Will baseball be played in 2020?
I believe the answer to that question is yes. When exactly is unclear, but I think baseball will return and there will, at least at the start, be no fans at the games. If baseball does return, it will be significantly later than the planned Opening Day. I also believe baseball will attempt to fit as many games into the season as they possibly can. I’m most intrigued by how exactly they’ll arrange the schedule if and when baseball does return.
So being the curious man I am and with no other discernible topic to write about, I decided to map out a plan myself. Get as many games in as possible. First, I have to determine a start date. As I said, I believe that when baseball starts, there will no fans in the stands. So I’m going to go with the optimistic start date of May 28, which falls on a Thursday. No particular reason for this date, but it’s about as close to two months after the planned Opening Day as possible, so it gives us a good window into how many games we have to replace.
Speaking of missed games, if the season started on May 28th, there would be 57 games missing from the schedule. At least for the Cardinals. I assume, primarily due to the London trip, that the Cardinals probably have more to make up than most teams. It is impractical to fit 162 games into a season with two missing months, so I won’t try. Of course this requires me to cut some games, and I have an obvious place to start.
Every year, the Cardinals play other NL Central teams 19 times, which seems like an excessive amount in a normal year. So if we’re shortening the season, it’s a no brainer to begin here. I’m cutting four games against each team, dropping the season series from 19 games to 15. You can very easily cut more of these games, and I would if the season started later than May 28th, but for now, I’ll stick with 15 games. This will take some creative maneuvering since the Cards play the Reds and Brewers six times, and the Pirates and Cubs only three times prior to May 28th.
My second cut is also fairly simple. The Cardinals play six National League teams not in the Central seven times, while playing the other four six times. So let’s even it up. Cardinals play everyone in the NL six times. Just like that, we’re down 139 games. That’s an unsatisfying number - if they shorten the season, it will probably be at something like 140 games played, not 139. So we’ll stick with 140. Not sure what I’m doing with the extra game yet.
First things first, I need to resolve the NL Central before I resolve anything else. A 15 game slate against each team requires 3 4 game series and one 3 game series, so it’s best to look ahead and see what needs to be altered and what doesn’t. There are no 4 game series against an NL Central team prior to May 28th, which is helpful. I’ll start with the Pirates since the Cardinals actually have a series against them the first weekend. The Thursday I planned for Opening Day? It’s actually an off day right now.
PIT - 5/29-5/31, @ 6/4-6-7, @7/31-8/2, 8/10-8/12, 8/28-8/30 (16 games)
CIN - 6/19-6/21, 8/7-8/9, @8/24-8/26, @9/17-9/20 (13 games)
CHC - 6/13-6/14, 7/23-7/26, @8/21-8/23, 8/10-13, 9/25-9/27 (16 games)
MIL - 7/3-7/5, @7/27-7/30, 8/14-8/16, 9/21-9/23 (13 games)
Teams normally have five 3-game series and one 4-game series against the divisional opponents and it’ll obviously vary based on need. Which makes the Cubs ridiculously easy to reschedule with two already existing 4 game series. The London series, which is 100 percent not happening even if that’s not verified yet, can be made into a 4 game series with the Thursday and Friday prior to the planned two game series being off-days. Adding two games necessitates removing a 3 game-series, and I’ll have to pick the last season series of the year for convenience. It’s not like it will be the last season series of the year anymore anyway.
The rest of the Central teams are more complicated. We have to add a game to two 3-game series for the Reds and Brewers, plus remove a 3 game series against the Pirates and add two 4-game series. How will I do this? As I said above, I’m removing the 4 game series against other NL teams, so if a 3 game series is either before or right after one of those 4 game series, then we remove that game and replace it with a game against a Central team. The other way? Doubleheaders, which can only come on weekends I presume, so that will also have to fit.
I’m going to make this a little easier. I mentioned the Cards start the new season against the Pirates? Not anymore. The Pirates play the Cubs a whopping 13 games before May 28th, which what? I have double and triple checked that and it’s apparently true. That’s horrendous scheduling. Anyway, I’m replacing that series with a 4 game series against the Reds, because the Reds have literally all 19 games scheduled against the Cubs after May 28th, so they need to remove some games. And it just so happens that it’s a 4 game series, so they don’t need to change anymore of their schedule against the Cubs. So we get a 4 game series against the Reds, who were supposed to open the season against anyway, and the Cubs and Pirates play each other for 4 games themselves.
