The fate of Major League Baseball’s 2020 season is up in the air as the world reels from the coronavirus pandemic. At the very least, its form will have to be altered. That is not what anyone wished for, but if public health eventually stabilizes enough to allow for sporting events, an unusual season could carry a small opportunity for America’s most tradition-bound game. A season that is already inherently different is a chance to float a trial balloon, to see how different the sport can be before we denounce it as too different.
So, we assembled the Yahoo Sports baseball staff in Slack, put the more pressing pandemic-related questions to the side for a moment, and took to the whiteboard, so to speak: What experiments could baseball run in 2020 that might stick around?
This is part two of our three-part conversation. You can read part one here. - Zach Crizer
EXPERIMENT: What’s so sacred about the three-game series?
Hannah Keyser: Teams should play fewer, longer series and the schedule should be determined based on ease of geography. All in all: Less overall travel mileage. This year that’s important because cramming as many games into as few days as possible requires stepping on some of the CBA-negotiated off days and lessening those cross-country flights should help make that possible. But in the long run: This is the biggest and most important step baseball can take to cut down on carbon emissions. Going from three- or four-game series to six-game series would be such a tremendous step towards making the sport more sustainable and I don't really see a downside.
Call the initiative ... ~sustaina-ball~. 😏
Jack Baer: You had me until that last line.
Mike Oz: Can we have a “Shank Tank” moment here and go in this together? Because my experimental pitch is similar.
Keyser: Let's hear it.
Oz: I can't take credit for it. It belongs to a ball writer who I can't remember at the moment (sorry!) but I've often wondered how it would actually look in real life and I feel like this is the time to try it.
Teams play one series per week, first to three or four games wins the series. Like head-to-head fantasy baseball, you're only playing for the series win — not the game wins. You get the drama of a Game 5 or Game 7 every week. If you sweep someone, you get time off. It makes all pitching decisions a lot more interesting. Gives you postseason-style drama all the time.
Oz: And taking all your ideas about travel, makes it stronger.
Keyser: Now we're getting weird.
Chris Cwik: It's so good I want to drop some swear words.
I love it.
Mark Townsend: I believe we have a winner.
Keyser: Ticket sales gonna get wonkyyyy.
Cwik: Ah, yeah. The owners would never go for it. But it's incredible.
Zach Crizer: Man this would produce some MOTIVATED baseball players.
Keyser: Playing for a chance to take the second half of the week off.
Oz: I THINK it belongs to AJ Cassavell, btw, but I did a bunch of searches and can't be 100 percent.
Baer: Would make an ace even more valuable. Imagine a Max Scherzer or Jacob deGrom pitching 30 percent of your games.
Keyser: OK OK OK, here is the problem: Individual stats would be rendered totally meaningless. Because each team would play a different number of games.
Baer: Ah, true.
Crizer: [Busts through the door Kool-Aid Man-style suggesting the public adopt adjusted rate stats.] 🤓
Baer: Maybe you could go to a per-game basis for most stats, but the mystique of all the home run and strikeout records would be lost.
Keyser: Like, think about Pete Alonso's home run chase if his team doing well meant FEWER opportunities.
Oz: I quite honestly don't care about how much money owners make, stats, etc. I just think it makes a better product.
Cwik: Well, the ball is juiced, so who cares about that.
The integrity of the game is already gone.
Townsend: In general, I'm all for any suggestion involving less random travel during the season. It always bugs me when the schedule brings a team home for a two-game series and then sends them back somewhere random.
Oz: I think Hannah explanation of why the travel is important goes well with the building blocks of how the games are played.
Baer: So with the Hannah plan, maybe you just play a six-game series at one field and eliminate the home-and-home for non-division opponents?
Townsend: Absolutely. Then just rotate that year-by-year.
Crizer: Yeah I think you re-jigger the schedule so division opponents play long series at each park, and non-division opponents play one long series at alternating parks in alternating years.
Oz: I think figuring out who plays who is another big issue with this. You lose a lot of interleague opportunities. You probably gotta play the division games in both cities.
Or what Zach said.
Crizer: Kudos to whoever gets the Orioles in Baltimore.
Keyser: I mean, is there anything precious at all about such short series?!
I see almost no downside to it being like Rays Week in New York or whatever.
Baer: Some teams might grumble about their pitchers being exposed to hitters multiple times in a week, but who cares.
Townsend: Yankees Week in Tampa would outdraw the rest of their home schedule.
Cwik: Are they playing six games every series? Only one day off per week? That would be a harder sell to the players, I bet.
Crizer: I think that’s more off days than they have now.
Baer: Yeah, designating, like, Monday as the regular day off might be nice.
Townsend: Of course this might also mean ... six-man rotations!
BONUS INTERLUDE (To discuss domes, again)
Cwik: But what do you do about rainouts?
Keyser: Seven-inning doubleheaders!
Cwik: Yeah, Hannah. Now who needs domes?
You think you know your coworkers, but then one of them reveals themselves to be anti domes during a meeting and you start to question everything about your work atmosphere.
— Chris Cwik (@Chris_Cwik) March 24, 2020
baseball should be played in weather
— Hannah Keyser (@HannahRKeyser) March 24, 2020
Crizer: Well, if every Monday is an off day, you have a built-in solution.
Cwik: Not if you're rained out Thursday.
Crizer: Yeah you play it Monday, then the teams travel.
Cwik: Haha, I understand how weeks work. Definitely.
Townsend: And if it snows in Denver on Tuesday, don't worry, it'll be 80 on Wednesday.
END BONUS INTERLUDE
Oz: The other downfall is if you don't have weekend games because series end early. That's not good. So they might need to start on Friday.
Crizer: Right the Oz Plan needs to start on Friday. The Hannah Plan could start on Tuesdays.
Oz: I say let's do it.
Keyser: If we could free ourselves from the shackles of historical comparisons there's a lot to love about the Oz Plan, but alas, I don't think the general public is ready and willing to giving up counting stats.
Cwik: Since fantasy baseball got me into the game, I like Oz's idea of weekly series quite a bit. It screws up plenty about the game, but you keep fans of every team invested. I also love the idea of cutting down on emissions and travel because I care about that stuff, so I'm glad Hannah mentioned that aspect of it.
Townsend: I'm intrigued by this and would be on board if MLB set aside three or four years to try it out. Honestly, I think there's a potentially good solution somewhere in there if they can get the players with it.
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