HOW SHOULD MLB SCHEDULE THEIR SEASON?

HOW SHOULD MLB SCHEDULE THEIR SEASON?

Ryan Hickey gives his thoughts on how MLB should schedule their season. Listen to The Morning Boys w/ Ryan Hickey every Monday/Thursday from 9:00 am – 11:00 am ET.

NEW YORK, N.Y.- The sun shone bright on a gorgeous Thursday afternoon, the perfect setting for what was supposed to be a celebration of the start of the Major League Baseball season. Instead, the perfect day for baseball was more of a tease. A “what could have been” if the world wasn’t ravaged by the Coronavirus pandemic. There is hope, though, that a baseball season will be played in 2020, either as normal or as close to normal as possible given the circumstances. The big question from a baseball perspective is how will the season play out if and when play resumes?

There have already been some intriguing suggestions, including holding the World Series during Christmas and seven-inning doubleheaders. Those suggestions can’t be implemented before the most basic question is answered: how many games will be played? 162? 125? 81? All of these suggestions and questions circle around the sport, as a solution can only be thought about once the world can return to some sort of normality. With that said though, let’s have some fun and discuss the best way MLB and commissioner Rob Manfred can go about scheduling their season that would be beneficial for everyone.

Major League Baseball is still hoping for the season to kick off in early June, as Manfred spoke with Scott Van Pelt earlier this week and hoped that spring training can resume again in early May, setting the stage for a June start. So, the start date I am going to use here is June 1st. The season would start as scheduled for that day, as every team’s current opponent for the first day of June would be their Opening Day opposition. By picking up the schedule from that point, many exciting matchups are still preserved, including: Red Sox-Cubs, Astros-Nationals, Yankees-White Sox at the Field of Dreams and Red Sox-Orioles in Williamsport.

Image courtesy of Citi Field

I would institute doubleheaders every other Sunday, so extra games are fit in while not draining the players. Many teams and players have expressed the want to play as many games as possible, as Rockies manager Bud Black supported the idea of doubleheaders every week and Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins is in favor of seven-inning doubleheaders to ease the toll on the players while still squeezing in as many games as possible. Let’s not forget, the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. Despite the shortened season days wise, trying to fit a grueling schedule into a shorter time period will only wear down players and cause more injuries and sloppy play. The extra game every other week helps to give players, and more importantly pitchers, a chance to recover while still making up for lost time.

I would also extend the end of the season two extra weeks, moving the end of the regular season from September 27th to October 11th. This will allow for the addition of roughly 13 games, so teams can get as close to the 162-game schedule as possible. All-Star week would also be pushed back from July to August, so Los Angeles will still get to host the event and players will have enough time to prove their worthiness of an All-Star nod.

All of these conditions add up to the playing of 126 games from June 1st through early October. That equates to about 77% of the season being played, which is just behind the NBA’s rough estimate of 80% of their schedule being completed for some teams. With both the NBA and NHL considering going right to the playoffs if play resumes, my schedule proposal would put MLB in the same spot in terms of the percent of their regular season completed.

The playoffs are where it gets a little interesting. Pushing the season back an extra two weeks should still allow teams in bad weather cities to host playoff games in their home ballparks. There have been proposals and discussions of neutral site playoff games, with agent Scott Boras wanting the entire playoffs and World Series to be played at neutral sites. With so much baseball already taken away from fans, my scheduling goal is to allow teams that play in cold weather cities to still be able to host playoff games to reward their fans. After all, playoff baseball’s allure is due in part to the raucous environments that the fans provide, as anticipation is palpable on every single pitch.

I would still keep the World Series format the same, as the team with the better record will get home field advantage. I would try my hardest to keep the World Series in the cities that are playing in them because air travel might not return to normal by November and with so many companies laying off employees, fans might not be able to afford to fly to a neutral site to watch their team. A contingency plan would be put in place to have a few different stadiums on call to host the World Series if the weather doesn’t allow for playing in a certain city, but that would be the last resort. Currently, there are options being floated around like expanding the postseason and moving the World Series to a neutral site, options that make sense from a financial perspective to make up for lost revenue but ideas that I would stay away from because they take even more baseball away from the fans and dampen the playoff atmosphere.

