How would the SF Giants do in an extended Cactus League? The question might just be one we get an answer to.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said that it is possible for sports to return this year, but they’d have to be in a sort of “bubble,” with no fans at the stadiums and players largely sequestered in large hotels and tested.
Last Friday, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that one idea MLB officials are exploring would be pretty much that: keeping MLB teams at their spring training sites and playing a one-off season there.
Officials have been discussing different ideas as it becomes more and more likely baseball in the form we know and love won’t return in 2020. For instance, here in California Governor Newsom has stated that sports and entertainment venues will almost certainly not reopen this year.
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Even if baseball returned to the other states, which seems extremely unlikely at this point, it wouldn’t return to California. So there’d need to be a change of plans anyway.
According to Nightengale, in one version the Giants would be in the Cactus League’s Northeast Division. They’d be paired with the Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, and Oakland Athletics.
The Giants would play in their spring training site, Scottsdale Stadium. The other games would be likely be played at the Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, as well as Hohokam Stadium and Sloan Park in Mesa.
One advantage of the plan is that most of the Cactus League sites are pretty close to each other, typically within about an hour’s drive.
Naturally, this plan has problems as well, as some players have spoken out against it, including the the Angels’ Mike Trout. Trout, who called it “crazy.”
SF Giants’ Cactus League record, projected
At FanGraphs, Dan Szymborski simulated a version of what the season could look like. In short? Not good.
Not that we had high expectations for the 2020 season anyway. It was just supposed to be another one to get through as the prospects matured. (Which seems increasingly unlikely as minor league baseball may be unplayable at all.)
The Giants’ projected record is 47-61, with a 3.7 percent chance of making the playoffs. Sure, that’s a little better than they were projected to do in a regular version of the stadium, but it’s not much.
The Athletics are projected to win the division at 59-49, but that’s still just a 62.6 percent chance of making the playoffs.
In the end, the Cactus League and Grapefruit League winners would play for the World Series title under the plan.
Naturally, all of this is just for fun; it’s an admission we really need baseball back and have to keep going through the familiar mechanics of what we’d be doing even in its absence. There are so many unknowns right now, but at least we can have a little bit of fun in thinking about baseball being played again.