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What if MLB had a WBC-style tournament in 2020 instead of a regular season?

It’s just one idea floated by a national writer.

Dodger Stadium during the 2017 World Baseball Classic
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The World Baseball Classic has become a popular quadrennial event. It was last held in 2017, and at least as of now there are still plans to hold the tournament in 2021, though some qualifying games for the 2021 WBC scheduled for Arizona in March were cancelled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In a long article that goes through a number of different scenarios for a possible 2020 baseball season — many of which I’ve covered here before — ESPN’s Jeff Passan put together what I think is a pretty reasonable idea for a WBC-style tournament that would take the place of a 2020 regular season and postseason. That might be necessary — and per Passan, everything is on the table — due to the uncertainty about where such a regular season could be played, which states might be open, and many other things.

Passan writes:

I thought about it and came up with this idea, which essentially would function as a baseball World Cup. The format: six hubs, five teams per hub. You could choose hub teams by division, which would be easy, or by geographic location with mixed leagues if you want to get really wild. Let’s go by division for now just to make it easier to understand.

Oct. 1-20: Every team plays a four-game series against each division opponent with a day off in between. The two best teams from each division advance.

Oct. 22-Oct. 31: The six American League teams that advance congregate at one hub. The six National League teams gather at another. They play each of the other five teams twice in a round-robin format with a collective day off in the middle. The four teams with the best records in each league advance. In the meantime, the nine non-advancing teams from each league meet at a hub and play one game against the rest of the teams there. The winner of that round-robin regains entry into the playoffs. In the case of a tie, hold a winner-advances one-game play-in-to-the-playoff.

Nov. 2: The play-in winner faces the No. 4 seed from the advance round-robin in a one-game wild card. Winner advances to face the No. 1 seed.

Nov. 3-9: Five-game division series with one day off between Games 2 and 3. Winners advance to league championship series.

Nov. 11-19: Seven-game LCS with standard days off. Winners advance to World Series.

Nov. 21-29: Seven-game World Series with standard days off. Sixty days on the dot. Happy Thanksgiving.

This is actually an interesting and creative idea. It acknowledges that anything resembling a normal baseball season in 2020 is probably impossible, even one in neutral sites in Arizona, Florida, Texas or wherever. It uses the concept of playing baseball in six different “hubs” beginning in October. By then, we might have six locations open enough to hold baseball games. It wraps everything up in two months. Thanksgiving this year is Thursday, November 26, so maybe a couple of days short of that would be better, perhaps having the seventh game of that “World Series” happening the day before Thanksgiving. Passan adds:

In this format, every team would be guaranteed at least 24 games and one full month of baseball. Further, every game would really matter — but a stumble in the first round-robin wouldn’t necessarily be a season-ender, either.

Is a giant playoff ideal? Not for a representative season. Maybe not even for a semi-representative season. But ... I’ve got to be honest: I kind of dig two full months of truly meaningful baseball.

If the choice were between having this kind of tournament beginning in October or no 2020 season at all, I’d surely choose this. It’s probably a given that no baseball games are going to be played in front of fans during 2020 and any revenue teams have from ticket sales this year is going to be lost. But this would at least allow ballclubs to get some revenue from TV and radio broadcasts, and create some interest in all the games, since in a setup like this, virtually every game would be meaningful.

Who says no?


A WBC-style tournament instead of a 2020 MLB regular season...

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    Fantastic idea! Get it done!
    (94 votes)
  • 28%
    Dumb. Don’t want anything like this
    (42 votes)
  • 8%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (13 votes)
149 votes total Vote Now