Its been a rough start to the Major League Baseball season which started about 10 days ago but has aged as well as a piece of lunch meat left in the Phoenix summer sun for those 10 days.
First, it was the COVID outbreak in the Miami Marlins organization which saw more than half their active roster set back with a positive COVID test.
Then it was the clumsy handling of Major League Baseball in the immediate aftermath of the Marlins outbreak. While I'm certainly willing to give everyone involved some more wiggle room than usual as we all confront the realities of a new world, MLB was seemingly completely unprepared for an intra-team outbreak during the season.
Now, it's the St. Louis Cardinals organization left reeling with 13 members of their team having tested positive and counting.
The number of games and teams affected by the cancellation of entire week's worth of games by two teams is adding up to a staggering amount. With the season schedule already constricted by baseball's late start, it's likely impossible every team can finish the year with 60 total games.
Doomsdayer's have been actively speculating on how much longer can baseball last or even calling for MLB to stop right now.
But its not an either/or choice as far as I can see it.
Yes, MLB will likely have to scrap their 60 game format if another team suffers a Marlins or Cardinals sized outbreak. The disruption to the schedule and logistics of still getting the entire expanded postseason in would be too much.
However, in that scenario assuming all the individuals who have contracted COVID during the season did not develop a serious case, MLB has one final option left before calling it quits.
Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball could pivot to a modified MLB tournament inside a bubble location.
We know sports can be done effectively inside a bubble; should MLB fail, we'll know its the only way.
MLB could learn from their own mistakes, cherry pick 8-12 teams and after a 10 day reset offer a round robin style tournament with the 2020 MLB Championship at stake.
Would those invites be based on current standings, last years standings or some other criteria?
It doesn't really matter. Pick the 12 most popular franchises by any available metric for all I care.
At that point, it's just a matter of having meaningful, safe sports instead of nothing.
One thing I learned from a four and a half month layoff followed by the return of the MLB, NBA and NHL is I'm not nearly as picky as I was pre-pandemic. I just want sports on, no matter what the form is.
We can't be as hyper focused on some of the pillars of sports competitive landscape from the past. Things like balance, consistency, rhythm and fairness are either out the window or completely different.
Things like flexibility, imperfection, resourcefulness and acceptance are the new pillars of sports.
Leagues may not be able to adhere to structured, consistent schedules fairly applied to the entire league. Rather, contracting the field of competition and getting it done however they can may be the only path forward.
Before baseball scraps its season, all they need to do to survive this year is scrap any lingering connection to competitive integrity.
I don't want or need sports perfection in the 2020 world. I just need it to be safe and available. Let's hope baseball agrees.