Baseball agent Scott Boras has proposed a compacted baseball schedule that would allow the season to play its full 162 games fully in the year of 2020, with the World Series happening around Christmas Day.
Just as a reminder of who Boras is in perspective to baseball politics: the Boras Corporation is responsible for the contracts of Dodgers Cody Bellinger, Brusdar Graterol, Julios Urias, Corey Seager, and former Dodger Hyun-jin Ryu, along with star players like Brice Harper, Kris Bryant, Gerrit Cole, Matt Chapman, Juan Soto, Anthony Rendon, and Max Scherzer. Together, his clients account for over a billion dollars of MLB money this season. So this is a guy with some political sway.
Just a reminder of who Boras is as a person: he said that the Astros players don’t need to apologize because the organization was the one pressuring players to use the cheating system, despite the MLB’s instance it was a player-led scheme. Jose Altuve is one of his clients in case you were curious.
His proposal includes moving late-season games into 11 covered or southern-enough-to-avoid-serious-cold-weather stadiums. Dodger Stadium, with our mild winters and low rainfall averages, is almost guaranteed to be on that list. While that’s only four less stadiums in operation than on any given regular season game, cramming teams into less than half the number of stadiums means there might be two road teams in town at any given time. With the proposed expanded rosters to deal with the fatigue of a packed schedule with multiple doubleheaders, that’s almost three times the number of players for every stadium than in a normal season game.
Where is the third team going to practice if there is a double header at the MLB park? Where are they going to work out? Where are they going to sleep? Will they take over a local college or high school field? Will they show up at the local Gold’s Gym?
It’s not just players that need housing. It’s coaches, trainers, social media staff. Family members. Not to mention the umpires, who often stay in the same hotel as the visiting team.
This plan will definitely impact the umpires as well. For a doubleheader, an umpire who has just stood for a 3-4 hour game calling a base now has to call the plate hours later. Tough at any time, yes, but at an average of twelve scheduled doubleheaders per team, that’s around 180 games played with potentially tired umpires behind the plate. Their job is hard enough as it is. A schedule like this is setting them up to fail. And before you bring up robots umpires, there is no way the system is ready for implementation this season.
Has Boras considered the emotional impact of uprooting teams to play home games in another stadium? What will it feel like for a life-long Dodger fan another team’s jersey in their home dugout. Let’s just imagine for a second. Yankee players in the Dodger home clubhouse, pinstripes pouring out from the third baseline. “We’re Gonna Win, Twins” blaring out before a game. Sweet Caroline sung during the eighth inning. The friggin Chop being played in Chavez Ravine. The Phillie Phanatic in Los Angeles on purpose.
To do anything less than those rituals would be insulting to those displaced teams. To do those things in the newly renovated Dodger Stadium is feels like swearing in a church.
While I truly believe the Dodgers would be accommodating hosts and make the necessary adjustments with professional discretion, the very thought of it is somehow disheartening. Perhaps that’s a selfish way of looking at the situation, like a kid refusing to share his toys. Perhaps baseball in any form is still better than no baseball. But who are these sights and sounds and songs for? Why do these rituals exist in the first place? For the fans in the park. For the seat fillers. For the diehards. What good is singing Sweet Caroline in Dodger Stadium if there are no Red Sox fans there to give it a full-voiced meaning?
If we’re seeking to preserve baseball as a balm to America’s woes, why would uprooting the games from the fans who love it be a part of the solution?
Boras has long championed the idea of having the World Series in a neutral stadium, much like the Super Bowl. He claims it would give fan the time to book hotels and travel, but his logic is flimsy. Football fans have two weeks to prepare after the final NFC and AFC games. If a league championship is played to its fullest extent, the World Series starts only a few days later. And giving fans a longer gap to plan would lead to more issues, like, well, playing in potentially harsher weather. It also causes problems when you look at the starting rotation and keeping them in peak performance.
Which brings up another big issue with Boras’s plan. His proposal includes every team playing at least 12 doubleheaders, more for some, which is a nightmare on starters. Even with the proposed expanded rosters, it puts tremendous strain on all players, especially the bullpen. Injuries and strains are almost guaranteed to rise. Will the minor leagues also mirror this schedule to provide the inevitable call-ups for when a stressed-out, overworked player blows a hamstring on his tenth at-bat of the day?
And what happens to the revenue streams of those nineteen parks that didn’t make the cut? Do they get a portion of the beer sales during their “home” road games? What happens to their stadium workers? Does a team that’s already paying for an expanded roster extended road series also have to pay those salaries?
Will blackouts still happen? Will some fans even be able to see the games at all?
Painful as it may seem, a shortened season is still, at this time, the best way to go. Home games should be played at home, where fans that have endured a possibly months-long seclusion can remember what it is to be part of something bigger than themselves, part of a community in a physical sense. Players need to hear the roar of a familiar crowd, to hear the payoff of their weeks of training at home.
Baseball needs to remember why it exists. It does not exist because Scott Boras needs clients with full seasons. It does not exist to give players jobs. It exists because fans want and pay for it to exist. To structure baseball in a way that takes a tangible part of it far away from them ultimately does more damage than good.