This may not seem as convenient, but the Reds switch gives me two 4-game series, meaning I just need to finagle just one more extra game out of a 3-game series, while also allowing me to remove a 3-game series. And the Pirates - well that’s certainly not any easier, so I’m hoping two of the three 3-game series will match. Reds are easy. You can do one of two things. The Cardinals have a series against the Royals on August 4th-5th, Tuesday and Wednesday, with Thursday off and a weekend series against the Reds. Reds do have a game on Thursday, but it’s a 3 game series with Monday off. They also have a four-game series against the Braves the prior week and we’ll give them the Thursday off there in place of taking away the Monday off day. Or you could just do a doubleheader on Sunday. I’d think baseball would try to avoid doubleheaders if possible, so we’ll go with Option A here. This leaves the August 24-26th series as the odd series out, because we need to remove an away series. Reds done.
The Pirates-Cards schedule removes one series definitively, so we’re forced to squeeze an extra game out of the other two. Both the Cards and Pirates have off days on August 27th, so we can make the 28th-30th series into a four game series. The other series will have to be a doubleheader on the weekend of the July 31st to August 2nd series. The Cards play a 4 game series against the Brewers prior to it and the Pirates play a 3 game series that would probably be turned into a 4 game series under my own system for reasons that probably don’t interest you.
Last, but not least the Brewers. The last series of the year for the Brewers is a 4 game series against the Giants. Right before that, a three game series against the Cards. Let’s pretty easily remove one of those 4 and make it into a Cards-Brewers matchup. The other change will be the weekend of July 3rd to July 5th. We’re going to have to make the 5th a doubleheader. Brewers are off on the following Monday, and by removing a game from a 4 game series against the Nats, the Cards will be off on the Thursday before. Not ideal, but best I can do. And one of these series will have to be changed from a home series to away, because the Cards play the Brewers on the road 6 times before May 28th and none at home. Not a difficult change, but just a note.
Okay, so we have the NL Central scheduled. We have the last series of the year and August 24-26th as empty on the schedule. I was hoping to replace the last series with a team the Cards faced in two separate series prior to May 28th, but I couldn’t make it work. The best fit is the Philadelphia Phillies, who face the Nationals at the end of the year. It fits because they face the Nationals all 19 times after May 28th, so they need to remove a series. So Phillies-Cards replaces Cards-Cubs. For the August series, the Padres and Giants are supposed to play then, but they only play 3 times prior to May 28th, so they can afford to lose a series (and then would have to add a game to two 3-game series).
One more change, but I also doubt the All-Star break is happening, so we’re going to place a series there. The Cards play all of their games against the Padres, Dodgers, and Braves before May 28th. Since we’ve fit in a Padres series, we’ll choose the Dodgers for the ASB games.
I have maximized the schedule from May 28th to September 27th as much as I can, so the remaining games will have to follow past that. Since I’m only scheduling Cards games, I’m not actually going to give dates on when these games will be. But needless to say, this would extend the season another month, which baseball does actually seem open to since it’s in pretty much everyone’s best interest.
I think the scheduling will have to be more creative at this point. The Cardinals have 10 series left, and it would probably be ideal to try and squeeze that into four weeks. One solution: the Cards have two 4-game series still scheduled against non-NL Central teams. Instead of removing those games, we’ll keep them as scheduled. We needed to add an extra game anyway to get to 140. Both the Phillies and Marlins have a 4-game series after May 28th, AND have a 3-game series prior to May 28th that needs to be replaced. I assume other teams will have similar situations. So here’s a tentative rough draft (the teams are not specifically important, just the arrangement.
9/28-9/30 - @ Colorado
10/1-10/3 - Atlanta
10/4 - doubleheader against Miami at home
10/5-10/7 - Los Angeles
10/9-10/11 - @San Diego
10/12-10/14 - New York Mets
10/15-10/17 - @ Atlanta
10/18 - @ Philly for doubleheader
10/20- 10/22 - Baltimore
10/23-10/25 - Arizona
Obviously, the October schedule would be hard as hell to work in practice, but I figure the Cardinals aren’t the only team where only two games would give them six. I thought a Sunday doubleheader would be the most convenient way to fit in just two games. This will lead to a 4 at home, 2 on the road and vice versa, but it feels like some unbalanced aspect of the schedule is inevitable with something like this. I’m abandoning the extra game to get to 140. 139 games is a weird amount, but it fits way better than squeezing another game here.
Now, other options include completely making a new schedule and in that case, I would definitely do something similar to October in the summer months, where there would still be off days, but doubleaders would make nearly a game per day happen anyway and you’d probably need considerably less games in October in that scenario. That would be my preference. I tried to take the existing schedule and change it as little as possible, so that’s why I went in that direction for this post. Thoughts?