(KPIX) — What a 2020 MLB season could look like is starting to come into focus. On Monday, MLB owners proposed an 82-game season beginning in July, with the playoff field expanded to 14 games. The MLB Players Association has yet to respond. But all planning remains fluid given the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic.
Whatever path the two sides choose, many details would need to be worked out, venues and health issues among them. The states of Arizona and Florida have made it clear that they would be interested in hosting baseball games. Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle recently highlighted some of the health concerns that would have to be addressed. Adequate testing and protection for at-risk players (those with pre-existing conditions) are among them.
For now, though, it’s nice to think about a future that includes baseball. “I can’t believe two months ago I was at Spring Training covering both the Giants and A’s,” marveled KPIX sports anchor Dennis O’Donnell. “And now, two months removed from that, still no baseball…”
A shorter season — fewer games in less time — would change how teams approach the game. As O’Donnell notes, “I’ve seen the NHL strike-shortened season, which I was good with. It means more emphasis on winning games because of the shortened season. But I’m totally good. I think 82 games is actually a great barometer for whether this team is a playoff team or not, 162 games is a long long season. I’m good with 82.”
A shorter season will only benefit the San Francisco Giants. This team doesn’t have enough talent to contend over a full season. Its core players are aging, and its young talent is inexperienced. But they could get hot and get lucky over an 82-game season and sneak into a broader playoff field.
“This is a rebuilding year for the Giants, a new manager, second-year vice president, a roster turnover, question marks all over the field,” O’Donnell says. “If you’re adding two playoff teams to the mix, that’s only good news for teams in the rebuilding mode, like the Giants are right now.”
The Oakland A’s are in a better position as far as talent. They’ve won 97 games the last two seasons and would have similar success in 2020 over a full season. But they’re stuck behind the Houston Astros, who have made the World Series the last two years. A quick start in a shortened season could give them a path to a division title. (It’s still unclear how dominant the Astros will be without the benefit of sign-stealing.)
“I think the A’s’ issue is to get to the next level,” according to O’Donnell. “They can make the playoffs, they’re a good team. They have to get beyond that wildcard game. They have to win the division outright and get to the American League Championship Series at least. I feel it’s a boom or bust year for the A’s in that regard.”