I’ve joked in this space over the past few weeks that it seems like there’s a new idea for how to start the 2020 season every single week. And this week is no different, but the tenor of the conversation is as everyone seems to be much more optimistic that baseball will be played. As you know, I’ve never had much of a doubt in my mind that they’d do everything they could to play this year. Everyone benefits far too much monetarily for there to be no baseball in 2020. Again, I’m not sure if it’s the best idea, but there was basically no way they were going to throw away the entire season, especially as the country is beginning to open back up. The current talk is that teams can play in home parks (mostly, sorry Blue Jays) and there will be three divisions of 10 teams each based on geography. I’ll get into this idea in a minute. I’m just excited that we might get to talk about real baseball here in a little bit.
- Okay, so three divisions of 10 teams each based on region. Sort of. I saw that the Astros would still be in the West, which, well, why? But the Royals would be in a division with the Cardinals, White Sox, Cubs, Brewers, Reds, Indians, Twins, Tigers and then the Braves for some reason. It doesn’t really matter where the Royals play, they aren’t likely to contend for a title either way, and even if they make the postseason a 16-team tournament, they’re not likely to be in the top half of the league. But still, this is a little more fun than the three state idea that included Arizona, Texas and Florida. What I don’t understand, and it’s probably because I’m not smart enough, is if teams are traveling anyway, why section them off like this? I guess I understand traveling less, but also, if they’re traveling anyway, especially by private charter, does it matter? Anyway, the point is that I think we’re closing in on something real that I think actually can work for the time being. There are plenty of logistical questions to still answer for a season that sounds like it might start sometime in June, but I’m actually sort of excited for a weird season. No, records won’t mean much and we’ll look back on the 2020 season as the anomaly that we don’t really care about, but it’ll be fun to see the 100-game season or whatever it was with the weird tournament at the end. I’m not sure if you can tell from my rambling, but I’m just happy we seem to be getting closer to getting to watch some real MLB games on television in the relatively near future.
- I mentioned a few weeks ago what a season in Arizona could do for some of the Royals hitters, but now that it looks like the season won’t be in Arizona, I think one hitter could really benefit from the shortened year. You guessed it, it’s Salvy. Salvador Perez has played so many games and taken so much of a beating that it’s clear the grind of a season gets to him. We talk about it every year. And now he’s a had a full year off from squatting behind the plate for 130-150 games per year and he’s not even going to have to play a full season in 2020. And that’s a very good thing for him. Let’s say the season is 100 games because that’s sort of the number that keeps getting thrown around. And let’s say they play it with a normal slate of off days so that nobody is getting too overrun. I took a look at what Salvador Perez has done offensively in the first 100 team games he was on the roster (2011 and 2012 he was later in the year due to callup and injury respectively) and the difference from 1-100 vs. 101-162 is sort of staggering. In those first 100 games, Salvy has hit .274/.305/.442 in his career with a 3.7 percent walk rate (yuck) and 15.9 percent strikeout rate. He was 126 doubles, seven triples (yes, for real) and 94 home runs. Then in those final 62, he’s hit .250/.280/.425 with a 3.0 percent walk rate and 16.3 percent strikeout rate. He only has 51 doubles and 47 homers (though the home run pace is actually about the same, so that’s probably not fair. The point here is that a 100 game season probably gives Perez about 80 games behind home plate (with the extra time to recover from the surgery), and with last year’s rest, I wonder if we could see him put up his best offensive season in quite some time because of it.
- I was asked a question yesterday on my weekly radio spot in Columbia that I honestly hadn’t really considered. The question was if baseball’s absence might actually increase the popularity of the game when it does return, and having never thought about that before, it does make a lot of sense. Baseball is a daily grind of a season, even for fans. A football fan wouldn’t dare miss one of their team’s precious few games, but with baseball, there’s always tomorrow. There hasn’t been a tomorrow yet for baseball this season. I really do believe that fans will have a renewed passion for making sure to catch games, especially too since we won’t be able to go for them for at least a little while and maybe a long while. You never want to say something like this is actually a good thing, but there are always positives that can come out of bad situations, and I believe it’s important to look for them to both maintain sanity and hope. And this is definitely a positive for baseball if I’m actually right here and people do flock back to the sport. I mean Joni Mitchell did pose the question. Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone? I think she’s right, at least in this instance.
- Speaking of finding silver linings, even though it’s not yet a done deal, it does appear that there will be no minor league season, or at best a limited one. Instead, it’ll be a lot of back field type action to keep prospects progressing and to keep players ready in case of injury. And for the Royals, I kind of wonder if there’s some way that this can be a positive. With a whole new development staff in place for the offensive prospects, we don’t get to see that progress, but the organization is very deep in quality pitching prospects. Maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world for a guy like Nick Pratto, for example, to have to face a guy like Daniel Lynch or Kris Bubic. Or for Seuly Matias to have to try to beat Jackson Kowar’s right on right changeup. I think about the idea that a football team with a great offense can actually help their defense in practice because they’re forced to go up against something special. Maybe I’m squinting too hard to try to find something here but I’m hopeful at least that getting to face quality arms day in and day out might awaken something in the struggling prospects’ bats. It’s disappointing that we won’t get to see Bobby Witt, Jr. or Erick Pena in full season ball, but maybe they can get some learning in against some very good pitching prospects.