This whole “no baseball” thing is really gonna cause some crazy ideas to float around. People are sitting at home, trying to control themselves, keep from going crazy and they’re coming up with ideas about doing different ideas and the like. I even saw this crazy idea about giving $1,000 to each American that needs it during thi — oh wait, nevermind. That’s not that crazy after all. Anyway, with kids home from school, it’s becoming a strange, strange world out there.
Naturally, when it comes to people whose hobby includes consuming and thinking about sports and those people are given enough time, they come up with crazy schemes for “fixing” their leagues and making the product that is produced even better. Having batters hit for pitchers during a game? In the NATIONAL LEAGUE?!!? That’s galaxy brain type stuff.
Here at The Good Phight, we’re not immune to this. We also are hatching schemes to solve problems around the game, including the impending schedule crisis that faces Major League Baseball once games are finally allowed to resume. This dilemma is one that owners and schedule makers alike are already grappling with. Well listen up, MLB. I’ve got something that will keep things interesting throughout the remainder of the league’s calendar. We are going to give you the best and only way that baseball can finish off the 2020 season with a true champion while also getting just creative enough to push even the stodgy old heads in baseball into something else to grumble about. This idea is all about giving fans more interesting baseball to watch and giving everyone an equal shot to do something great. This is what I’ll call “The Participation Trophy Playoffs: Everyone gets a chance!”
Let’s start by assuming that baseball will return on June 1. We’re not really sure that’s even a given, what with the latest CDC recommendations that people avoid events of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks, but even in the most optimistic scenarios, we can pretty much assume nothing will be ready until just after Mother’s Day, so that gives teams about 2 weeks to be ready. They’ll need some time to ramp up activities to help their players safely avoid injuries, but also allows them time to get ready before the games actually count. This leads to our first rule.
Rule #1: when “spring training, part deux” comes back, you are only allowed 30 man rosters in camp, with the 4 extra players allowed to rotate among a pool of 10-12 per team
Most teams probably already knew who was making the final roster before the stoppage began. There isn’t much more need to beat around the bush and pretend that someone still legitimately has a shot, so let’s just get to the guys who need the plate appearances the most. This forward thinking decision making will allow teams to focus the few “ramp up” at-bats for those that will be playing the most during the season. Those players on the rotating pool can get an at bat or two a game every other day before they’re assigned to their minor league destination at the end of this faux spring training. If need be, we could bump that 30 number up a few to allow some more relievers to get in so that starting pitching isn’t being stressed right away. Those arms will also be getting ready for their own beginning in the minor leagues.
So, rosters set. Now, the season will be ready to resume. That brings us to our second rule.
Rule #2: only regular season games from June 1 through August 15ish. Records will freeze after that date and playoff seeds will be set, with the team with the best record in the AL/NL getting that league’s #1 seed and a first round bye
Yes, yes, this runs the risk of teams playing an uneven number of games, but it doesn’t really matter. As stated before, everyone is making the playoffs this year, so the games are mostly just for seeding. The team in both the National and American League’s that have the best record by winning percentage is going to get the top seed in that league for the playoffs, meaning they’ll be able to sit out the first series and rest up their rotation and lineup. Everyone else will be seeded, also by winning percentage. Oh - if you’re going to try and schedule doubleheaders, nice try, buster. They can only be scheduled if a game is rained out in this 76 day window.
The teams will play each other in a best of three series with the team that has better winning percentage always getting all three home games. It’ll be set like so:
#15 at #2
#14 at #3
#13 at #4
#12 at #5
#11 at #6
#10 at #7
#9 at #8
Playoff roster will be similar to the regular season, in that you can have 26 players and a maximum of 13 pitchers. After each round, you can reset your roster.
The winners will move to the next round and will be reseeded, meaning the highest seed will always play the lowest seed no matter what, with the higher seed always getting all three home games. At this point, #1 seed re-enters the fray. These series will continue to be three games until there are only 4 teams left, at which point it will revert to the classic division series rules of 5 games, then to 7 games for the league championship series. The World Series would begin on time as usual and we’d have a champion. Does this all make the August 15th ending date make sense? Maybe, but we can adjust that based on when the season starts and when we’d like the division series to begin.