This is obviously an unprecedented situation not just in sports, but in the world. MLB has done a good job so far in recognizing this and have entertained many different ways for how baseball could get their season on track. Trying to play 162 games is unrealistic at this point, which is why 126 games is Major League Baseball’s best way to get the most out of a shortened season while also keeping the schedule as normal as possible. That last phrase is critical, because in these times of uncertainty, a sense of normality is the biggest thing that fans need right now.

Pete Rose Time

Pete Rose Time

So since all sports have wisely shit themselves and postponed their seasons, we have a bunch of topics to discuss that really avoid attention once the regular seasons begin. I’m going to touch on as many as time permits, but I plan on starting with the most important one:

It’s time to put Pete Rose in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I can go over his resume, for those that are young and not too familiar with the guy nicknamed “Charlie Hustle” because he’s always play hard, even down to running out his walks. In fact, let me point out a few highlights of a 24 year career:

  • 7x led league in hits
  • 5x led league in doubles
  • 4x led league in runs
  • 3x led league in batting average
  • 2x led league in on base percentage
  • ALL TIME LEADER IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL FOR:
    • Games played (3652)
    • Plate Appearances (15890)
    • At Bats (14053)
    • HITS (4256)

So you might be saying- all time leader in hits AND plate appearances? Sounds like a compiler. I can see why you’d say that. But it’s not common for a compiler to do the following:

  • Rookie of the Year
  • 17x all star
  • A Silver Slugger at age 40
  • 13x top ten in batting average
  • An All Star at 3rd base, 2nd base, 1st base, left field, and right field. Wow.
  • 2 gold gloves as an outfielder, then switched to being an infielder
  • Career .321 hitter in the postseason
  • World Series MVP in 1975 for an on base percentage of .485 WITHOUT using a garbage can
  • MVP votes in the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s
  • 3 World Series in 6 appearances

Nobody is getting more hits. OK, some would make that the point that Ichiro had more hits. But we have to be fair- Ichiro played a large part of his career facing pitching that is subpar to MLB. In American baseball? Ichiro was not a productive player after age 36. He only hit better than .280 twice over his final NINE seasons. Rose? Over his final 9 seasons, he hit .300 or better three times, and added two more .280 plus seasons, including a season where he hit .365 after a late season trade. At 43. At age 43? Ichiro managed 59 more career hits. Rose? 262. Rose had a batting of .262 in his last 3 seasons to Ichiros 241, except Rose managed 1016 at bats over those 3 years to Ichiro’s 245.

Already washed up

I’m not picking on Ichiro. He is a Baseball Hall of Famer. But so is Pete Rose.

Here are players Baseball Reference compare careerwise to Pete Rose:

Ty Cobb

Paul Molitor

Tris Speaker

Robin Yount

Paul Waner

George Brett

Cap Anson

Derek Jeter

Lou Brock

Johnny Damon

NINE of those guys are hall of famers. Ty Cobb was an asshole, even for his day. And he was a first ballot Hall of Famer. Damon’s name is interesting on that list, and may be a discussion on day about does Johnny Damon belong in Cooperstown. My opinion? Close…but no cigar.

“Sliding”

Now, we all know the reason Rose isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame- he gambled on baseball, and then lied about it.

OF COURSE he lied about it. It wasn’t allowed. But…it wasn’t performance enhancing, either. And there is NO evidence that Rose ever bet AGAINST his team….which is extremely arrogant. He just expected to win every time he bet? Which you could argue is an attempt at compensation for a guy ending a career with one $1 million payday in 1986- the only season where he had a 7 figure income- whereas many other players were making millions a season around him that accomplished a lot less. He may have been bitter over not being part of the money era, which only got crazier in later years.

But to ban a guy forever over an issue that wasn’t cheating? Today, baseball lets gambling happen. Rose was a pioneer, not a martyr.

Yes, he lied about his involvement. Sometimes lying is an expected behavior. It’s probably why baseball included a clause for reinstatement in Rose’s ban. Look, in the last two impeachments of presidents? One lied about getting a blow job. One lied about a pandemic. They’ll still both have presidential libraries, both likely filled with issues of Playboy.

