Major League Baseball built it, but whether the teams will ever come remains to be seen.
A day after it was reported the Field of Dreams game between the White Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals was off, Major League Baseball officially postponed the Iowa-based event set for next week, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as the reason why.
"We made every effort to go ahead with a first-class event for the people of Iowa, admirers of the film and fans generally," commissioner Rob Manfred said in the league's announcement. "Unfortunately, we have come to the conclusion that it would not be prudent to ask clubs to step outside their normal routines, given the evolving public-health challenges. We hope to host this event in Iowa in 2021."
"Hope" is not "will," of course, though perhaps it's an appropriate choice of verb considering how unpredictable everything is right now. The league seems to be taking a day-to-day approach to simply keeping the 2020 season running as multiple teams have now experienced COVID-19 outbreaks in the first week and a half of regular-season action.
The Cardinals are one of those teams, with seven players testing positive for COVID-19 in recent days. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, who first reported the Field of Dreams game's postponement Monday, said the league wasn't calling the game off due to the Cardinals' situation, though it remains to be seen whether they will resume play by next weekend's scheduled series against the White Sox, which would now figure to take place in its entirety on the South Side. The Cardinals did not play their scheduled weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers in Wisconsin, and their scheduled four-game series with the Detroit Tigers this week in Michigan was postponed Monday. They're scheduled to take on the Cubs this weekend in St. Louis.
Major League Baseball said Tuesday that it hopes to include the Field of Dreams game on next season's schedule, played in August, with the White Sox against an undetermined opponent. But considering the 2021 schedule is already out, we can take a look at the White Sox schedule for the month of August and try to guess who the opponent would be.
The obvious and logical choice: the New York Yankees, who were originally scheduled to be the opponent in the Field of Dreams game this summer before the league moved to a regional schedule for the 2020 campaign. The White Sox are scheduled to play hosts to the Yankees on Aug. 13, 14 and 15 of 2021, with an off day preceding that series Aug. 12.
Considering the original 2020 schedule had those two teams facing off in Iowa on a Thursday, with an off day Friday, then playing two more games on the South Side on Saturday and Sunday, the exact same scheduling could be put into place for 2021 by just moving the first game of that series to Aug. 12 and having an off day Aug. 13.
Another possibility could be the Crosstown-rival Cubs. Both Crosstown series are set for August weekends next season, and it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for the league to schedule one of the games between the two Chicago teams as a nationally televised weekend game. There's also a shared off day following the conclusion of the second Crosstown series Monday, Aug. 30, that could provide some breathing room for a potential schedule adjustment, say playing in Iowa on Saturday night, with an odd Sunday off day, then returning to Chicago to wrap the series Monday.
Baseball has few bigger draws than the Yankees and Cubs, and the league is trying to make this an attention-grabbing showcase event for a national-TV audience. The White Sox playing the Yankees or Cubs in Iowa surely would accomplish that goal.
Of course, like everything, circumstances have to allow for the game to be played at all. Baseball is getting a taste of the challenges of trying to play a brief regular season in empty home ballparks in the middle of the pandemic. Depending on where things stand next summer, circumstances still might work against the Field of Dreams game happening. But we'll see.