Right now, the USA is as a standstill as we fight the CVID 19 pandemic. Part of the destruction left in the path of this virus has been the hit it has taken on pro and college sports. MLB is weighing many different scenarios as to how to start the season, if one can even be played. For a team like the Orioles, this can affect them in many ways.

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For starters, let’s go on the assumption that the season is played that they get in roughly 100 games. If they are okay with 1-2 doubleheaders a week, 100 games should be doable provided that they start playing sometime between mid-June and early July.

In a shortened season, even a bad team can get hot and make the playoffs. While I doubt the playoffs would be likely for the Os, they certainly stand a better chance of it happening in 100 games vs 162 games. The health of Trey Mancini will obviously be a big deal here but outside of him, the team is reportedly healthy and they should have “all hands on deck” whenever the season starts. A hot start and some unexpected good performances by the young players and you never know what could happen, especially since they are likely to expand the playoffs to make up for some of the lost revenue.

That being said, it is far more likely they are fighting for the #1 pick vs a wild card spot. When you are a bad team, one of the things that makes you feel good about where you are as an organization is the young talent you are developing. For the Orioles, a shortened season really hurts you in that regards. The Orioles have several young pitchers that have a lot of varying upside. Guys like Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall have top of rotation upside and then you have the grouping of guys like Alex Wells, Zac Lowther, Dean Kremer, Bruce Zimmerman, et al..who could be mid to back end starter, weapons out of the bullpen or nothing at all. In a shortened season, these guys are going to get far less opportunities to perform at any level, much less get in the required amount of innings needed for proper assessment. You are also looking at the likelihood of no MiL baseball at all. It’s one thing to juggle the logistical nightmare that MLB and other pro sports are looking at. It is another to thrust the minor leagues in this as well.

The likelier scenario will be that the minor leaguers will be at their ST and extended ST facilities and working out, playing simulated games, etc…Perhaps, if they are lucky, they will be able to play some exhibition games with nearby teams but that is probably not likely given the game day crews needed for even that. What’s more likely is largely a lost season of development for the young players. Perhaps the AFL will expand this year but basically, the minor leagues are likely shot for the season. That obviously hurts the Orioles contention time line (if you believe they have one) because they need these young players to develop and become major contributors. The Orioles will not contend any time soon if they don’t get real contributions from the minor leagues and that obviously can’t happen if they can’t play.

Another important question is the service time aspect of these guys. Will they say the clock has already started? Will teams be able to “steal” a year of service time by keeping guys down a few weeks. This matters to the Orioles because a guy like Ryan Mountcastle is probably ready to be a MLer right now but they likely wouldn’t have brought him up until around today, April 19th, so that they could receive that extra year of service time. The reality is, that these questions about the minor leagues, service time and the 2020 draft are more important than what happens on the field in 2020.

There is also the scenario that the season is never played. MLB has decided that players will receive a year of service time and contracts will be honored on some level.  The biggest issue for the Os is that they will lose a year of service time for Givens, one of the few ML assets they have.  On the ML side of things, the issue will again come back to development.  Guys like Austin Hays, Mountcastle, etc…players that were going to contribute to the ML team this year but need more time to play are going to be hurt by not playing at all.

We are all faced with a lot of uncertainty due to this virus. What is happening with our pro sports franchises, young adults we have never met and money we will never comprehend is of little consequence to most of us. However, if you want to take the time to examine how these things are impacting your teams, it goes way beyond just does a season get played and if so, how will it look? Fanless or not, in Florida and Arizona or at home parks. Those are all the talking points most will focus on but for a team like the Orioles, the talking points go way beyond that and this could push the timeline of the rebuild further back.

Rob Shields
Rob Shields

Rob has interviewed guests from outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, FOX Sports, Baseball Prospectus, Athlon, Sporting News, MLB Network, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Info Solutions, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Sports on Earth, Grantland, NFL Network, FanGraphs, Football Outsiders, ProFootballFocus, etc. etc. The Baltimore native lives in Perry Hall with his Wife Lindsay, and two young sons. He has appeared as a guest on 105.7 The Fan, Q1370, and WNST 1570. Co-Host of The Warehouse: https://anchor.fm/the-warehouse Co-Host of Sports Tonight: https://anchor.fm/sports-tonight