsoever for these players to become Major Leaguers.

More pressing than the closure of minor leauge teams is COVID19. Due to COVID19, the baseball season is going to be delayed, and no one can be quite sure when games are going to be played. That is especially problematic for minor leaguers as no one knows when or if these players are going to be paid beyond April 8.

This is a fine gesture to start, and you can understand why baseball is taking a half-measure when we’re not quite sure when or if baseball will be played again. To a certain extent, this is kicking the rock down the road until baseball needs to act again. The problem is baseball could decide they’re not giving minor leaguers any more than the roughly $1,200 per player, and minor leaguers have no ability to bargain for more relief pay.

Keep in mind, if you were assigned to a short season affiliate, you were not going to get paid until this summer anyway. That is something which will not be lost on Major League Baseball. Not in the least. However, this time, those minor leaugers are not able to get outside jobs until the summer, and there is no Spring Training facility to stay at in the interim.

For far too long, the MLBPA, the entity who should be arguing on their behalf, has failed them as they continue to negotiate away minor league salaries and conditions for additional perks for players. To a certain extent, given the high stakes nature of CBA negotiations, you understand it. On the other hand, they’re failing people they know need help the most.

Of course, it shouldn’t come down to the MLBPA. This is where the owners or governments need to step in to ensure a living wage, but there is far too much lobbying and political donations to ever allow that to happen.

In the end, this means minor leaguers must band together somehow to unionize and get a seat at the bargaining table. They need to do this to get a living wage. They need to do this to ensure the draft is not canceled. They need to do this to ensure teams are not contracted. Mostly, they need to do this to make sure they know where their next paycheck is coming.

Unionizing was going to take extraordinary efforts even in ordinary times. At times like these, those efforts will now need to be Herculean. It may not be possible, but it is something they all have to do, and in the end, they are going to need all the help they can get. To that end, you can only hope Tony Clark either attempts to incorporate them all into the union, or some Major Leaguer steps up and says enough is enough.

Short of that, there are going to be minor leaguers with the threat of no pay past April 8, and there may be many minor leaugers out of jobs this time next year due to contraction.

Trivia Friday: MLB Shortened Seasons

As time progresses, the chances of playing a full MLB season grows increasingly remote. Really, if we get even half a season at this point, we will be lucky. When and if that happens, this will officially be the seventh time in Major League history where we will have a shortened season.

Can you name all seven seasons? Good luck!


COVID19 Home School Plans: Smithsonian “Field Trip”

No, we can’t take our children on a field trip during COVID19 self isolation and quarantine. Even if you wanted, all of the Smithsonian museums are closed.

However, while they are closed, the Smithsonian museums are offering virtual tours.

The main tour is the Museum of Natural History, but they also have tours of past exhibits as well as limited tours of other Smithsonian Institutions.

To make sure your child is really doing the tour, you could even set up a virtual scavenger hunt. It’s not completely necessary either as the real goal is to get your kids to do something fun and educational to free you up to do work.