MLB’s makeup options are shrinking

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JULY 27: An aerial drone view of Marlins Park on July 27, 2020 in Miami, Florida. The Miami Marlins' home opener against the Baltimore Orioles was postponed after a number of players tested positive for COVID-19. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JULY 27: An aerial drone view of Marlins Park on July 27, 2020 in Miami, Florida. The Miami Marlins' home opener against the Baltimore Orioles was postponed after a number of players tested positive for COVID-19. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images) /

There are already 17 COVID-19 related postponements, with more possible. MLB’s options to make up these games are dwindling.

Cancellation of Saturday’s Cardinals-Brewers game, coupled with the prospect that Sunday’s scheduled doubleheader may be the next baseball-related victim of COVIS-19, intensifies the Rubik’s Cube nature of figuring out the 2020 MLB schedule.

As of Saturday, 17 games have been called off – 14 percent of the 121 that were to have been played — only two of which have been formally re-scheduled. One of those, Friday’s Cardinals-Brewers game re-scheduled as part of a Sunday doubleheader – may also fall to COVID when the extent of the Cardinal problems are fully factored in.

Eight of the postponed games involve the Miami Marlins, who to date have played just three times. The Marlins have become the vortex of MLB’s COVID problem, with nearly 20 players affected to date.

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And just to complicate things further, on Saturday Marlins second baseman Isan Diaz announced that he is opting out of playing the remainder of this season.

Assuming Commissioner Rob Manfred does not call off the season entirely – and there are reports that he is considering doing precisely that — the amassing number of postponements will pose a serious re-scheduling challenge, assuming it is MLB’s intent to complete a full 60-game schedule for each team.

Doing so is virtually certain to entail blocks of makeup doubleheaders for the Marlins and some other teams, probably later in the season when the potential is greatest to impact the developing playoff scenarios.

Begin with Miami, which to date has lost four games with the Baltimore Orioles and four more with the Washington Nationals.

The Marlins-Orioles series is far and away the toughest to reschedule because the teams are not scheduled to meet again in 2020.

That means the only way to get the teams together for four games would be to schedule makeup double-headers on a pair of shared off dates.

There are only two such shared open dates on the schedule, August 10 and Sept. 3.

But setting those dates aside for makeup doubleheaders in Baltimore is not as easy as saying it shall be so. Logistics have to be factored in.

An Aug. 10 home doubleheader would be relatively easy for the Orioles to work in. They are scheduled in Washington Aug. 9, and they open a series in Philadelphia Aug. 11

The Marlins are in New York to play the Mets Aug. 9, and travel – presumably to Buffalo – to play the Blue Jays in a Toronto home game Aug. 11.

The Sept. 3 date is tougher, especially for the Marlins. They are at home the previous day against Toronto, and open in Tampa Sept. 4. A three-day Miami-to-Baltimore (doubleheader)-to Tampa swing would be less than ideal.

The Orioles are at home that entire week, so their logistics would be unaffected.

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The Marlins’ canceled four-game series with Washington is a bit simpler because the two teams are already scheduled to meet Sept. 18 through 20 in Miami. But turning that series in a trio of doubleheaders – at a time approaching the season’s final week — would be consequential for the pitching rotations of both teams and make life easier for any contenders they are scheduled to play in the immediate aftermath.

It also only accounts for three of the four lost games.

If the Marlins are willing to lose one or more home games, a mid-August series in Washington provides one option. The teams also have one mutual off day, that coming on Sept. 17 – the day before their series in Miami opens.

So if MLB is willing to stage a 2020 version of the Bataan Death March, it could require the teams to play a makeup game Sept. 17 followed by three straight doubleheaders…and then move to the schedule’s final week.

That’s probably the dream scenario for the Braves, Yankees, Nationals and Rays, the four teams scheduled to play the Phils and Marlins during the final week.

The Yankees and Phillies, of course, have their own problems, since their July 27 through  30th series was collateral damage to the Marlins outbreak. Like the Marlins and Orioles, those teams are not scheduled to meet again, so makeups would have to be plugged into off days.

One of those makeups, a single game on Aug. 3, has already been announced.

There are two other mutual off days, those being Aug. 24 and Sept. 14. But again, logistics have to be factored in. The Phillies are scheduled to close out a series the previous night in Atlanta, then fly to Washington to play the Nationals Aug. 25. The Yankees play the Mets Aug. 23, and are in Atlanta Aug. 25.

Using the Sept. 14 date would interrupt a Yankee homestand. That date is easier for the Phillies, who were flying home anyway from a series in Miami.

But the Phillies also have to work in a three-game series with Toronto. The teams are scheduled to meet again Sept. 18 through 20, so if MLB chooses it could turn those games into doubleheaders. That in turn raises the problem of back-to-back-to-back doubleheaders during the season’s penultimate week.

Are there alternatives? Yes. The Phils and Jays have two mutual off days, those being Aug. 20 and Sep. 14.

But the Aug. 20 date is less than ideal because it interrupts and redirects road trips by both teams. The Phillies are scheduled in Boston the night before and Atlanta the night after; the Jays will be traveling from Baltimore to Tampa.

Sept. 14 is not much better. The Jays are traveling from Buffalo, where they will have played the Mets, to New York to take on the Yankees. As noted earlier, the Phillies will be returning home Sept. 14 from a road trip to Miami. But using that date for a makeup game with the Jays would obviate using it for a makeup game with the Yankees.

Now about the Brewers and Cardinals. Assuming — a large assumption — that their doubleheader is played on Sunday, they have only one game to make up. They could do that by turning one game of their Sept. 14-16 series in Milwaukee into a doubleheader. The teams also have mutual off days on Sept. 3 and Sept. 10.

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Obviously, if the Sunday doubleheader is called off, the whole issue magnifies even more. Any further postponements – affecting these six teams or others – also complicate the scheduling problem.