It’s entirely possible the 2020 MLB season will never get off the ground or will open up and then be stopped, never to start again. Such are the times we live in.
Let’s be optimistic, though. Let’s assume they’re able to play through the ever hovering pandemic and keep us entertained. MLB has presumably spent a lot of money and time figuring out how to try and pull off a 60-game season and will try to power through if at all possible.
It won’t be the same as a regular year; that much we know. It’s more one long baseball tournament rather than a baseball season. If you’re a fan of a team that wasn’t expected to contend, you have to be at least a little excited that maybe your team can somehow get hot from the start and hang around long enough to sneak into the playoffs and maybe, just maybe…
Hope, as always in baseball, springs eternal. It’s just that the hope starts in the summer this year.
From a collecting standpoint, the fact that there will be some kind of season is a positive. Interest in baseball products shouldn’t die if the season lives. We’ll get to see fluctuations in the market based on performance instead of what someone says in a video or on a podcast.
Every game always matters but this year, they’ll all seem bigger.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The season will be a sprint, not a marathon. Every team will—or should be—in contending mode from the start. After all, everyone will start 0-0 and play only 37 percent of a full season. For collectors who play hard in the rookie and prospect card market, keep in mind that some very young players on good teams won’t likely get much of an opportunity and those who do may be on a short leash. Testing positive for the virus and missing time could also put a damper on a young player’s rise.
- Teams may not know for certain they’re out of the chase until we’re 40 games in. By the time they decide to play more prospects, the youngsters won’t get much of a chance to show what they can do. That could have a big impact this summer and in the off-season card market, too.
- But…having the designated hitter in the National League could open the door for some young hitters who have already shown some promise to see regular playing time. It could also prolong the career of players now in their mid-30s. Less travel in the newfangled 2020 schedule could also keep some of them in the lineup more often, again pushing youngsters to the background.
- During a normal season, a lot of players experience slumps that last a month or more. It’s possible a promising young player who’s a darling among collectors may go into an early slump and never really come out of it or lose the chance to do so if his team is in the hunt. Will public opinion of that player—and his market value—change?
- Conversely, you can bet there will be a few unheralded players who will catch lightning in a bottle and become “mini stars of the shortened season,” playing at a high level for 30-40 games, sending their card prices artificially high. If you can flip their cards for a tidy profit, more power to you, but the smart money will understand who the player has been and who he’ll probably be in the future.
- The statistical greatness among some older players may be adjusted by the loss of games at a critical moment in their careers. Albert Pujols has 656 home runs. He’ll be 41 by next year. Much publicity and card buying would have followed had he made a run at the 700 home run club. It seems unlikely now that he’ll get there. Miguel Cabrera, 37, has 477 homers and 2,815 hits. Will he be able to stay around long enough—and stay healthy enough—to join the elite club of 500/3,000? Such a push would likely have an impact on his cards similar to his run at the Triple Crown in 2012. Robinson Cano will be 38 in October. He’s still 430 hits away from 3,000. That milestone would put a new shine on his career but it now seems iffy at best. We may see other players who will go from being in the latter prime of their careers in 2019 to over the hill by the spring of 2021.
- With no minor league season, the prospect market may be a massive guessing game by October. Some promising careers will undoubtedly fizzle.
- Collectors have been waiting for the arrival of Wander Franco. It’s possible the Rays may give the game’s top prospect some at-bats in the big leagues rather than have him go through an entire season with no games. If it’s more than a few and he does well, look for another surge in interest in his prospect cards and maybe an actual rookie card soon.
- Another name to keep an eye on: Shohei Ohtani. He came in with a huge buzz and his cards were on fire before and during his 2018 Rookie of the Year campaign. Tommy John surgery then slowed the rise of the majors’ two-way sensation. Now healthy and still young, he should get a chance to return to prominence and could have a huge impact as a hitter and pitcher without regard for a limit on how many innings he throws this season.
“It will be really fun,” Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell told reporters late last week when asked about his feelings on the entire socially distant, shortened season. “It does feel like there’s more unknown this year, and right now that’s exciting.
“It feels like it’s going to make it a really maybe crazy trip, but a fun trip.”
It might be time for collectors to keep a steady hand but enjoy the ride.