Heyman On WFAN: Late May Start Is 'Best Case Scenario' For MLB

LISTEN: WFAN Baseball Insider Discusses Shortened Schedules

Joe & Evan
March 19, 2020 - 6:35 pm

On Monday, commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement that said MLB would follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation of restricting events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, pushing Opening Day back, as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

Most teams were scheduled to open their respective seasons in late March. Following Manfred's statement, there's no indication of how drastically MLB will change its schedule. WFAN baseball insider Jon Heyman believes a return in late May would be the "best-case scenario." 

"I think the best-case scenario with the eight-week delay would be late May to start the season, we'd all be thrilled if they did that," Heyman told WFAN's Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts. "They're talking about doing different things to doubleheaders and maybe expanding rosters that allow that. Maybe shortening spring training quite a bit. I know three weeks seems about right to restart but they may go even shorter than that to try to squeeze in as many games as possible. Maybe play half a season, I think that's acceptable." 

Heyman added, "The main thing for them ... the playoffs is where the national TV money comes in. They're going to want to have the playoffs. I don't think they're going to insist on playing 100 games to do that. They're all trying to play as many games as they can. I think that's fair to say. They'd love to do 144 (games) or even more. At this point, we don't know where it's going and I'm sure they would do a half a season if they had to."

Benigno doesn't believe any proposed schedule should fall below the 100-game mark. Roberts, however, is on board with any idea Manfred and MLB creating following the dramatics that surrounded the 1981 season. 

In 1981, MLB split the season in half due to a players' strike. Playoff teams were determined by which teams held the best record at the end of each half. The Cincinnati Reds, who led the NL West with 66 wins, didn't make the playoffs because of the stipulation.

The Reds finished a half game behind Los Angeles, the eventual World Series Champions, in the first half of the season. 

"It was ridiculously unfair," Roberts said. "When you look back at it now, it was ridiculously unfair and I find even an 80-game season, which is less than the games they played in '81, but that at least is everyone on an equal footing, going into a season knowing what you've got to do to make it. Because of '81 and the history, I'm good with whatever they come up with in 2020 because I think '81 when you look at it was flat out unfair."

Playing a shortened season isn't entirely out of the question for MLB as long as the decision doesn't impact the World Series. 

"At some point, it will look cheap," Heyman said. "If it's 40 games or 30 games, that's not going to look like a season. If it's half a year and everyone knows going in that we're playing half a year and the games are twice as important as they normally would be, I'm fine with that. You've got to do what you got to do. They certainly don't want to miss the playoffs and the World Series not just because the playoffs and the revenue, but you saw what happened last time we missed the World Series."

Click the audio player above to listen to Heyman's interview in its entirety