Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper shared a 2020 baseball season bedtime story with his Instagram followers late last night.
While he may be dreaming, I’m intrigued. Very intrigued.
After catching some heat for his public support of Rays pitcher Blake Snell, a man who wants to be paid his money, Harper laid out his own plan for resuming baseball this summer through the social media post.
Included in Harper’s plan is more games, a later finish, geography-based conference alignment, a round-robin playoff format, and delays to the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Of course, the plan would presumably yield greater financial returns for players, too.
Among the key regular season details:
- The 135-game season will last 4 1/2 months.
- Division play isn’t detailed, but an east/west conference alignment goes into effect.
- Rosters will include 30 players and 6-man rotations (Sup, Spencer Howard?).
- Games will be played for 13 straight days with 7-inning Sunday doubleheaders and off-days on every other Monday.
As for the postseason, Harper suggests a 10-team round robin format (similar to the College World Series) at a central location – Like AT&T Stadium or the Las Vegas strip. A seven-game neutral site World Series would conclude the season.
Finally, in order to create some balance from the exhaustive toll such a plan would take, Harper proposes a May 1 start to the 2021 season before a normal April 1 start in 2022.
Wow. Quite a lot to unpack here. Do I believe the owners will greatly deviate from their current plan? I don’t, but let’s dream with Bryce a little bit and run through it:
- Love getting more games in, though even with geographical-based conference alignments the travel situation would be a nightmare. Assuming the majority of regular season games are played at home ballparks (I believe most will be), repeated stretches of 13-game cycles with travel as part of the equation will take a toll. It would take next-level scheduling logistics to make such a schedule work.
- I also love the idea of adding more games and delaying the postseason until November at a centralized location. Home crowds wouldn’t get to take in playoff baseball, but I doubt that’s happening anyway. Adding extra games to the schedule would not only beef up the legitimacy of the regular season, it would also, in theory, help ease the current financial duress (I use this word loosely) between the owners and MLBPA.
- I’m a baseball traditionalist by nature, but I don’t see the one-year downside to his playoff proposal. It’s a difficult format, one that would produce a worthy champion.
- In fact, one could argue that such a format would produce perhaps a more battle-tested champion than usual. And I will. A 135-game sprint, high-stakes playoff round robin elimination games and a seven-game series with no home-field advantage may create more chaos, but the team emerging from that gauntlet gets no asterisk from me.
- Perhaps Harper’s best idea comes near the end of the proposal–get it on all platforms. Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook. Get it on television, get it on social, immerse people in the game. Flood the zone. This is a unique and perhaps once-in-a-generation opportunity for baseball to welcome itself to a generation of sports fans it has failed to seduce.
2020 is screwed up. It’s time to part with the idea that we are going to see anything closely resembling normal baseball, hockey, and basketball seasons. You can still dream on the NFL, I guess.
Ultimately, do I think Harper’s plan (or any of part of it) is going to happen? I don’t. But I commend the guy for his creativity, even if some of the logistics (the Vegas strip, really?) are a little flimsy.