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Preparing for a 60-game Season

A slow start could be catastrophic

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With Major League Baseball finally being willing to pay the players a full prorated salary, it appears that the season is getting close to beginning. Even though the players and the league cannot decide on the lenth of the season, Rob Manfred can mandate that a season will be played. This is good news, even though the negotiations over the season have been messy. Now, with a bit of a jump in COVID-19 cases in Florida, as well as members of the Phillies and other teams reporting Coronavirus cases within their organizations, there is another problem to worry about. The health issues have always existed, it just feels as if they were put on the back burner while the two sides negotiated over finances. However, even with all of these problems, it appears nearly certain that there will be a 2020 season, even if it will not exceed 60 games.

If this was the case in 2019, then the season would have been over by the beginning of June when most teams had payed nearly 60 games. This would have given some interesting results. At this time, the Phillies were leading the NL East with the Nationals in fourth. Additionally, the Brewers were leading the NL Central while the Cardinals were in third and just one game over .500. Also, Oakland was outside of the playoffs while the Indians were in a tight contest with the White Sox for second place in the AL Central. These results look much different than the end of year results and it proves that you cannot judge a team based on 60 games.

This, however, appears to be reality for the 2020 season, so teams are going to have to be ready to play by the beginning of the season because a slow start could be devastating. This could create a problem for the Cardinals as players such as Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt started the year slowly. Goldschmidt eventually heated up, but Carpenter has traditionally been a slow starter. Additionally, Tommy Edman did not make his debut until June, and he became a key player after that. With a shorter season the Cardinals may not be able to have a player like Edman emerge in the middle of the season. This may be somewhat problematic. However, since Edman emerged last year, the Cardinals have solid starting depth and bench depth, so they may not need someone like Edman to emerge this year to help them in the playoff chase.

The 60 game season (and potentially less) will affect every team equally. Every team will need to be at their best at the beginning of the season if they want to avoid falling too far behind in the expanded playoff race. However, teams like the Cardinals who started slowly last year may struggle to cope with this schedule change. This is something that Mike Shildt will need to work on with the team. As a group, they will need to make sure they do not get off to the same start to the season that they had last year, or they could be fighting for their playoff lives by the end of the season.