How Will the Covid-19 Pandemic Affect Major League Baseball Teams?
Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together...
Well, things might not be quite as bad as Bill Murray said as Peter Vinkman in Ghostbusters back in the '80's, but today's chaos surrounding the current COVID-19 outbreak has headlines changing almost hourly it seems. First it was no big deal, then more people became ill. Then came the 250 person maximum gatherings, no travel from Europe, then 50 people max, now the White House is thinking about the number 10, as in a maximum of 10 people gathering anywhere in America. If that is real, and it continues into the near future for any length of time, then no restaurants, stores, doctor's offices, mass transit, public transportation, theme and amusement parks, sports venues, schools, churches, basically nothing will be open until perhaps mid-May at the earliest. The Common Working Man (and Woman) is going to be in a world of hurt by then.
How will America survive? We The People will need a lot of help, as we have become a nation of spenders, of have fun now selfish individuals; not a country of care for one another, do whatever we can to survive together families. We will have to find a way to turn back the clock and be civil, caring, supportive, and creative in helping one another in ways we haven't since the Great Depression.
Enough Doom and Gloom...
That might be our future reality, but I am here to talk about baseball and how this delay might affect teams, players, etc. Might some players and by association, some teams be fortunate in this chain of events more than others, thus giving them a better shot at the post season and the World Series (if it were to be held)?
As I am neither a professional baseball man, nor a devout follower of most teams today, I cannot speak on most teams or players. I do follow the St. Louis Cardinals, and some of the teams they play most often, and players that I draft in my Fantasy Baseball Leagues.
A moment here to speak on drafting in those leagues. If you follow me here on HubPages, and have read any of my articles on Fantasy Baseball, you might know that I have done very well over the past decade in my fantasy teams. I have consistently drafted and found players who would become mainstays of the sport before they hit the big time (I had Nelson Cruz on my team the day he came to the majors. I drafted Matt Carpenter before he was even the starting 2nd baseman for the Cardinals, and was laughed at during the draft by another manager who proceeded to beg me for him later in the season). I have become a winner who expects to win no less than 75% of the leagues I enter, and the only reason I don't do it for money is the state I live in won't allow it.
That being said, when I draft a team in points based leagues I usually have my choice of the players I desire because everybody else is drafting by the ranking supplied by the site holding the draft, which so far this year has been ESPN. I do not understand why other managers do not understand the leagues I am drafting in with them are POINTS BASED, meaning whoever has the most points each week wins. So when someone drafts, oh say Bryce Harper in the second round, I laugh. For instance, in one league the person drafting Harper and his 455 points also drafted Nolan Arenado (524) and Ronald Acuna (455), which makes a tidy total of 1,434 points drafted in the first three rounds. My first picks were as follows: Jacob deGrom (607), Justin Verlander (615), and Walker Buehler (505) for a total of 1727 points. I also stole Shohei Ohtani in the sixth round and his 524 points. You see, I flip my rankings to reflect the points they are expected to acquire during the year, not someone's estimate of who is the best player. Ohtani is a perfect example; he was ranked #93, but his points were ranked #6. tied with Arenado, who was ranked in the top ten. So I got the same value in the sixth round my competitor drafted in the first round. In this league, my expected team total points for the year was 10,527 points for a full year; my next closest competitor was 1,300 points behind me. That is what makes me a winner in these leagues, looking at things from the other side of the fence. There, now I shared my secret with you in time for you to play along this year. Good luck!
Back to the real deal
Now, back to baseball for real. When this layoff is over, and the crisis is behind us, baseball will begin once more. It might be mid-May, it might be Memorial Day. Hell, it might be the All Star Break for all we know right now. Can you imagine an All Star game kicking off the year?! Wouldn't that be a wild thing to have happen!
Teams which might benefit by the late start are teams with stars injured right now. Justin Verlander of the Astros comes to mind, as does Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees. Each of these players is injured right now and was due to miss the early part of the year. Now? They should be healthy and chomping at the bit to prove how good they really are once more.
