Major League Baseball is discussing a plan that would begin the 2020 season in late June playing at least 100 games in front of empty stadiums.
To reduce travel (and avoid hot spots like New York), the league is considering a three-division, 10-team plan in which teams play only within their division.
There’s not much to like if you’re a purist. The American and National leagues would be abolished and the divisions would be realigned based on geography. But the particulars aren’t important to most fans. They just want to play ball.
The plan, pending approval of medical experts and providing that COVID-19 testing is available to the public, would eliminate the need for players to be in isolation and allow them to still play at their home ballparks while severely reducing travel.
The divisions would keep many of the natural rivals together, while playing one another before an expanded playoff format.
Indeed, some who have advocated for these reforms might be tempted to demand the realignment stay after the pandemic has passed. The rivalry between the leagues is a fundamental part of American professional baseball, each league with its own history, traditions, statistics. It will be very difficult to budge the purists among owners — unless it’s a medical necessity.
It’s too early to expound on the details, the officials cautioned, with new ideas floated each week.
It’s also not known whether teams would have to open the season in Arizona, Florida and Texas for several weeks before everyone could return to their home stadiums. Yet, they could squeeze in 100 to 110 games, and perhaps even have several thousand fans in attendance before or during the playoffs.
“It’s all coming together,’’ one of the officials said. “I’m very optimistic.”
There are several money issues that would need to be resolved. Some owners are categorically unwilling to play unless players take a pay cut. Good luck with that, guys.
Yet, there is now optimism among executives that they could settle their differences in negotiations on a sliding scale depending on the loss of revenue from gate receipts, parking and concessions. Teams also would have to revise their revenue-sharing plan.
Surely the players will be understanding and give the owners a break, right? Right?
Like hope springing eternal in April that the Cubs will win another World Series, we can always dream.
The realignment will excite some fans.
- New York Yankees and Mets, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins
- Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners
Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers
With the Yankees and Mets, Cubs and White Sox, and Dodgers and Giants playing each other so many times, will the rivalries get stale? Or more heated? That’s where the existence of two separate leagues comes into play. It remains to be seen whether inter-city rivalries will survive if major league baseball is forced to adopt this format for any length of time.
But most fans don’t care. They are starving for baseball. And one sure sign that the world is getting back to normal would be if Major League Baseball can get back to entertaining us.
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