Is MLB Ready to Play Ball?


Season Lost or Salvageable?

On March 12th, 2020, the guillotine fell on the MLB season, postponing spring training and delaying the start of the regular season schedule. But several weeks later, and with the global pandemic showing signs of waning, albeit ever so slightly, the question fans want answered is when will the Boys of Summer return? And will there be a truncated schedule to prevent November and December baseball?

It would be a stretch to envision baseball on Thanksgiving or holding the playoffs during Christmas, not to mention the battle for viewers against the undisputed king – the NFL. But at least it’s heartening that all of the best online sportsbooks, are still dealing MLB odds on teams to win the division, the pennant, and World Series . If the bookmakers aren’t giving up then why should we?

Good News on the Horizon?

Major League Baseball’s commissioner, Rob Manfred, issued the following statement in late April, “While I fully anticipate that baseball will resume this season, it is very difficult to predict with any accuracy the timeline for the resumption of our season.”

Sounds like a perfectly politically ambiguous answer but it did elaborate that non-players (managers, coaches, scouts, etc..) would have their contracts suspended on May 1st but virtually all 30 MLB teams have guaranteed paychecks for their non-rostered employees until the end of May.

That is a potential starting point for a plan to be put in place to reintroduce the 2020 MLB season and a number of possibilities are being tossed around. Warm weather states like Arizona, Georgia, Florida, and Texas have all been bandied about as possible locations to host the season and all will have quarantine restrictions lifted sooner than most.

The most reasonable, and logical, the choice is to have these warm-weather cities host what could be a two to three-week spring training in June and begin the regular-season slate in July. Executing a 162-game schedule as though nothing happened would be nearly impossible but an abbreviated season consisting of roughly 100 games is doable. The playoffs could then be held in warm weather locations during the month of November and all will be right in the world. Until next season, of course, when a late ending in 2020 could delay spring training in 2021.

MLB Throwback to MJ

The year was 1994 and Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player to ever grace the hardcourt, announced he was leaving the NBA to pursue a career in Major League Baseball. The White Sox were more than willing to give him a spot on their Double-A roster, the Birmingham Barons, and Jordan eagerly accepted.

Ultimately the experiment was short-lived as MJ batted just .202 on the season with three home runs, and returned a year later to the Bulls to resume his Hall-of-Fame basketball career. But unbeknownst to most, another suitor was trying to win Jordan’s affection and promised him an immediate spot on an MLB roster.

Sandy Alderson, former Oakland A’s GM, told ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” the following, “You recall when Jordan stopped playing basketball and decided to try baseball, and ultimately went down to the Birmingham Barons — the Chicago White Sox affiliate,” Alderson said. “When I heard that was happening, or about to happen, I called his agent right away and said, ‘Hey look, I understand he may be going to Double-A. I don’t even know who the 25th man is on our major league team right now, I will sign him and put him on the major league roster. He’ll be part of our 25-man team. Tomorrow.’”

Alderson goes on to say that getting him on the Athletics’ 25-man roster had nothing to do with his talent and everything to do with who he was. “It wasn’t about, ‘We’ve got a spot for him, he’s got a particular skill,’” Alderson noted. “That wasn’t the idea. The idea was, ‘ We’ve got Michael Jordan on our team ‘ and the interest that would have generated.”

In other words, it’s all about entertainment and getting eyeballs on your product. Alderson knew the formula well, toiling in the same franchise that the late businessman/showman, Charlie Finley, brought to Oakland in the late 1960s. Would Jordan have succeeded in Oakland at the Major League level? Fat chance but it certainly saved MJ from the public embarrassment of being a living legend in one sport, dying a slow death in another.