What was already going to be an unpredictable season is becoming more so with each new wrinkle that comes out. Not only are teams playing a very limited schedule in terms of the number of games, but they’re facing only divisional opponents and their counterparts from the same division in the other league.
On top of that, rosters are limited to 60 players, up to 34 of whom will eventually be part of a taxi squad as active rosters pare down over the first few weeks. That seems like it would provide more flexibility than the traditional 40-man setup, but we simply have no idea how things will shake out in terms of health.
Then you consider that rosters have to be set by this Sunday and players who are removed from the 60-man group can’t be placed back on it this year.
An interesting rule that could affect teams that specialize in massive roster churn:
MLB has told clubs that once they remove any player from its 60-player pool, they can't bring that player back this year.
Players can still go back & forth between big-league team & taxi squad.
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) June 25, 2020
But what could make things really interesting, not to mention frustrating for coaching staffs, is that advance scouting is going to very limited or completely eliminated. According to Jayson Stark, MLB is not permitting scouts to attend other teams’ taxi squad workouts or intrasquad games. In-person scouting may not even be allowed this season, period.
Another interesting tidbit communicated to teams today:
MLB won't permit opposing scouts to attend taxi squad workouts or intrasquad games.
And MLB hasn't decided yet whether to allow in-person scouting at any point this year – including the postseason.
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) June 25, 2020
That is a pretty big deal once the postseason rolls around and teams are likely to face an opponent they’ve not seen at all during the regular season. In fact, there’s a greater chance that a team would face a familiar squad in the World Series than in the divisional round. Having no scouting reports on regular-season opponents is one thing, but it’s going to be hell on preparation for a playoff series.
Such a blind draw seems to favor a veteran team with an established coaching staff because there’s ostensibly a greater degree of familiarity with a broad group of opposing players and coaches. The Cubs are one such team, and even their rookie skipper could provide an advantage in that regard. Remember that Ross got behind-the-scenes looks at several teams over the course of his time with ESPN, effectively scouting them and learning what makes them tick.
Now, does that realistically provide the Cubs any discernible advantage over, say, the Dodgers should the two clubs meet in the postseason? Well no, since LA didn’t allow Ross to access their clubhouse due to his role as a Cubs advisor. Still, Ross’s long career and staff of talented strategists — hello, Mike Borzello — should mean his lack of managerial experience isn’t necessarily a detriment.
There’s also something to be said for being aggressive and going for broke right out of the gate. The shortened season means teams that otherwise would have fallen out of contention by the All-Star break are going to be very much in the hunt up until the very end. No minor league season means no opportunity or excuse to have a stud prospect spending time on the farm, so it’s possible the Cubs could toss second-rounder Burl Carraway right into the mix.
It should also mean Nico Hoerner getting early reps with the big club, perhaps at the expense of a veteran like Daniel Descalso. As big an advocate as I am of chemistry and leadership in normal circumstances, this isn’t a marathon in which you need your support team meeting you along the route to provide Gatorade and pep talks. If a player isn’t actively contributing to wins, there shouldn’t be room for him on the roster.
There’s still a long way to go before we get to see how these things all end up playing out, if they do at all, but I’m really digging the possibility of getting a brand of baseball we’ve never experienced before. Not that I want all of these wrinkles to stick around, just that maybe it’s okay to leave the iron on the shelf for a little while.