Crown Me Commish: An MLB Shortened-Season!

One thing we know about this virus is that there’s little concrete idea how long our world will be on hold and/or lockdown. Some are guessing life will resume, slightly-altered, in a few months. Others are estimating 6. Then there are the extreme measures that are guessing social distancing will be worldwide for 18 months. One thing is for certain and if baseball is played there will be an MLB Shortened Season.

My personal opinion is that baseball doesn’t resume in 2020, but that will not stop me from creating what I think would be 3 months worth of a remarkable MLB shortened season that would begin in August in what would be a 1/3 year, or a 54 game season.

MLB Shortened Season: Adjustments to Roster Size

26-Man rosters will be the norm going forward after 2020, but with starting pitchers being short on time to stretch out, rosters for 2020 will start and end with 28 players on the team: 13 position players, 15 pitchers.

MLB Shortened Season: Divisions be Damned

For this 54 game season, we are doing away with divisions. The sample is already so small that it mitigates any reason to crown division winners. Sorry, Miami Marlins fans….this won’t be your year. More on this when we get to playoffs.

No Interleague Play

If we’re doing away with division crowns, we might as well award the 1 team that stands atop each league at the end of play. With that thought in mind, for this 1 year, teams will go back to playing teams only in their league with less focus on playing within their division, rather playing everyone in their own league 3-4 times.

MLB Shortened Season Structure

July

  • MLB teams will have a redo on Spring Training in the month of July with the first week being strength and conditioning, and the last 3 weeks of live games.
  • I’m still pondering the idea of location as it wouldn’t be ideal to have these games take place at Spring Training complexes, considering the heat. I’m leaning toward the stadiums with retractable roofs or domes. Game structuring could be difficult…this is the least thought through part of my plan.

August

  • Opening Day, August 1st. Each team will play 28 games in the month.
  • Each team will receive 2 off days during play for the month.
  • All games on the 29th would be day games to allow for All-Star game travel.
  • A remarkably small sample size will make the All-Star Game of 2020 pretty dadgum awesome, which would take place on 1 day, August 30th, a full on extravaganza with HR derby followed by the game.
  • August 31st: Off day….but Trade Day! Teams will have 1 day and 1 day only to make trades to better their team. A free for all for 24 hours!

September

  • September 1st: 2nd half baseball is on. 29 days to play 27 games. 2 off days per team for the month of September.
  • September 30-October 1st: Games that could change standings that were rained out will be played during these days.

Playoff Structure

  • When game number 55 is played for all 30 teams, each league will have a league winner. This winner will receive a bye for the first round of playoffs.
  • October 2nd, The Bracket. This is where it gets funky. With the top team in each league receiving a bye, the 28 teams will be ordered from top to bottom based on win %. However, since the sample is so small, the number 2 seed for each league will get to choose their opponent for the first round, and process will continue down to 3, 4, 5, and 6 choosing their opponent.
  • October 4th, games begin. The 1st round, 5-game series across 7 days with 14 series going on each day across both leagues. Think March Madness, baby!
  • October 11th, The 2nd round begins, a 5-game series across a week with 8 series going on. Again, March Madness.
  • October 18th, The 3rd round will be a 5-game series across a week with 4 series going on.
  • October 28th, The 4th round will be a 7-game series across a week and a half with 2 series going on.
  • November 9th, The 5th round…World Series, BABY!

Thanks for reading on our MLB Shortened Season Idea. If you enjoyed this piece, maybe you’d like to see our piece on Austin Riley and Johan Camargo.

Long live Braves Journal!

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

32 thoughts on “Crown Me Commish: An MLB Shortened-Season!”

  1. I appreciate the sentiment, and love the subject of the statement, and this is a minor thing, but I don’t think we need “Long Live Braves Journal!” at the end of every post. Feels distracting to me.

  2. Still hoping for a late May resumption baseball activities and a half season full of games (and never play interleague again!)

  3. I think the July “Spring Training” games could basically just be structured as exhibition games — like the last games before opening day, or the in-season exhibition games or barnstorming games they used to have. Squads suited up, but the games don’t count in the standings.

    The real issue is travel — you can’t just drive to the next stadium, you’re going to have a fly a few hours. So you can’t easily do split squads, and you can’t really get in the amount of work that you can when everything’s closer in.

    (Plus, air travel restrictions will likely last longer than shelter in place orders, just because air travel brings so much increased risk of new outbreaks.)

    In the meantime, while we’re still waiting on the full all-clear, seeing some real old-fashioned barnstorming could be really, really cool. Like, if a city with a full baseball team held a sort of semipro series where the 25-man roster was split evenly between two squads, with the best non-professional baseball players in the city rounding out the two rosters — high school and college players, nearby minor leaguers, recent grads. Wouldn’t that be fun?

    Rob, would you try out?

  4. I love predictions, and I won’t predict that there will be baseball in May, though I think it’s well within the realm of possibility. But I’m convinced there will be baseball in June.

    If the season is delayed until August, I think this is a cool idea.

  5. Haha I was never that good to begin with, and I’m undoubtedly horrible now. I haven’t hit against anything other than batting cage fastballs in close to 10 years.

    I think one of the new writers is a pretty good ballplayer. Can’t remember which one.

  6. This is an excellent idea, Ryan. Love it.
    I would even go so far as no off days at all – possible thanks to your idea of extended rosters and since it’s only 50+ games, who needs an off day anyways.
    I think spring training is too long. All players should arrive conditioned and then two weeks of spring training games, double headers every day. The heat during that time and therefore location is a challenge though. But somehow this could actually work.