Nice flow…

And as far MLB’s hard stand on Rose? Rose’s name is already in the Hall of Fame, in case you have never visited. There’s a list of hit leaders in baseball- Rose is at the top of the list. There’s Reds and Phillies memorabilia from their championship teams. The Cincinnati Reds inducted Rose into their team Hall of Fame. The Phillies almost did the same in 2017 until 1970 called an alleged Me Too into the Age of Unreason, where the good of the many is apparently outweighed by the allegation of just one person from 50 years ago.

One Small Step for Rose…

Companies have policies where they hang individuals out to dry, like Apple did with Steve jobs or some editor did to Walt Disney because his cartoons sucked. Both of those guys ended up having names and careers bigger than their industry. Today, people have a stroke over a guy with 3000 career hits. It’s a benchmark that just about guarantees entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. So what if a guy had, 30% more than that? Rose’s name is like Jobs or Disney- iconic in their field.

And baseball? After the bungling of the Houston Astros cheating like a bunch of scumbags scandal? You have no legs to stand on when it comes to morals. Sure, you’ll ban chewing tobacco, but you won’t ban gambling. Unless it happened before you figured out how to profit off of it, right? So its time to get off of your not so high horse and do something that’s right for the fans, and for the game.

If SHE’s ok with him…

We aren’t asking a guy that cheated on the field to get in. Shit, that won’t even get you suspended. But to ban a guy forever for what you presently do? You’re showing your true colors as a sport, and those colors are all just green in the end.

Can the Yankees withstand the injury bug again in 2020?

Can the Yankees withstand the injury bug again in 2020?

Friday was again not a good day for the Yankees, as the team found out the problem that’s been bugging their face of the franchise. It was revealed that Aaron Judge’s injury is a stress fracture in his rib that he suffered back in September at Yankee Stadium on a diving play in the outfield against the Los Angeles Angels. Manager Aaron Boone said they will shut down Judge for two weeks, and then reevaluate him. While the Yankees will certainly hope for the best, Boone did not rule out Judge getting surgery.
Judge’s rib injury is the latest in a slew of injuries over the course of Spring Training for New York with little over two weeks to go until the start of the regular season. Along with Judge, the Yankees will not have Giancarlo Stanton for opening day and maybe a bit longer with a grade 1 calf strain, Aaron Hicks won’t be back until August off of Tommy John surgery, Luis Severino will miss the whole year due to Tommy John, and James Paxton will be out the first few months of the season after getting back surgery. All these injuries are reminding the Yankees faithful of the 2019 campaign.
Last year, the Yankees lost Judge and Luke Voit for a few months, Stanton, Hicks, and Severino for most of the season, Miguel Andujar missed the rest of the year after undergoing shoulder surgery, Dellin Betances pitched one game in September coming off a bone spur but tore his Achilles during that outing, Didi Gregorius was out until June after he had to get Tommy John surgery in the offseason, and New York signed Troy Tulowitzki to a one-year deal but he only played five games before suffering a calf strain and subsequently retiring after being placed on the 60-day injured list. Through it all, the Yankees persevered and still won 103 games in 2019 and winning the AL East by seven games over the Tampa Bay Rays, thanks in part to guys such as Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, and Gio Urshela stepping up.
A lot of questions were asked about Boone as a manager when New York first hired him, but he answered those questions after doing a fantastic job in 2019 by leading the Yankees to the American League Championship series, and you could certainly make the case he should’ve won AL Manager of the Year. Now, Boone and the Yankees will have to do a repeat of that performance from a year ago.
With the talent and depth the Yankees have on the roster, they have the capability to overcome these injuries again. On offense, the team still has Gary Sanchez, a returning Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, Gio Urshela and Voit to be big contributors with the absence of Stanton, Judge, and Hicks. Torres continued to develop into a real good player in 2019, LeMahieu had an MVP caliber season, and Urshela stepped up big in the absence of Andujar. New York will also have to count on Tauchman and Ford again. The biggest factor in all of this might fall on the starting pitching staff.
The Yankees starting pitching in 2020 was expected to be one of the best in baseball and it looked to be the kind of rotation Brian Cashman had been looking for to win another World Series, especially with the prized signing of Gerrit Cole. With Severino out for the year, and Paxton out for the first part of the season, there are two spots open in the rotation for guys like Jordan Montgomery and Jonathan Losiaga to step up. For Cole, the onus now falls even more on him to live up to his massive contract the Yankees gave him. The pressure is really on J.A. Happ now to have a bounce back season. The Yankees can always at least count on Masahiro Tanaka to give solid outings when he takes the mound. The Yankees have shown they are in the market for help in the rotation by calling the New York Mets about Steven Matz, but the Mets asked for Andujar in return to which the Yankees declined.
In the AL East, the Rays look to be the only threat to the Yankees with the Boston Red Sox in transition, the Toronto Blue Jays still being young and developing, and the Baltimore Orioles in the midst of a big rebuild and being one of the worst teams in baseball. The Rays won 96 games last year and had a golden opportunity to take advantage of the Yankees injury woes and win the division, but the New York kept persevering and ended up going 12-7 against Tampa Bay in 2019. With the injuries hurting the Yankees again, the Rays have another chance to gain an early lead in the division.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility the Yankees overcome these injuries again and continue to win because of the roster they’ve built. It is, however, extremely hard to repeat that performance and count on guys like Tauchman to contribute in a big way again. Just like last year, Boone has his work cut out for him, and he’s going to have to work his same magic again.

