Major League Baseball temporarily suspended its operations two weeks ago in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, cancelling all remaining Spring Training games and indefinitely delaying the start of the regular season.
The earliest in which play can resume is now mid-May, though all signs point to the hiatus extending into June or even July. MLB has been working on resolving some pressing issues in preparation of a late start to the season, including service time for players.
An agreement has been reached with the MLB Players Association that will ensure players receive a full year of service time regardless of how many games are played this season.
What also must be addressed is the length of the regular season if and when baseball returns. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has all but ruled out a full 162-game schedule, citing the difficulties of getting that many contests in even if the campaign is extended into November.
Manfred acknowledged during an interview with Scott Van Pelt on ESPN the possibility of frequent doubleheaders this season to make up as many games as possible, and also that he may look to trim from playing nine innings:
“We certainly have talked about the idea of using doubleheaders to maximize the number of games that we play. I think I have said publicly before that there’s some numbers in baseball you can’t change. Nine innings is one of them. When I said that, I wasn’t thinking about this particular crisis. So I’m sure it’s something that will get some discussion.”
While doubleheaders are common in baseball, rumblings from Manfred and players suggest that teams may take part in a record amount this season.
Shortening the games would ease workload concerns, which makes the prospect more feasible. Travel requirements for teams also figures to factor into Manfred’s thinking, so while an abundant of doubleheaders appears to make sense on the surface, there are still plenty of details to work out before a plan is finalized.
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