Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Less than a week after Major League Baseball and all other major sports in the United States shut down due to coronavirus, the country is already a much different place.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 6,519 known coronavirus cases in the U.S., with New York (1,717 confirmed cases) having the most in the country. Some cities, including San Francisco, have ordered residents to shelter in place. And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in the city could be in early-May.
Earlier this week, in accordance with CDC guidelines recommending that people practice social distancing, MLB pushed back the start of the regular season even further. The second week of May is now the earliest the season will start, and the wait could be much longer.
When things get back to some semblance of normal and baseball returns, there are a number of ways the Mets could be impacted.
A potentially radically different schedule
Although the regular season won't start until the second week of May at the earliest, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has not given up hope of playing a full 162 game schedule. Still, with each passing day, it's getting harder to imagine a scenario where the schedule is not sliced significantly.
In the very likely event that there are much fewer than 162 games played, the Mets could be one of the teams that is most impacted. And they could potentially be in better position than before.
The schedule for the moment calls for the Mets to have one of the toughest 22-game starts to the season of any team in the league, with an opening stretch against the Nationals (six games), Phillies (three games), Astros (two games), Brewers (seven games) and Braves (four games).
If the schedule is reduced, it's hard to see the above staying the same. Instead, it seems likely that the entire schedule for every team would be redone. And while the Mets will still have plenty of games against their own division, they would almost certainly not have seven early games against the Brewers. Additionally, one would imagine there is a chance interleague play could get axed this season in order to have a shorter, more balanced schedule. That would mean zero games for the Mets against the Astros and Yankees instead of eight.
A healthier roster
Before spring training was suspended and the regular season was delayed, the Mets were looking at an Opening Day without Michael Conforto, who is dealing with an oblique injury. The Opening Day status of Yoenis Cespedes was also up in the air, J.D. Davis was getting back into the swing of things after a shoulder injury, and Dellin Betances was still getting his velocity up.
Now, when the season starts in the second week of May or later, it's fair to believe that Conforto will be there. The same can't be said for Cespedes, since it's unclear how his progression is going now that spring training has been suspended. But if he is working out on his own and doesn't have setbacks, he should be able to run the bases at full speed and cut in the outfield by the time things resume -- and that was the final hurdle he had to clear in order to enter games.
Davis also doesn't have to rush to catch up, and Betances -- if he is throwing during the hiatus -- now has plenty of time to get his fastball velocity from around 91 mph to his more usual mid-to-high 90s.
A more abrupt learning curve for Luis Rojas
New manager Luis Rojas has over a decade of minor league managerial experience, so dealing with the X's and O's should be one of his strong suits. However, there will be a learning curve for each new big league manager.
And with a schedule that is likely to be shortened -- perhaps significantly -- Rojas will have to adjust to that curve much faster than any manager has since the lockout-shortened season of 1995.
Since taking over for Carlos Beltran, Rojas has shown that he has a steady presence -- handling press conferences and tough situations with aplomb, leaving the injury determinations and timelines to the medical staff, and making no promises about what the makeup of the roster and specifc roles of players might be.
For the Mets, who need to get off to a strong start in a season where they hope to go from an 86-win playoff near-miss to a legitimate contender, they're going to need Rojas to remain steady through what is certain to be a much different season than we've had in quite some time.
A different kind of trade deadline
With the start of the regular season delayed at least six weeks and likely longer, it's fair to believe the July 31 trade deadline will be pushed back. And if there is a change to the playoff format whenever the new schedule is released, there is a chance that more teams could be contenders whenever the deadline hits.
The above could lead to big changes when it comes to how Brodie Van Wagenen and other general managers operate.
Will teams try to strike quickly in order to get out in front of a potentially saturated buyer's market? Is there a chance a different kind of market could develop instead, with some teams not buying into potential success over a smaller sample size and refusing to deal key pieces to help them contend?
Either way, this will now be a different kind of trade deadline for Van Wagenen and Co., with the Mets potentially looking for a finishing piece or two that could help put them over the top in what should be an incredibly competitive NL East.