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Sports >  MLB

Matt Calkins: Arizona plan? 80 games? It doesn’t matter. The real news is that it looks like baseball will return in 2020.

UPDATED: Thu., April 30, 2020

A grounds crew worker cuts the infield in front of empty seats at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, March 26, 2020, around the time when the first pitch would have been thrown in the Mariners' Opening Day baseball game against the visiting Texas Rangers. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
A grounds crew worker cuts the infield in front of empty seats at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, March 26, 2020, around the time when the first pitch would have been thrown in the Mariners' Opening Day baseball game against the visiting Texas Rangers. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – If you can think of seven more glorious words than this, drinks are on me: It sounds like baseball is coming back.

That’s what Jeff Passan of ESPN reported on Monday. It’s what Bob Nightengale of USA Today wrote, too.

What the season will look like exactly remains to be seen, as many scenarios are being discussed. But if you’ve been yearning for live sports amid the coronavirus pandemic, it looks like you’re (eventually) going to get your fix.

In a letter last week, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred wrote, “While I fully anticipate that baseball will resume this season, it is very difficult to predict with any accuracy the timeline for the resumption of our season.” That may sound pessimistic, but it’s actually realistic.

It could be late June. It could be July. It could be 80 games, 100 games, or 110. But the consensus seems to be that it’s going to happen. Why? There are too many dollars that go to waste if it doesn’t.

True, stars such as Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout – both of whom have contracts paying them more than $30 million a year – denounced a recent proposal that would essentially quarantine players in Arizona for a few months and keep them away from their families. But as The Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish and others reported, hundreds of other players who don’t have nine-figure bank accounts want to make their money and hone their skills.

Team owners are equally motivated financially. The question is – how do you get it done?

Nightengale reported a plan that would divide MLB’s 30 teams into three 10-team divisions, in which teams play only divisional opponents. The plan would group the teams by proximity, throw out the National League/American League tradition but allow the players to stay with their families. Passan reported that the Arizona plan is also still a possibility, as is as plan in which MLB uses five or six host cities where the coronavirus has been relatively tamed.

Obviously, testing is of the utmost importance, but as Passan wrote “MLB, because of its financial might and experience with drug testing, almost certainly would be able to procure a sufficient amount of tests.”

So what would this mean for Mariners? Depends on your perspective.

Considering the team wasn’t expected to compete for a playoff spot – something its general manager, Jerry Dipoto, admitted to – a shortened season could be a boon.

There is no way Seattle would make the playoffs if it had to play 162 games. But 80 or 100? You never know.

Remember, the Mariners started 13-2 last year before finishing at 68-94. But for those first couple of months, they were playing what looked like meaningful baseball.

Throw in the fact that an expanded playoff – even a 60-day super tournament involving all 30 teams – has been discussed, and the idea of competing for a championship isn’t completely ridiculous.

On the other hand, 2020 could end up being a gut punch to the Mariners. This was supposed to be a developmental year for Seattle, and as it stands, there might not be a minor league season.

Additionally, younger players such as Shed Long, Evan White and Kyle Lewis need as many big league games as possible to reach their potential. In that sense, the fewer games there are, the worse it is for the Mariners.

But if there is a season, I doubt that’s something many people would complain about.

Maybe I’m writing this column with my heart more than I am with my brain. Maybe I saw a couple of optimistic stories on national websites and just wanted to believe.

But the more I read, the more confident I become that this is going to happen.

The past couple of months have reminded us that sports stars aren’t the real heroes in this country. They are entertainers – not necessities for our health and safety.

But these past couple of months also have reminded us how much more joyous our lives are with sports in them. Just look at the overwhelming ratings for the NFL draft or “The Last Dance” documentary.

I hope I’m not duping you, just as I hope I haven’t been duped. But it sounds like we’re gonna see baseball this summer.

And man, that feels good to type.

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