But what about those teams that lose, you say? What will they do? Ah, well that leads to our next rule.
Rule #3: once you lose a playoff series, you head to the consolation round where the top prize is the top overall draft pick and draft money pool
This is a big one. Fans of teams that don’t have much hope for this year aren’t going to get really jazzed about playing in the playoffs when they know they don’t have much of a hope of tackling a behemoth like the Dodgers. However, once they do play, a team like the Marlins stands just a good a ch — bahahahaha.
No they don’t.
So, once a team loses in the playoff round, they enter the consolation bracket where they can play for the top prize: the top draft pick and the draft pool amount of money for signing bonuses that comes with it. In order to get that prize, you have to win the entire consolation bracket. Lose one series and you’re done (we’ll get to them in a minute). So let’s do an example.
The Dodgers play the Marlins in the first round in Los Angeles while the Cubs play the Pirates in Chicago. Both the Dodgers and Cubs win, moving on toward the World Series. The Marlins and Pirates though, they are now going to play each other in the consolation bracket. They will play a three game series to determine who moves closer to the top draft pick. The loser of the series is done and is eliminated from contention. Once the consolation round is done, the draft order will be determined by who makes the final series (1st and 2nd picks), followed by whoever lost to those teams the series before and so on.
While this isn’t the most glamorous thing for fans (“Let’s get that #1 pick!” isn’t something many people will want to shout from the stands), in the front offices that are competing with each other, it could be a real prize. It also gives them something tangible to play for rather than just playing out the string in front of stands that don’t have something to play for. Let’s say that a team loses in a fluke series in the playoff bracket, like the Yankees. Well, they can now try and get the #1 pick which, while not the type of banner they’d like to see flapping in the breeze the next season, would mean a lot more than just seeing empty stadiums as they finish their season against the likes of the Orioles and Mariners.
Now, let’s say you’re a fan of a team that loses in the consolation round. When those teams lose, they are out and move in the Experiment Zone.
Rule #4: when you lose in the consolation round, you move into the MLB Experimentation Zone.
This is an awkwardly named place, but what else would you call it? The teams that lose in the consolation round will move here and play games determined by a schedule maker. Are they essentially playing out the string? Yes, but they can still play standard three and four game series. Only now, they have to play those games under conditions where MLB can test different things they’ve always wanted to try in major league games, only couldn’t do so before.
Want to test an automated strike zone in real MLB conditions? Here’s your chance!
Three batter minimums? FOUR BATTER MINIMUMS? We welcome this!
Any rules that MLB has wanted to try and implement gets real MLB conditions in which to test them. If they even wanted to possibly include some kind of financial reward to make it worthwhile to the players, ensuring they don’t just rest on their laurels, fine. It works out for everyone involved. Players are still playing games (until September 30th, of course), fans are still getting to watch baseball, and MLB gets to experiment like never before. It’s not the ideal situation that teams would find themselves in, but at least they’re still playing the game they love after all those days of just sitting around waiting for the quarantine to end.
Friends, this isn’t the most ideal way to handle the postseason this year. There are a lot of bugs and issues that need to be worked out before something like this could happen. Logistically, it would probably be a nightmare. Personnel-wise, teams might be hesitant to go really crazy for fear of major injury. And anything so radical would probably never past the muster with the bigwigs in New York. But putting it all logically, this is the best, most fair way that teams can make something out of this season. We usually want to see the best teams competing in the playoffs, so those that have the deepest lineups, the most effective trio of starters and the best bullpens seem to have the best chance of moving on. It’s not something I’d like to see every year. The baseball purist in me would probably freak out at so many teams vying for the Commissioner’s Trophy. Imagine the outrage when the Detroit Tigers raised the trophy after defeating the Colorado Rockies, all because each got hot at the right time. It would cause a baseball Twitter meltdown.
But this year isn’t the year for “normal”. It’s the year to get creative. It’s something that, if done right, just might work.