Baseball draft will be a new creature this year
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Throw out the baby with the bath water.
The professional baseball seasons will be much different than ever before. That is if there are professional baseball seasons this summer.
Pandemic and COVID-19 have been harder to fathom than a Sandy Koufax fastball or stopping Joe DiMaggio during his 56-game hitting streak back in 1941.
If and when the seasons in both the Major Leagues and the scattered minor leagues ever begin, the games will have first-seen circumstances in every city.
Stadiums may be filled with little more than umpires, rows of seats covered with the dust of months and months with no bodies occupying them and the echoes of the players’ names bounced off the outfield fences by the public address system. The season could open with no fans emptying off subway trains or families roaming the concession stands.
Major League rosters could have 26 players instead of 25 because there could be so few off days on a pieced together schedule put in place in an effort to get in as many games as possible. Almost assuredly there won’t be 162 games attempted.
There could be three divisions with 10 teams placed in each division. Geography will play a significant role in where a team is placed. The playoffs will be another never-seen mixture that might course through October and most of November.
If a three-division format is finally settled on, the New York Mets and New York Yankees will be in the same division and so will the Los Angeles Dodgers, Anaheim Angels and San Diego Padres. Scrambling for fans in the Windy City and also placed in the same division will be the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox.
Minor league baseball will not see an influx of players that join teams following the June draft of free agent amateurs. There will be only five rounds in this year’s draft instead of the usual 40 rounds. That means only 160 athletes will be selected in the draft.
Bonus money allotted to those few draft selections will still be piled high, but anybody not taken in the draft can’t be given a bonus of more than $20,000 when signing.
A deluge of high school players — many of whom did not get to show their wares to scouts or Major League executives this spring — will flood into the junior college ranks or take a college scholarship instead of being forced to accept a much smaller bonus than they had expected before the coronavirus became the bane of baseball.
Ordinarily, the rosters of teams in the lower ranks of the minor league change quickly after the annual draft. Signees go into the Rookie Leagues, short-season leagues and the lowest rung of some Class A leagues following the draft. Not this season. There are only 160 players selected. And then come those names selected after the fifth round and offered $20,000 or less.
The four-year NCAA colleges can offer only 11.7 baseball scholarships per season. And with the NCAA cancelling its 2020 College World Series and doing the same with its regular seasons in mid-March, that organization has offered every baseball athlete another year of eligibility. Some schools will have nearly the same roster they had in 2020 and then bring in a new class of players for the 2021 season. How will college coaches handle that bulging roster when the maximum number of players they could have in 2020 was 35? Will the NCAA allow expanded rosters for at least the 2021 season?
Throw out the usual conventional thinking. Bring in novel ideas and baseball-laboratory thinking for professional or amateur ball of any stripe and color.