The Mets success in 2020 rides on Edwin Diaz

The Mets success in 2020 rides on Edwin Diaz

The New York Mets can be an odd franchise to figure out. Heading into 2019, the team had high hopes after having an offseason filled with new faces led by general manager Brodie Van Wagenen. Signing free agents such as catcher Wilson Ramos, relief pitchers Justin Wilson and Jeurys Familia, as well as bringing in J.D. Davis. Brodie’s most notable move was trading away Anthony Swarzak, Jay Bruce, Gerson Bautista, and highly touted prospects Justin Dunn and Jared Kelenic to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Diaz was the prized acquisition of the two after he saved 109 games for Seattle in three years there, but things went to disaster in a hurry.

Diaz started off fine with the Mets through the first month of the season, showing why the Mets acquired him and displaying his talents to the Citi Field faithful by getting eight saves through his first twelve appearances. On April 29th however against the Cincinnati Reds, things went to a downward spiral for the former AL All-Star as he gave up a go-ahead home run in a tie game to Jesse Winker as the Reds won 5-4 at Citi Field. From there, Diaz could never replicate his early April success.

Diaz ended up going 2-7 out of the pen, with a 5.59 ERA in 66 games, blowing seven saves in the process. Diaz was a main factor in the Mets bullpen being one of the worst in baseball in 2019. New York’s bullpen had a team ERA of 4.95 for a Mets team that started off poorly and was certainly on pace for a massive rebuild after the season but finished strong and almost made the playoffs with 86 wins last year. Setting things up for high expectations in 2020.

Seth Lugo, coming off a couple of stellar years in the bullpen is back, Justin Wilson had a nice year, and the Mets were able to sign free agent Dellin Betances to help the bullpen. New York is also betting on Familia to have a bounce back year after he had a terrible 2019 of his own. All eyes though will be on the much-maligned Diaz as he looks to return to his 2017 and 2018 form from Seattle. Diaz is the key to the Mets this year.

Even with a great starting rotation and a good lineup, if Diaz struggles yet again, the Mets could be in trouble. Lugo has stepped up as a closer before, but Betances is just coming off missing an entire year due to injury, and as mentioned before Familia and guys like Robert Gsellman are looking for bounce back years to. The Mets bullpen derailed any chance the team had at a 2019 playoff appearance in the end. Many are worried the bullpen will cost them yet again, but Diaz can change any worry about the entire season if he returns to his old self. The Mets need it, but most importantly, Edwin Diaz needs it.

