Three ideas better than MLB playing the 2020 season in Arizona
The powers-that-be at Major League Baseball are thinking outside the box as they attempt to figure out what role baseball will play in the United States in the summer of 2020.
That’s a good thing. We are living in unprecedented times, and unprecedented solutions are needed. The thing about outside-the-box brainstorming sessions, though, is that bad ideas are part of the process. Wisdom has to kick in to separate the good ideas from the bad ideas. Playing the entire 2020 season in Arizona ballparks — mostly spring training facilities — is one of the bad ideas, for many reasons.
My SN colleague Joe Rivera outlined several reasons here. Another reason that has nothing to do with Coronavirus concerns? The average high temp in Phoenix is 104 in June, 106 in July, 104 in August and 100 in September. There’s a reason the Diamondbacks have a stadium with a roof that closes. The spring training ballparks, as you know, are open air.
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Dry heat, my ass. And double-headers were mentioned as part of the condensed season/schedule, and limiting them to seven innings each wouldn’t help much.
Anyway, that’s an idea that should be filed under nice thought, but no.
Here are a couple of ideas that should happen, though. And like the NBA’s H-O-R-S-E competition, MLB can make these ideas a reality quickly.
Home Run Derby
This idea was “batted around” by MLB — Joel Sherman’s play on words, not mine — but apparently the logistics were too much, Sherman said. I dunno. If MLB was toying around with the idea of staging an entire condensed season in Arizona with expanded rosters and hundreds and hundreds of quarantined personnel, this seems much more reasonable.
And it could be fun. The original Home Run Derby television series — Episode 1 was Mickey Mantle against Willie Mays — is still great television.
Think about it. Let’s designate May — the entire month — Home Run Derby month. Players who wanted to participate could participate. The bigger the names, the better, of course, but at this point we’d probably watch utility infielders competing to slug the ball over the fence, as long as safety measures — real, legitimate safety measures — were in place.
Heck, include retired players. Think Jose Canseco wouldn’t jump at the chance? That would be fun TV, and isn’t that what we’re after here?
The logistics could be tricky, but not insurmountable. And there are many different ways to approach this. You could set up a 16-player bracket and film everything in one day, but air the rounds over the course of the month. Confidentiality documents for everyone to sign!
You could film a different HR Derby each week — two in Florida ballparks, two in Arizona ballparks (lots of players live in those areas, so that makes sense to limit travel) — and have the champions each week of May face off in a first-week-in-June title match.
Lots of options.
‘MLB The Show’ tournament
We’ve already seen a four-player tournament, and that was a lot of fun, despite the technical glitches. Amir Garrett — wearing his Reds uniform — won, beating Trevor May in the opener and Blake Snell in the championship game.
To this, I say, “More, please.”
And I can tell you this: A source at MLB has confirmed to me that more is indeed on the way. Bigger competitions, more players. And we shouldn’t have to wait too long.
‘Hit ’em where they ain’t’ contest
Going to borrow this idea from my column about potential All-Star Game tweaks.
Instead of only celebrating the power, let’s celebrate the players who can, as long-ago Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler famously said, “hit ’em where they ain’t.”
Same as the Home Run Derby idea, this could take various formats. Essentially, though, it would be a tournament setup spread across the month.
Set up six targets (big nets, essentially) around the field, three in the outfield — one down each line, one in each power alley — and three in the infield, one on the left side, one on the right side and one behind the pitcher’s mound. Each guy gets four swings per target, and the one who hits the most targets advances.
And want to really keep it enjoyable? Bring back retired players. Put Ichiro — the best bat-control hitter of the past few decades — in the competition. Give Wade Boggs a spot and pit him against Joey Votto. Let Derek Jeter compete in a Marlins uniform. Hell, put Pete Rose in there.
How much fun would that be?
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