Though the road to setting up a shortened 2020 MLB season was anything but smooth, we can finally turn our attention to the on-field action after weeks of negotiations between owners and players. A 60-game season has been approved, with the usual ten playoff spots, and July 24 has been mentioned as a revised Opening Day.
In the meantime, teams will be scrambling to firm up training camp dates for the start of July while trying to figure out how to navigate the unprecedented protocols that will come hand-in-hand with this shortened season.
A whole new ballgame
It is hard to argue with the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees as the standout favourites for the World Series even in these unusual times, but a fast-tracked MLB season is certainly ripe for some surprises. The full 162-game season typically allows the deepest, more talented teams to rise to the top, but whittling the campaign down to 60 games opens the door for one or two unlikely playoff qualifiers. Make a slow start and the typical margin for error simply does not exist; get hot for a few weeks and lowly expectations could be thrown out of the window.
For the more casual fans that only really turn their attention to baseball when the postseason rolls round, there is now greater incentive to tune in for (and bet on) the regular season. With just 60 games for each team, every night should take on a more meaningful feel, particularly when we enter the second half of the campaign.
No shortage of subplots
While the increasingly bitter back and forth discussions between the owners and players have dominated the baseball headlines more recently, the on-field subplots will be revived as we inch closer to Opening Night/Weekend. We will delve into these stories in more detail in the weeks ahead, including the Houston Astros’ “sign-stealing saga” and how that might impact the franchise’s title odds.
Among the next steps for the MLB front office is the revised schedule, which will presumably confirm an edge for contending teams in weak divisions, given that divisional games will continue to take up a hefty chunk of the calendar. Still, at this point, do not expect too much grumbling, with the players reportedly itching to return. We are getting a 2020 MLB season – and that news, which looked far from a formality a few weeks ago, is worth celebrating in itself.