Does the Delayed Start to the Season Help or Hurt the Cleveland Indians?
Baseball, like the rest of the sports world, is stuck playing the waiting game. After MLB hit pause on all spring training activity earlier this week, fans were left to wonder when they’ll see their favorite team hit the field again.
The current plan is to delay opening day by just two weeks.
That said, we’re already seeing initial skepticism, as the required ramp-up time for players makes it difficult to believe 14 days is all we’ll have to wait.
For now, all we know is the season won’t be starting on time, leaving us with little to ponder outside of how the stunted schedule will impact teams in the season ahead.
So, how does this affect the Cleveland Indians?
Does a shortened season bring any benefits to the Tribe? Or does a delayed start instead have a negative impact on Cleveland’s 2020 campaign?
It all depends on how you look at it.
Right off the bat, you can list a few positives which come with suspending opening day. For one, fans won’t need to pack parkas for the Indians’ home opener.
Cleveland was the southern-most city within the first two weeks of the Tribe’s season.
Since the usual late March/early April weather conditions aren’t what you’d call ideal for baseball, a delayed start to the year at least improves the fan experience.
This should also bring some aid with ticket sales, as will the fact fans should be more eager than ever to welcome baseball (and normalcy) back to their lives when it returns.
Extra time prep time is also a benefit for two of the team’s ailing pitchers. Both Mike Clevinger (knee surgery) and Carlos Carrasco (elbow inflammation) weren’t going to be ready for the originally scheduled opening day.
With an extended opportunity for each to recover comes increased odds of Cleveland’s rotation being at full strength when it’s finally time to play ball.
Despite these benefits, there’s one significant drawback which comes with a shortened schedule.
Thanks to the Francisco Lindor-shaped cloud hanging over the club, the pressure to get the season off on the right foot was already high.
With less games for the Indians to work with, said need for a strong start is even greater.
Unless both sides decide to get productive with their newfound free time, contract extension talks between Lindor and the Indians are officially on hold. Knowing that, a midseason trade is something the team needs to consider.
Staying competitive from the get-go would likely eliminate any thoughts about moving Lindor before the trade deadline. Should that not be the case – as we saw last year – the Indians won’t have the luxury of patience.
Cleveland stumbled out of the gate in 2019, finding itself 11.5 games behind Minnesota by early June.
With about two months to spare before the trade deadline, there was still no pressure to panic and start selling, ensuring the Indians could calmly wait for things to right-size.
A postponed regular season all but guarantees they can’t take the same route this year.
Falling behind early, with less time available to make up ground, could force the Indians to shift Lindor trade talks back to the front-burner.
Eventually, getting the most value for their best trade asset becomes a higher priority than waiting to see if their spot in the standings improves. A stunted season could expedite this process.
Likewise, a trade of Lindor isn’t something the front office will want to rush. Making such a move will inevitably start a riot within the fan-base, but the blow could be (slightly) softened if the returns are solid.
Waiting too long to see if the team can recover from a rocky start could hurt Cleveland’s opportunity to do that.
This may be the biggest thing the Indians need to consider as far as how this postponement impacts their season.
They already couldn’t afford a sloppy start even before things were paused. With this latest update, the small margin for error they were working with just became minuscule.
Again, despite the glaring void a lack of baseball leaves us, there are perks from Cleveland’s perspective.
Better weather conditions, extended time for ailing players to recover, resolving ticket sales woes. They’re all silver linings in a time when such a thing is tough to find.
That said, a shortened schedule brings with it an increase in urgency. Whenever the season opens, the Indians badly need a strong start.
Otherwise, some difficult conversations will pop up far sooner than initially planned.
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