The Yankees shouldn’t regret the Giancarlo Stanton trade

The Yankees shouldn’t regret the Giancarlo Stanton trade

As the New York Yankees prepare for a 2020 season that is fully expected by many to end in the teams 28th World Series championship, the team is once again being hit by the proverbial injury bug. James Paxton will be out for a few months after undergoing back surgery, and the Yankees lost Luis Severino for the year after he had to undergo Tommy John Surgery after feeling soreness in his forearm. The team is also going to be without outfielder Aaron Hicks until at least August after he underwent Tommy John surgery. Even slugger Aaron Judge is battling a shoulder injury in Spring Training. However, one injury to another slugger has got many talking, especially after his 2019 season became a lost one.

Giancarlo Stanton has become a polarizing name in New York, and the news of his grade 1 calf strain certainly became a topic of discussion after last seasons slew of shoulder and knee injuries limited him to just 18 games in 2019. This latest injury to his calf is expected to keep him out for opening day and maybe a little longer than that. As soon as this injury was announced, the name Jacoby Ellsbury was brought up a lot by Yankees fans to compare the current situation with Stanton. Ellsbury was even trending on social media. Another thing that was also brought up was why the Yankees never should’ve made the trade for Stanton in the first place. The talk of how he’s been underwhelming at best for the Yankees and has become injury prone, and instead of making the trade, general manager Brian Cashman should’ve saved up to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado instead of acquiring Stanton the year before. However, that certainly wasn’t the discussion when the deal happened, and I don’t think you can question that deal even three years later.

When the Yankees made the deal for Stanton, they essentially acquired a salary dump from the Miami Marlins who were looking to get rid of Stanton’s contract, and it’s not every day a player of Stanton’s caliber is dealt in this manner. The team traded Starlin Castro, who is now with the Washington Nationals, and two minor league prospects Jose Devers, and Jorge Guzman. Starlin Castro is a good player and Devers and Guzman could turn out to have good careers in Miami, but the Yankees trading away those players for a guy who just won the 2017 NL MVP and smoked 59 home runs in 2017 was looked at as a steal. Three years later, it still is for the Yankees. 

When you look at where the Yankees were heading into that offseason by coming off a surprising trip to the American League Championship series and just coming one win short of the World Series, of course Cashman would not say no at a golden chance to acquire the NL MVP for a good price and pair him up with Aaron Judge, who had just won the AL Rookie Of The Year and was second in the voting for AL MVP. Not many of us would say no either to that deal and that opportunity. 

2018 was looked at as a disappointing year for Stanton, but while it would’ve been extremely hard for him to replicate his 2017 numbers, he still slugged 38 home runs and drove in 100 RBIs. He also stepped up big when the team lost Judge for two months due to a wrist injury. What really hurt Stanton was his playoff performance in 2018 as he batted .222 with six strikeouts in the American League Division series against the Boston Red Sox. Many Yankees hitters in that lineup also struggled during that series, with Judge being one of the few exceptions, but out of all of the ones that struggled, Stanton caught most of the blame.

Overall despite the criticism, Stanton put up a productive first season in the Big Apple and expectations were certainly high for year two until the injuries kept him out for most of the season. This calf strain is the latest setback of what has currently been a frustrating time for the former NL MVP. For the Yankees and Stanton, they hope to get him back as soon as possible, especially with the list of injuries the team already has. Still, the Yankees shouldn’t regret making the deal because he has shown the them what he can do on the field. That he still is a presence in a lineup that is already outstanding. The Yankees acquired a guy who hit 267 home runs in Miami. No team would’ve said no at the chance to acquire Stanton, especially the Yankees. Even if Stanton ends up not living up to the acquisition, it was still a chance worth taking for New York. Who knows, maybe in the end, he’s responsible for the Yankees winning their 28th championship.

Rob Manfred’s Words Are Worse Than His Actions

Rob Manfred’s Words Are Worse Than His Actions

NEW YORK, N.Y.- In most cases, the cover-up is worse than the crime. In the case of Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s discussion about the Houston Astros cheating scandal, the explanation was worse than the punishment. Manfred amazingly has upset basically everyone involved in the sport of baseball despite issuing a punishment almost as severe as he possibly could have issued given the circumstances he was working with. The punishments, including a season-long suspension of both general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch on top of a five million dollar fine and the forfeiture of first and second round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts, weren’t a slap on the wrist. But his reasoning for these punishments in the numerous times he’s spoken since have only infuriated players and fans while minimizing the actual punishments.

