When Major League Baseball suspended play on Thursday, it was vague in its delay of the regular season. All we know is opening day will be delayed at least two weeks. But how long might the delay actually be?
“MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible,” the league statement read.
There are a lot of unknowns here, given that we don’t really know how widespread coronavirus is throughout the country just yet. That needs to be solved first, and is much more important that sports. But let’s indulge ourselves for a moment, and wonder when baseball might have its opening day.
If the best-case scenario happens, and we only miss the two weeks, the earliest opening day would be April 9. That’s the ideal.
If the delay lasts any longer, it’s reasonable to assume baseball might want to have a few exhibition games to get back on track to prepare for the season. The longer the delay, the longer this secondary spring training would be. As an extreme example, the strike in 1994-95 ended on April 2, and opening day in 1995 was pushed back to April 25, so spring training starting from scratch was three weeks.
It’s reasonable that if pitchers continue to throw on a reasonable schedule during the downtime, we wouldn’t need three weeks to get ready again for the season, but let’s call that the maximum re-training time needed.
There is also the issue of whether the missed games will be made up or if the season length will be shortened. The 1995 season was shortened to 144 games, but that didn’t stop baseball from delivering a 100-win team, and that abbreviated year produced the only 50-homer, 50-double season in baseball history.
Whether the schedule is shortened likely depends on the time missed, and the longer this drags on, the more likely we’ll have a truncated season on our hands, which hasn’t happened in baseball for non-strike reasons since 1918-19, when the last month of 1918 was canceled during World War I, and the next season was shortened. Dodgers first baseman Jake Daubert, our Dodgers rewind in the last podcast, sued owner Charlie Ebbets for not getting paid the rest of his contract. That suit was settled, and Ebbets traded Daubert to Cincinnati in the winter before 1919.
Teams and players are holding meetings as we speak, trying to figure out the next steps for this season, and how to plan for the interim without baseball.
But when might the 2020 season actually start?
Jeff Passan on ESPN Friday morning said expectations throughout MLB is that we won’t see baseball played before May, and an unnamed Reds player guessed it might take until Memorial Day for baseball to return, per the Cincinnati Enquirer.
What is your guess for opening day 2020? Leave your pick in the comments below.
I’ll start. I’m picking May 4, and this is pure speculation. But that would leave time for some sort of a spring training beforehand, maybe a week or so. I don’t think any games will be made up, which in the Dodgers’ case would make for a 133-game season.