June 18, 2020
With baseball inching ever closer to figuring out what its 2020 season will look like, fans are on the cusp of knowing what each of Philly's beloved teams will have to overcome as each attempts to win what could be an asterisk of a championship this summer.
It could be a ridiculously busy few months:
Phillies could start spring training at CBP in under 2 weeks on June 29.— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) June 17, 2020
Start season July 19–20
Sixers should start camp June 30. And resume season July 29
Flyers should start camp July 10. NHL playoffs end of July, early Aug
Eagles hopefully start training camp late July pic.twitter.com/mucIhEI9to
So far as we know, the NFL will have a normal season, except with fans likely not involved and perhaps a slightly later start to training camp.
Each of the other three teams stand to benefit from altered season formats — some more than others. We decided to take a quick look at what the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies will face upon the resumption of their 2020 seasons, and which team has the most helpful situation.
Path to a title: A brief "pool play" stage with top contenders for seeding before playing from a normal playoff bracket in a neutral location.
Pros: Avoiding the fate of the bottom eight teams in each conference is a huge benefit (an expanded additional four teams per conference all are playing a tournament to get slotted into the actual playoffs with the current 5-through-8 seeds), but the Flyers have literally nothing to lose in the positioning stage — and they get some exposure against the three best teams in the East, some of whom they'll eventually have to face en route to a Stanley Cup. They also will have a healthy Jams Van Remsdyk upon the re-start.
Cons: The Flyers were the hottest team in the NHL before things came to a screeching halt in March, and finding that momentum again somehow will be really tough. They were also among the best teams in hockey at home and were in position to have home ice to start the playoffs. Those advantages are gone.
Path to a title: Eight games of tune-up and "regular season" play in a neutral location (Orlando) before resuming a regular playoff bracket (also in Orlando).
Pros: The time off certainly helps the Sixers, who were playing a bit sluggish in March while also trudging along without Ben Simmons while he suffered through a back injury. Philly was one of the worst teams in basketball on the road despite having the sixth best record in the East (thanks to some impressive play at home). That alone should help the Sixers, assuming Joel Embiid comes back ready to go (he says he is working out six days a week, so that's good). They will have a chance to improve their seeding to avoid the Celtics in the first round with a good showing in the first eight games.
Cons: Playing at a neutral site and not at home is not doing the Sixers any favors. Their schedule in the eight-game re-start will also be tougher than it would have been had COVID-19 not paused their slate of games. There is a pretty big injury risk for the Sixers' already injury-prone roster diving right back in (though there will be a training camp for players in July).
Path to a title: A vastly shortened season (the owners want 60 games, the players want 72) followed by expanded playoffs (16 teams up from 10).
Pros: There is actually a lot to weed through here. First, the shortened season. One of the reasons baseball has stuck to a 162 game season for so long is the fact that a small sample size really exaggerates in the sport of baseball. Last season, if the playoffs began after 60 games the Phillies would have been in, and the World Series Champion Nationals would have fallen short — even without an expanded playoff field. Anything can happen. Players who usually hit over .300 can have a cold start, and others can overplay their averages over such a brief span. With the Phillies playing in a brutally tough division, this is no doubt a positive for them, as is the 16-team playoff field. The Phillies should, with any record over .500, be able to get into the postseason.
There is also the designated hitter — which may be a new permanent reality for the National League as it has reportedly been agreed upon for not only 2020 but for 2021. It really seems like a foregone conclusion at this point. And while my co-workers here at PhillyVoice will say "Ok Boomer" after I finish typing that sentence, adding a DH to the NL is really bad for baseball overall. But, it's not for the Phillies. A DH spot gives top prospect Alec Bohm more opportunities for at-bats, and also gives home run basher Jay Bruce a spot in the line up. The proposed season format would also have teams playing in their own ballparks, which is surely nice for players living in Philadelphia.
The re-start also helps the team continue negotiations with the best catcher in baseball, J.T. Realmuto, who would have gone right to free agency had the baseball season not been played.
Cons: As we mentioned, a season less than half the length of a normal one is kind of a crap shoot. The Phils are also not as big a contender in their sport right now as the Sixers or Flyers.
Who's got it best?
If we are looking strictly at which format benefits which team the most, it's the Phillies. They have no excuses to miss the playoffs and then who knows? Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler could be enough starting pitching and a hot line up with Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto and others peaking at the right time could spark an unexpected run.
If we are looking at which team has the best chance at winning a championship, it's the Flyers, who remain the best team in Philadelphia. They have already shown they can beat the best in the NHL and that they are, in fact among them. The pause hurts their chances, but the format for the re-start is built for them to succeed.
Overall, all three teams seem to have improved their chances at winning championships this summer thanks to the time off and the makeshift formats to finish each respective season.
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