The latest reported proposal to start the MLB season involves dramatic realignment and teams playing the regular season at their spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona.
It’s becoming clear that MLB will leave no plan unconsidered when it comes to how the 2020 season could possibly start and play out in the face of a global pandemic.
Earlier this week we learned about one possible plan to play the whole season in Arizona with teams and staff living in quarantine. Now, the latest reported proposal involves dramatic realignment, with teams playing out the regular season at their spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona.
According to a report from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, citing a “high-ranking official,” MLB is considering getting rid of American League and National League designations for 2020 and having teams play an abbreviated season in six divisions based on the geography of their spring training homes.
It seems farfetched, but we could see a year of divisional clashes between the Yankees and the Phillies, the Giants and A’s, or the Dodgers and the Angels.
Nightengale’s report breaks down “one realignment structure” as follows:
NORTH: New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates.
SOUTH: Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles.
EAST: Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins.
NORTHEAST: Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics.
WEST: Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels.
NORTHWEST: Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals.
It’s unclear whether this is the most likely alignment under such a proposal or just a guess at how the teams could be grouped.
The most fun matchups from such a proposal would be those like the Dodgers and Angels or Giants and A’s, where realignment would bring together geographic rivals who are separated by the AL/NL divide. It could be fun for fans to get to see different opponents more often, see their team take on different stars and see some new rivalries crop up. If the 2020 season will always carry an asterisk in the record books, it seems like MLB is considering making it as unique as possible.
Other parts of the reported plan include a universal DH, a World Series between the winner of the Grapefruit League and Cactus League, or possibly a “postseason tournament with all 30 teams.”
According to the report, “the proposal is one of several being discussed.”
While it seems like a patently ridiculous idea, at least one notable MLB voice isn’t writing it off completely. Nightengale spoke to Hall of Fame former manager Tony La Russa, who is now an advisor with the Angels and “has been briefed of the potential plan.” La Russa’s take:
“When you’re trying to get really creative, why say no now? So you have a unique season. I’ve got no problem with that.
“I’m not sure we’ll be able play in our own cities across the country, so if you split it up like that, it’s a possibility.’’ …
“There are so many workable possibilities, why give up on any alternative until it’s clear it can’t work?
“What we can’t do is give up.’’
The plan is a fun thought experiment for fans, and as La Russa said it’s nice that they are getting creative, but this one seems like a big reach.