A couple of recent big leaguers created quite a stir when they suggested that MLB could have some dates in mind for starting play in the 2020 season. Trevor Plouffe (Twitter link) and Phil Hughes (Twitter link) indicated that a June 10th resumption of Spring Training and July 1st Opening Day were at least on the table (or about to be placed thereon).
There isn’t much support for Plouffe’s rather more optimistic initial framing of the dates, though subsequent developments indicate there could be some actual discussion of this general timeline. Phillies skipper Joe Girardi says he has “heard some chatter about that” potential schedule, as Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia writes. Jon Heyman of MLB Network characterized the dates as aspirational, as he has before (Twitter link).
Most interestingly, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic writes (subscription link) that Indians officials have floated a July 1st Opening Day in comments to players. But the dates were not set forth as as a firm plan so much as “mere targets, fully expected to change.”
This latest round of intrigue surrounding a resumption of play seems destined to go the way of the others we’ve seen — that is to say, it’ll ultimately prove obsolete when the next proposal hits the newswire. But that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant to discuss, given the indications of some level of realistic contemplation around the league.
It’s notable, at minimum, that MLB is considering a season in which most or all of the play would occur in its typical home parks. We’ve heard all manner of possibilities for play involving the gathering of players in certain geographical areas, which broadly would hold out some potential for limiting certain risks associated with hosting games during a pandemic but also quite a few logistical and other challenges.
More interesting still is the concept of re-gathering players as soon as a month from now. Agent Scott Boras would like to see it occur even sooner than that, though there’s no shortage of reasons to question whether his viewpoint will take the day.
Though we’re still left without anything approaching real guideposts for a return of professional baseball to North America, it seems safe to presume that notions of a 162-game season can safely be put to rest. At the same time, the desire to attempt something like an otherwise mostly “normal” campaign (albeit sans fans in attendance) may be rising, as against the more drastic changes to the format of the game that had previously been floated.
Indeed, the major takeaway here may lie elsewhere in Rosenthal’s report. He writes that “the league’s goal, according to sources, is to open in as many home cities as possible.” Unfortunately, it still seems more an informed hope than a developed plan at this stage.