Another group who might benefit are older players, players who need more rest during the long grueling 162 game season. Pitchers like St. Louis' Adam Wainwright, who made a miraculous recovery last year, basically coming back from the dead to have a successful season. However, he is older now, in his mid to late 30's and not as strong as he once was. Having to throw fewer innings will give someone like him, who has a baseball intellect like no other, a leg up on players who rely more on talent and strength, thus making him a more efficient pitcher this year. Another pitcher which comes to mind is former Mariner King Felix Hernandez, who signed with the Braves this off season. I would not be surprised to see him factor into more games this season and be a better pitcher than he has been over the past few years just because of the same situation: wile and intellect versus youth and strength.
Other players come to mind
Players other than pitchers who come to mind are those warhorses, the catchers; especially older wiser catchers like Yadier Molina of the Cardinals and San Francisco's Buster Posey. Buster is in his mid thirties, while Yadi is old, maybe 38 now. At least, for a catcher with as many games caught as he has over his career, he is. The concern is that he cannot catch more than maybe 120 games this year due to the wear and tear of the season, yet now we have a season of only 100 to 120 games and all of a sudden he becomes more valuable to the team in spite of this limitation. And Buster is recovering from injuries and was not expected to catch that many games, but now he can contribute to a greater percentage of games this year and possibly help his team exceed expectations.
Then there is the younger group of players, pitchers in particular, who would normally have an innings limit on them to protect the team's assets. Young pitchers who are returning from injury make up this group, and because I am so familiar with the Cardinals, I go to them once more.
Oh, you beautiful laser thrower named Jordan Hicks! He of the 105 mph pure heat that literally blew the league away in 2018 and at the beginning of last season before season ending Tommy John surgery put him on the shelf. He was not due to return until July, and look: the season might not begin until then, and even if it starts before then it won't be long before he can be added to the bullpen and people, what a weapon he is. Then there is Alex Reyes, he of the nasty stuff which has never been healthy enough to show more than flashes of his talent before. Now he is healthy, but had an innings limit of between perhaps 70 to 100 innings. The thought before this occurred was he would be limited to the bullpen, but what if he was able to start maybe, oh 15 games or so rather than enter 60 games as a reliever? All of a sudden you have a shut down option as a starter, going multiple innings rather than a shut down artist tossing only one inning at a time? That is the kind of difference which makes a team a champion rather than an also ran.
So, my thoughts are...
I believe that this down time will have a greater positive effect on teams like the Cardinals for these reasons. There is also a darker side to this, one that has yet to be addressed but will be front page news as we move towards the start of the baseball season: when to start a rookie's clock. With the fiasco that has been for some players, such as Vladimer Guerrero Jr and Kris Bryant, who were held back in AAA for a few weeks "because they still needed to work on some things" (what a crock), players who would normally be sent down for a month or so might begin the year in the majors because of this virus. Someone like Dylan Carlson for the Cardinals, who was just killing the ball in Spring Training after a limited time at AA and AAA last year saw him literally tear the cover off the ball and earn an invite to Spring Training this year. He is young, and was doing doing better this spring than almost anyone else in Cardinal camp, yet was still expected to begin the year in the minors to delay his clock and gain another year of control over him once he made the big league team. Now? Hell, he might walk into the majors with a starting job in the Cardinal outfield. Lord knows they could use his bat in their lineup, and get Dexter Fowler out of it. An outfield of Tyler O'Neill (affectionately known as either Pillar of Meat or TON), Harrison Bader (Bader Tot), and Carlson (need a great nickname for him) would be young, exciting beyond belief, with speed unmatched at all three positions and power for perhaps a hundred home runs total out of three players along with the best defense in the league. I know the pitchers on the team would love that!
Can you tell I am high on the Cardinals in this shortened season? I do not think any other team would benefit as much as them in a year like this one. The Yankees were going to be good either way, and with their sluggers coming back that helps them a bit, but their depth made these players if not replaceable, then at least time without them endurable. The Dodgers, again always good and no appreciable gain for a short season. The Astros might benefit, if only to allow more people time to forget the cheating scandal they were involved in. But no one else has the players that will be better in the short term than the Cardinals this year. Look out, and remember: you heard it here first. Cardinals and Yankees in the World Series, with the pitching of the Cardinals shutting down the Yankees lumber for the win, making it their 12th Series Championship.
That is, if we get one this year.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Mr Archer