On Monday, Major League Baseball was briefed on a plan to re-start the season beginning July 1. Training camps would open in June and opening day would be the first week of July as a best case scenario. There would be roughly an 80-game schedule, expanded playoffs and teams would only face division rivals and interleague teams in the same regional division.
Teams would play in their own stadiums where possible or in neutral sites otherwise. And fans would not be permitted in the ballparks. This is still in flux depending on a variety of factors from government restrictions and health concerns to, most importantly, player approval, which is not remotely guaranteed.
How it might affect the Astros and what the season might look like is what we are thinking about.
The extra time off will give the Astros a health advantage.
Justin Verlander has been rehabbing from surgery to his leg and groin which was expected to keep him out a month or more. Now with the season not due to start for nearly two more months, Astros players with even minor injuries should have more than enough time to recover. For the Astros ace, that could mean a "full" season. Advantage Astros.
The regional travel doesn't help teams in the West.
Regional travel may sound like a good idea when all the teams are bunched together on the east coast. Out west, it's a different story. For the Astros, regional travel to AL and NL West teams means trips to San Francisco and Seattle, not exactly nearby destinations. The same goes for those teams, which are relatively geographically isolated compared to team in the Midwest and on the East Coast.
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The Astros would lose some key rivals but gain at least one big one in the process.
Playing in the division is typically good news for the Astros who have owned the AL West for much of the last five years. But, it does shed games against the Yankees and Red Sox, rivalries that have developed significantly as all three teams have been championship contenders. It does add an intriguing team to the schedule in the Dodgers. They were not on the schedule to start the season, but sending the Astros to LA to face the team that thought they were robbed of a title by the Astros because of the cheating scandal will be interesting though tempered by the lack of fans in the stands.
Money, not the virus, is more likely kill the season.
Because, by some reports, ticket sales represent as much as 40 percent of league revenue, it is expected the owners will ask the players to agree to some form of reduced pay and revenue sharing. But, players' union officials have been clear that the terms they agreed to back in March will remain in place including players getting full prorated pay for any games they play even in a shortened season. Given that stance, if anything were to derail the baseball season, it's probably money and not coronavirus.