Red Sox: What could a truncated 2020 schedule look like?

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 5: An aerial view of Fenway Park at sunset during a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins on September 5, 2019 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 5: An aerial view of Fenway Park at sunset during a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins on September 5, 2019 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

In the past, the Boston Red Sox schedule has been adjusted primarily over labor disputes. Does this give an inkling into the 2020 schedule?

The 2020 Red Sox season is still in a hold status while the greater good is being promoted front and center.  Eventually, baseball will resume, and knowing the basic greed of the owners and their expensive chattel every effort will be made to minimize the financial losses. But just what will a season look like?  There are several historic references that give some limited insight into what may happen. The past could reflect the future.

A nation at war places limitations on entertainment and especially entertainment that relies on youthful manpower needed for the war effort either in the trenches or industry. In World War II baseball – with the blessing of FDR continued. Travel restrictions were in place and the 1945 All-Star Game was canceled, but the schedule remained intact. Not so for the war to end all wars – World War I.

That season the schedule was reduced and the season ended on September 2nd. Ty Cobb even pitched that day in a throwaway game. For the Red Sox, it was advantageous as they topped the American League with a 75-51 record and 2.5 games ahead of Cleveland. Pure conjecture if the schedule had been completed if the Indians would have vaulted past the Red Sox. Boston was also victorious in the World Series.

Individual honors were also protected as Babe Ruth tied for the home run title with 11. Tillie Walker of the A’s also slammed 11. Walker was one of the players who soon enjoyed the transition from the Dead Ball Era to the Live Ball Era as his home run totals rapidly increased each season. Walker was noted for his cannon arm and his power.  So much for the historical sidebar.

Decades of labor unrest finally culminated in a strike torn 1972 season over pensions and salary arbitration. This time baseball’s hierarchy failed the Red Sox as the Sox lost the AL East by 0.5 games to the Tigers. An uneven schedule existed and it cost Boston dearly as did Luis Aparicio.

Aparicio was one of the most skilled base runners in baseball history. Quick, fast, and intelligent on the base paths. Nine times leading the AL in steals and an equal number of Gold Glove Awards. Carl Yastrzemski hit an apparent triple with speedy Tommy Harper and equally speedy Aparicio on base. Harper scores and Aparicio trips over third and scurries back to the bag to be greeted by Yaz. Boston loses.

Individually the Red Sox had an award winner on the mound as Luis Tiant won the ERA crown with a 1.91. Tiant finished the season 15-6 was not considered starter material until later in the season getting just 19 starts.

The 1981 season did not have a plague of locust but the usual labor dispute.  This one had the walkout starting the end of May and a resolution was reached to complete the season. This time the season resembled a minor league approach with two seasons – a first half and a second half.

The Red Sox fell short on both halves but did come close in the truncated second have with a 29-23 record to finish 1.5 games behind Milwaukee. This became a preview of what we now have with a layer playoff system with division winners, wild cards, and anything else that can be tossed in the blender to make everyone have a shot.

Individually two Red Sox benefited from the short season.  The first was Dwight Evans who tied with three others for the AL home run title at 22. Evans also had a 6.7 bWAR that was tops in the AL.  Carney Lansford won the batting title at .336 and of interest is Jerry Remy finished tenth in the AL at .307.

There is the 1985 strike that is best classified as a mini strike since it lasted only two days. Only two games were lost. Then there is the spring strike of 1990 that wiped out most of the spring training and delayed the start of the season until early April. No real schedule impact.

In 1994 another season was shattered and a schedule abruptly destroyed including the playoffs. This time the culprit was an acrimonious labor dispute that had no resolution until the following season.  For the Red Sox, it meant nothing since the team finished 54-61 and was done.  The only losses were revenue, public image, and possibly Tony Gwynn.

Gwynn closed out the season with a .394 batting average and could have made an interesting close to the season attempting to hit .400. Another victim or should it be plural were the players on pace for 50+ home runs. Matt Williams of the Giants got the title with 43. The only Red Sox statistical accomplishment was Mo Vaughn leading MLB in intentional walks with 20. And now there is the now.

How long will it take for players to get in shape?  My assumption is they are maintaining a reasonable training regimen. Hopefully, the teams will not be littered with Pablo Sandoval lookalikes. The schedule may be similar to 1981 when a large block of games vanished. That season the final Red Sox tally was 108 games.

If a season started on July fourth the Red Sox – the team I will use as an example – could play 108 games with doubleheaders spaced within the schedule, but what could be done to get in 140 games? Can it be done?

The impediment I see is the weather.  Baseball in Boston or other similar climates just will not work.  The weather could be delightfully mild or horrendous. We have witnessed such a playing trauma in the World Series. I can see a player going on the IL over being frostbitten.

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The schedule would need to be modified to take into consideration the weather. Have teams with traditionally poor weather have their warmer weather opponents scheduled on the road.  The Red Sox west coast swing at the end of the year. Other games such as a series with the Yankees could go to a neutral site or Jet Blue Park or Tampa and a dome.

Dome’s could also be judiciously utilized as neutral venues for teams faced with the complexity of inclement weather. Baseball would have to do the one thing that is an ingrained weakness – be creative. The same would apply to a World Series.  Could a Red Sox-Dodgers series risk Boston in early December? Would it be “fair” to have all the games played in Los Angeles? Could baseball just schedule the series at two neutral sites?  Works for the Super Bowl.

dark. Next. MLB investigation into 2018 complete

The COVID-19 may have rid us of the early season weather nastiness but it may just take it and put it on the back-end. Whatever is determined it has to be creative enough to maintain fan interest as baseball is sagging in that department.