Addressing the Uncertainties of the 2020 American Association Season
American Association Daily provides insights and features on the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions going on with teams around the league. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier examines some of the uncertainties that face the league once the 2020 season gets underway.
A Whole Lot of Questions for 2020
While it must be admitted that there is some skepticism as to whether there will even be a 2020 American Association season, it is likely that things are going to get back to a form of normalcy at some point, probably near the end of May. When that occurs, there are a lot of questions as to what the season will be like, and so we attempt to shine a light on some of the biggest queries.
Will the American Association Season Start on Time?
At this point, it looks highly unlikely. President Trump’s push for the country to start getting back on its feet by the end of May means an absolute delay to the season. At best, the 2020 season begins on June 1, but look for a one month delay, likely beginning on June 16.
Will the Winnipeg Goldeyes Be Barred?
This is a very legitimate question. It is very likely that travel to the United States from foreign countries will be restricted meaning the Canadian based team may not be able to get across the border to play games. In addition, the other 11 teams in the league may find that, if they travel to Canada, they will not be getting back into the U.S., at least not until after they have been quarantined for some time.
Should this happen, it will mean that the Goldeyes will either not be a part of the schedule in 2020, or they will be forced to play all their games on the road.
There is good reason to believe that this kind of restriction will not be in place, however. Consider that that there is a Major League Baseball team (Toronto Blue Jays) and a Single-A team (Vancouver Canucks) in Canada. You can be certain that the Blue Jays will be granted some form of exemption, which could very well extend to the Goldeyes and to the Canadian teams in the Frontier League.
What Will Texas Do?
The Texas AirHogs had a deal with the Chinese National Team the last two seasons and that was to extend into this season. While teams from Canada will likely gain entry, there will be a lot of resistance to allowing players from China to enter the United States.
Billy Martin, Jr., Head of Baseball Operations, looks like he has already been prepared for this likelihood. He has been quite active in signing American players, giving the team flexibility once a decision has been made. In other words, should the Chinese players be barred from coming, the South Division got a whole lot tougher.
Who Looks Good at This Point?
Every manager on the planet will tell you that every team looks good on paper. That is not the issue right now. The problem is going to be who can sign players once baseball gets going, as well as who already has a solid roster right now.
This is a rather complex answer, so bear with me.
It begins by trying to figure out what Major League Baseball and their affiliates will do. It is quite possible that MLB will expand rosters to 28, at least early on. They will want to protect pitchers and ensure that their top players get an extra day of rest until they are in game shape.
That will mean that there will be three less minor leaguers in each system. If the minor league teams expand their rosters as well, this could mean that 20 to 30 fewer players from each team are available for independent teams. That’s 900 fewer players total.
Adding to the equation is that the NCAA has allowed seniors to stay around another year to play baseball since the 2020 season got wiped out. That is an additional decrease of at least a few hundred players, something that will drastically affect a team like the Gary Southshore RailCats.
This does even include the fact that a lot of Latin American players will not be available because of restrictions.
With all of this, it means that managers who have already signed a lot of players will likely have a big advantage over those who have a lot of wholes to fill. It also means that that more appealing places to play will be the target location for the best players, because there will be fewer of them and more options available (a buyer’s market).
Right now, there are a few teams that have filled the vast majority of their roster. The Cleburne Railroaders have reached agreement with all 28 players. The Sioux City Explorers have their pitching staff in shape, but they have a lot of position spots to fill. The Sioux Falls Canaries have over 20 players signed, and the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks have a majority of their roster filled.
The Chicago Dogs and St. Paul Saints have a lot of spots to fill, but playing in Chicago and St. Paul will likely give them an edge to get the best players. The Kansas City T-Bones will be fine because few have as good of a reputation with players as Joe Calfapietra.
The teams that face some uncertainty are Winnipeg, the Milwaukee Milkmen, Texas, Lincoln, and Gary. Winnipeg is usually far ahead of most teams when it comes to building their roster, but the tragic loss of his son had Manager Rick Forney understandably distracted for a while.
Milwaukee and Lincoln have first-year managers, who don’t have as deep of a rolodex as other managers in the league. However, Anthony Barone has a brand new ballpark to help lure talent to the Milkmen. Billy Martin has a huge list of contacts to find players, so they should be ok. Gary is going to depend upon how many talented college players are available and how much owner Pat Salvi is willing to spend if there aren’t any.
Could the Season Be Played with No Fans?
Yes. I think I am the only person who will say this right now, but I could very well see this scenario playing out. Commissioner Josh Schaub, Executive Director Josh Buchholz, and the owners will likely want to keep this league on the minds of fans. Should most sports be shut down, they could grab some national attention by putting together a small league of eight teams to play for the summer.
To reduce travel, they could choose eight locations where the travel is no more than eight hours for any team, say Kansas City, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Lincoln, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, and Gary Southshore.
The league would have two divisions of four teams each (Sioux Falls, Sioux City, Lincoln, Kansas City in the South). They could play a 50-game schedule (10 games against division opponents, five against the other division).
Because there would not be many baseball jobs available with baseball shutdown in most places, a lot of players may be willing to play for a reduced salary to have the chance to play ball. In addition, those teams that already have players signed could lend them to other teams for the year to fill roster spots. All teams would share equally in the expenses. Games would be broadcast online.
It could give baseball fans something to watch, especially if MLB decides to wait longer.
What Is the Drop Point?
To make this any kind of a legitimate season, at least 50 games will need to be played. They could reduce the number of off days, or even extend the season a week or two, but there needs to be 50 games, so the season must be underway by August 1.
By Robert Pannier