The commissioner spoke two separate times last Sunday, and it had the feel that he was working crisis management exclusively for the scorned Astros franchise instead of siding with the other 29 organizations who are distraught, frustrated and angered by the cheating the 2017 World Series champions committed. When the punishments were first released in January, it felt that Major League Baseball had levied a punishment about as harsh as possible considering the circumstances. Yet the more Manfred speaks, the less significant the punishments seem.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred addresses reporters during MLB Media Day activities on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Smiley N. Pool / Dallas Morning News Staff Photographer)

Both gaffes occurred when Manfred was talking with ESPN’s Karl Ravech, as the first foot-in-mouth moment came when he was asked why the Astros players weren’t suspended for cheating. He could have justified his decision to not punish the players involved by citing the immunity he granted in favor of getting to the bottom of the entire scheme. Instead, Manfred’s explanation was that the public’s outrage was enough of a punishment.

“I think if you watch the players, watch their faces when they have to deal with this issue publicly, they have paid a price,” Manfred said. “To think they’re skipping down the road into spring training, happy, that’s just a mischaracterization of where we are.”

This is where the disconnect comes in. Thinking that public displeasure towards the Astros is enough of a punishment is just not being in tune with reality. People want accountability. People want the players involved to be held responsible. Hearing a few extra boos or questions about the cheating won’t satisfy a majority of those passionate about the sport, but Manfred is forgetting he didn’t have many options to begin with.

The tough part for the commissioner’s office in conducting this investigation was that they were left with two options, neither of which would have satisfied everyone. Their first option was to do what they did, which was grant players immunity from punishment in return for honest and truthful testimony about when the cheating occurred, how it was executed and who participated. Giving the players a get out of jail free card was the only way to truly get to the bottom of how the entire scheme operated, which in the long run will help in preventing this type of cheating from happening again.

The other option was to interview Mike Fiers, take what he said as the gospel and hand down punishments based on his testimony. No Houston player was knowingly going to admit to cheating or provide details that would implicate their teammates. So Manfred would have had to go off of the only player who was willing to go on the record and dole out suspensions that he seemed to fit the crime.

Manfred chose the option that fits society’s mentality and served to improve the game’s long-term health. We as a society pride ourselves on being a “woke culture,” that is always being aware of what is happening around us and never just accepting a reasoning without digging into it more. The immunity granted by Manfred allowed the details to emerge, helping to truly inform the public about how the sign-stealing was devised and executed. This information also allows the league to put parameters in place to prevent further cheating from ruining the game. The issue here isn’t that Manfred valued information over justice, but it’s that his definition of justice doesn’t jive with the public’s definition.

In that same interview with ESPN, Manfred made another comment that really made many players hot. The question was simple. Ravech asked about the potential of stripping the Astros of the 2017 World Series. Manfred’s response was as short as it was damaging.

“The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act,” said Manfred in response to the question.

It’s like the commissioner took the same PR advice as Astros owner Jim Crane, as every answer seemed to undermine his punishment. These answers aren’t hard. Stripping titles has little to no effect. Just ask the NCAA as they desperately try to punish schools by stripping titles and vacating wins that do little in terms of real consequence. Everyone still remembers Louisville winning the 2013 basketball national championship, USC’s 2004 football national title and Reggie Bush’s Heisman Trophy. Stripping titles and taking banners down do little to wipe away the memory of watching those teams and players accomplish greatness. So Manfred is right when he says stripping the Astros of their World Series would be futile. Except he bungled the delivery and completely lost control of the message.

It’s frustrating to see Major League Baseball continually shoot themselves in the foot and only dig a deeper hole to get out of. With weeks to map out an explanation and defense of the punishments, first the Astros and then the commissioner looked totally off guard and ill-prepared for the questions they received. Unfortunately for the game, this entire cheating scandal has blown up in their face and taken the attention away from the Astros and placed it squarely on the sport’s leader. Rarely do words speak louder than actions. The commissioner accomplished that feat to the dismay of baseball fans everywhere.