More than a month of the Major League Baseball season has been lost to the COVID-19 pandemic and two more will pass before the proposed shortened regular season is scheduled to begin in July. Eighty-two games will be played under the owner-approved proposal which includes regionalized schedules, expansion of the designated hitter to the National League, expanded rosters and ballparks without fans.
The Kansas City Royals would match up with the other teams in the American League Central – Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians – and the NL Central – St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates – under the proposal.
When I heard MLB was closing in on a date to start the regular season, I immediately thought about how the Royals would become the ‘98 New York Knicks that made the NBA Finals as a seven-seed in a strike-shortened season. All it would take is squeaking into the playoffs – which will still be expanded under the recently approved rules – and getting hot for a few weeks. Sadly, I don’t think this will be the case for the Royals. MLB’s plan for a shortened season is unlike any other shortened season in the past due to the circumstances and it will be more difficult to execute than any other before it because of the vastly different health situations around the country.
Of the nine teams the Royals would face under the proposed regionalized schedules, four made the playoffs last season and six won 75 or more games, making the Royals’ schedule one of the more difficult in the league.
Players will still be at risk to contract COVID-19, meaning any player could be sidelined at any time in the season to quarantine and receive necessary treatment.
With all of the uncertainties leading up to the beginning of this season, it is hard to use precedent to predict how it will turn out. The Royals were slated for another season of rebuilding with a lot of exciting young players that have the potential to make their major league debuts this year. We’ll probably still see a lot of those players and a healthy rotation of others throughout the season.
Either way, I am excited about the thought of watching the Royals again and hopeful the owners will reach an agreement with the players that makes them feel safe about returning to competition.
Jason Brown is the sports editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org