PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Major League Baseball gave a bit of hope to sports fans this week when reports came out that indicated the league was eyeing a potential May return with an ambitious plan. In the reporting, the plan was for MLB to have all 30 teams move to Arizona for the summer months and play the entire shortened season in the desert at area ballparks.
While the league has since pushed back on that reporting a bit, saying they can’t at this time say that any one plan is the one going forward, they didn’t exactly quash the rumors.
Either way, it would seem the league is dead set on playing some version of a shortened season in 2020, and CBS3 sports director Don Bell is uncertain about how that is going to happen.
“I think this is really interesting because, at what point, at what number of games can you justify having a season? I remember when the NBA had the lockout season and they played 50 games out of 82. And it was just enough for it to be a legitimate season,” said Bell. “I wonder what that number is for baseball. Is it 100 games? 81? I don’t know what that number is. But I do know they have a real big problem with trying to figure that out, because we’re hearing sources say that players are willing to play doubleheaders, multiple doubleheaders a week to make up the time. And I just don’t know if any of that is going to be feasible.”
While Bell is unsure of how the season could possibly contain enough games to make it feel legitimate, he does believe that a shortened slate would help the hometown Phillies.
“Oddly enough, if you take the last two years into consideration, it actually helps the Phillies,” said Bell. “Over the last two seasons they have actually jumped out fast with fast starts, shares of first place, being in first place. Really what they have done over the last two seasons under Gabe Kapler is they have struggled in September and completely fallen apart. They have collapsed. Those collapses cost Gabe Kapler his job. Now we have Joe Girardi. If you’re just following the history here, it may help the Phillies with them getting off to fast starts.”
The team finished 81-81 and fourth in the National League East last season. But, that mediocrity set in, as Bell suggests, in the second half of the season. The Phillies ended the month of May with a record of 33-24 and, after a 5-5 start to June, they were in first place with a record of 38-29. Things went significantly downhill from there.
The Phils finished June losing 11 of their final 17 games including a particularly brutal seven-game stretch against the Braves, Nationals and Marlins mid-month. In July, they actually posted a winning record (12-11), but then finished going 25-30 in August and September, missing the playoffs for the eighth straight season. Not ideal for a team with so much fanfare following the signing of Bryce Harper.
Now, in 2020, there’s a bit more optimism. The team added a much needed starter in Zack Wheeler and plugged a hole in the middle of the infield with veteran shortstop Didi Gregorius. Combined with some exciting young prospects in third baseman Alec Bohm and starting pitcher Spencer Howard and the return of Andrew McCutchen from injury, there was hope.
That hope is still there, and with a new manager in Joe Girardi, there could be reason to expect the Phillies to contend for a playoff spot in the National League in a shortened season. But, as Bell points out, the format of that shortened season will have a lot to do with how much can be expected of the team.