We are not going to know for a long time when the baseball season is going to start -- if ever. Amid some predictions the country could still be in the grips of the coronavirus into midsummer, we cannot rule out the possibility there may be no baseball season at all this year.
If that turns out to be case, then what?
Believe it or not, there are some clubs that probably wouldn't mind if 2020 came and went without having to put their teams on the field. Teams like the Yankees, who paid $324 million to one pitcher alone to assure themselves a World Series, and the Dodgers, who added free agent-to-be Mookie Betts to a team that won 106 games last year, were heavily invested in the 2020 season. Those teams in no way want to see it get banged.
But because there is still so much competitive imbalance in baseball, there are far more teams that could just as well do without a season. They had no chance of contending, and attendance was likely to hemorrhage. And then there are the Astros, who took a beating from the fans all spring and for sure had to welcome the abrupt cancellation of spring training.
Taking them one at a time:
It was a brutal spring for the cheating Astros. Everywhere they went they were booed lustily, especially Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, who heard it even in their home ballpark in West Palm Beach. Dusty Baker, the resident Astros caretaker, confided to me his genuine surprise at the overall anger at his team. Presumably, a year from now, after the nation has endured the horror of this coronavirus, the Astros cheating scandal will be last thing on fans' minds.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
A veteran baseball man who saw a lot of the Giants this spring and labeled them by far the worst team in the Cactus League, had this observation: "How do you trade Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy, who won three world championships and are both going to the Hall of Fame, for Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler? That's like trading Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio!"
BOSTON RED SOX
Have to think nobody in baseball is more relieved to see the season delayed than Sox owner John Henry, who was dreading having to hear the Boston media and Fenway fans wailing and moaning every day the Red Sox lost and Betts did something to win a game for the Dodgers.
In that respect, the second-most relieved person in Boston was Alex Verdugo, who, a year from now, may be forgotten as the principal return from the Dodgers for Betts. Henry refused to admit the Red Sox are downsizing, but believe it, they were looking at a losing season even before Sale went down with Tommy John surgery.
It was entirely possible the worst-run team in baseball could have actually surpassed the 108 losses they endured last season. Their best player, Trey Mancini, underwent colon cancer surgery two weeks ago and there was no indication as to when he would be able to play again. Their other best player last year, Jonathan Villar, was traded to the Marlins for a low-A non-prospect pitcher in a salary dump.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
There is perhaps no more endangered GM in baseball than A.J. Preller, who heard it from Padres chairman Ron Fowler after last year's 70-92 last-place finish that another losing season in San Diego would not be acceptable. Preller responded by firing Andy Green, a terrible choice as manager, and replaced him with another unknown with no major league experience, Jayce Tingler.
After a totally dysfunctional offseason in which they couldn't figure out in which order to fire their team president, general manager and manager, the Pirates found themselves this spring with a team that was guaranteed to finish last in the NL Central and almost certain to lose 100 games. The only significant off-season acquisition (if you could call it that) by new GM Ben Cherington was outfielder Guillermo Heredia, who hit .225 with 20 RBI and 60 strikeouts in 89 games with Tampa Bay.
The day before Rob Manfred pulled the plug on spring training, a Marlins scout said to me: "I just hope they'll give us one more year of patience." He was referring to Marlins CEO Derek Jeter's second annual decree that he needs to see improvement this year. Jeter said the same thing last year and the Marlins responded by going from 63-98 to 57-105.
What was shaping up as the summer of discontent for Rockies superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado now at least gives the team more time to trade him. Then he won't have to be part of an even worse season than last year's 71-91 campaign.
Sports on 03/23/2020
Print Headline: Some teams wouldn't mind a lost season