  7. Regardless of when play resumes, Spring Training is an interesting discussion. Considering the minor leagues need their time to ramp up too, like you said TD, I would play double header split squads 10-12 days out of 14 to have a quick 2 week Spring Training. Then let’s go. Statistical integrity be damned; everyone is playing by the same rules. If guys like Roger Clemens and Dallas Keuchel can essentially join everyone mid-season while training on their own time and in theory be behind everyone, the entire league should just be able to figure it out and get rolling.

  8. @7: With no interleague play, and with 15 teams in each league, every day has to have at least one team off in each league. The requirement for no interleague play would mean that there would be teams taking off weekend days… This is a problem.

  9. Or you could just leave off Houston (for cheating) and St. Louis (because they’re the Cardinals.) Then you’d have two leagues of 14.

  10. Why stop there? I can get you a solid list of terrible franchises to get us down to a clean 5 x 5 league.

  11. Syndergaard’s having Tommy John surgery, and this is my shocked face.

  12. We don’t hear about guys needing TJ in the middle of the offseason. Why are so many happening right now with a lengthy lull in the action? Are they all keeping in game-ready shape?

  13. Besides the logistical issues Jonathan F points out, I don’t care for playing a season just to seed the bracket. I’d say no more than 16 teams for the tournament. You could make all the rounds 7 games and still wrap up on roughly the same schedule. Instead of eliminating the divisions, maybe instead have most all games between division teams with the extra games all coming against teams from one other division in the other league (so that all teams in the division play about the same schedule). Take the top two teams in each division, then 2 wild cards to round out the field.

  14. I like the idea, but I can’t say I want a playoffs of all 30 teams with multiple 5 game rounds. I think ~16 teams with 7 game rounds would be fun to watch, with a season of 50-60 games that should be enough to get an ok feel of which teams will be in the basement while still giving teams that are hovering at or a tad below .500 a chance to sneak in.

  15. @14, this isn’t the middle of the offseason, though — this is after they played about a month of baseball right after a long offseason. This is right when their arms really would start barking. If rest and rehab really could solve the problem, now would be the literally perfect time to avoid surgery, because everyone has nothing but time for rest and rehab.

  16. I get the sentiment about the 30-team playoffs, but we’re not talking about a model that would be going forward. We are talking about a model that would make a killing for MLB and cause fans to come out in flocks.

  17. @14 I meant that we’re not in the midst of a season. But you’re right; they’re still right in the midst of pitching on a schedule even though there’s no games.

    @16 That’s a heck of a gamble. If the season starts June 1, then you just punted on a season because you’re “only” going to make 20 starts vs. 33 starts. And even if it’s only 20 starts, you’re also punting on the most important innings: the postseason.

    I don’t know enough about how players make the decision to get TJ. Do they feel it’s at all discretionary? I know, when referring to minor leaguers, there’s the sentiment that they “might as well get it out of the way”, but if you’re Noah Syndergaard, are you really saying, “All, hell, let’s punt on one of the few seasons in my prime. After all, I’m missing a couple-few months right off the bat.” I genuinely don’t know if that’s a thought process.

  18. @Rob
    You’re not looking at it from Syndergaard’s point of view. He’ll get paid this year. He’s going to be moved to the 60-Day IL. Next year, he’ll be arb-eligible for the last time. Assuming he goes under the knife soon, he’ll have a brand new ligament and a 1/2 season’s worth of baseball going into his free agent year.

  19. I doubt that anyone regards major surgery as Plan A. I don’t think that any doctor would give advice along the lines of “might as well get it out of the way.” Major surgery of any kind should generally be the last resort.

  20. @22 You’re assuming Syndergaard doesn’t want to win, which I don’t. The Mets are supposed to be good this year. IF (big assumption) the surgery was remotely elective, he potentially punted on a season because of 10-13 starts out of self-interest. If I’m a pitcher and I’m not dealing with an injury, I’m probably really excited to start a season in June/July (or later, I know, relax) and pitching the regular season and postseason in less than 200 IP. But to be your point, it’s very possible some of these guys are less optimistic about the season and are approaching it as a mild throw away.

    @23 You’re probably right. I’ve just read so much sentiment that TJ is, at some point, a foregone conclusion that a pitcher ought to just go ahead and get done and get it out of the way. Does a 27-year old in the prime of his career look at it that way? To your point, probably not.

    Overall, there are some really interesting things to consider with this special season, and this is one of them: at one point does a player, from a personal standpoint, view this season from a more personal lens. Is that right or wrong?

  21. I would think Syndegaard would be more likely to get the surgery the season before his last arb year instead of the season before he hits free agency, if he had to choose.

  22. @Rob

    It’s also important to remember that Syndergaard’s relationship with the Mets hasn’t been very good.

    I think the underlying reason is pretty easy to figure out. His tendon has probably been partially torn for a while now and he’s just pitched through it like many do. With the delay to the season , the possibility of 0 baseball, and the fact that he could be ready in July of next year, right before he hits free agency, all came together to make an fairly easy decision.

    Also, he hates the Mets.

  23. @20 if everyone makes the playoffs then there is nothing at stake during the season. If you want fans (and players) to care about those games, it doesn’t work IMO.

  24. Don’t worry about this thread JC’ing you as it’ll stay up for one more day as it’s done what it should’ve done, and changed our focus.

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