Any chance of baseball returning in the month of April was extinguished on Monday morning.
In accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – a statement recommending the cancelation of all events with more than 50 people for the next eight weeks – Major League Baseball elected to extend the delay on the 2020 regular season.
Therefore, and only if all goes according to plan with monitoring and containing the novel coronavirus pandemic moving forward, the earliest that baseball activities could resume is mid-May.
Tack on another two to three weeks for an additional Spring Training, realistically regular season games won't begin until at least the month of June – and that's barring any setbacks in an "ever-changing world" as Yankees general manager Brian Cashman called the present day this weekend.
As these unprecedented circumstances continue to develop, Major League Baseball and Commissioner Rob Manfred have yet to divulge how the league plans to carry out this year's regular season. Will games be added to the back end of the season prior to the postseason? Will this year feature an abbreviated campaign with less than 162 games?
Regardless on what MLB decides, regular season games in the months of April and May are evidently ruled out. How does that impact the New York Yankees and the club's pursuit of a second-consecutive AL East division title? Let's take a look:
Division games early and often
Across the first two months of the season, the Yankees are scheduled to play seven series against AL East opponents. Those seven matchups – accounting for 23 total games – were set to occur within the first 14 series of the season.
In 2019, the Yankees had immense success against their division rivals. Facing off with each of the four divisional foes 19 times, the Bombers posted a record of 54-22. That's more than half of New York's 103 wins.
This means, if games from the first two months of the year don't get made up, New York will miss out on seven opportunities to play the clubs they are most experienced with facing.
Then again, it's not all bad news in the division. The first two series against the Tampa Bay Rays are on the road. Not that Tropicana Field is necessarily a hostile environment for road teams, especially early on in the season, but the Rays are New York's biggest threat to winning the division. If the schedule remains the same for the remainder of the year, the Bombers will have a home field advantage against the club that won 96 games a year ago.
So much for beating up on bad teams...
In the month of April alone, New York was set to play a total of 14 games – in four separate series – against Baltimore and Detroit.
Last year, those two teams had the lowest records in all of baseball – the Tigers (47 wins) and Orioles (54 wins) combined for less victories than New York had on the entire season.
If COVID-19 hadn't pushed the season back, New York would have been able to match up with arguably the two worst teams in the league, easing into the season early on. Who knows, maybe those 14 games could have potentially been the difference in securing the best record in the American League down the stretch.
Instead, unless those games are rescheduled, the Yankees won't get another chance to play the Tigers in 2020 and will shave almost half of their opportunities to beat down on the Orioles moving forward. After all, the Bombers have an active 16-game win streak against Baltimore...
Silver lining in staying local
Cross-country trips can be debilitating during a long season. Lengthy flights, late nights and back-to-back games with no days off take a toll for any big-league ball club.
For the Yankees, all three west coast road series take place within the first two-plus months of the 2020 season. New York was scheduled to travel to Oakland in mid-April (before a trip to play the Rangers in Texas). Then, at the end of May and leaking into the beginning of June, the Bombers were slated to play in Los Angeles and Seattle in back-to-back three-game sets.
Should those games be canceled, the furthest road trips the Yankees will need to make throughout the remainder of the season would be Kansas City and Minneapolis.
Even the All Star Game – scheduled to take place in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium – might not be played this season. With the bulk of the first half called off, we may need to wait until the summer of 2021 to see all the game's stars convene on one field.
Don't worry, you can still see the sign-stealing 'Stros come to town
Doesn't the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal seem inconsequential at this point?
For Yankees fans that complained about not getting an opportunity to boo the Astros at Yankee Stadium until September, turns out that was a blessing rather than a curse.
That being said, fans likely won't have an opportunity to watch a rematch of the 2019 American League Championship Series until then. Odds are New York's road trip to Houston in mid-May won't take place as scheduled.
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