Over the last several weeks, we have seen a handful of plans to kickstart the regular season. The first was the Arizona plan, which calls for all thirty teams to sequester in the Phoenix area and play games without fans. The Florida-Arizona plan temporarily eliminates the National and American Leagues and sees teams playing within divisions based on the locations of their spring training facility. The latest plan seems to be a mish-mash of both of these ideas.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the latest plan gaining traction around the league involves teams splitting into three divisions: the East, West and Central. This implies that like the Florida-Arizona plan, the traditional National and American leagues will be temporarily eliminated. Nightengale did not mention whether or not a universal DH would be implemented. Games will exclusively be played within the three divisions at home ballparks to significantly reduce travel. The divisions align as follows:
East: New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins
West: Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners
Central: Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers
Nightengale also mentions that officials are “cautiously optimistic” that the regular season will start no later than July 2. The hope is that each team could play 100 to 110 with an expanded playoff format.
Officials also believe that a limited number of fans could be allowed in ballparks before or during the playoffs in areas where the virus is under control. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic went into greater detail about this in his report about scenarios being discussed for the league’s restart. One official said that fans may be required to wear gloves and masks and undergo a temperature check before entering the ballpark. As many as 15,000 fans can be seated far apart, with the possibility of that number expanding if conditions improve.
There is also the possibility that this plan or something reminiscent of it goes into place but teams have to begin the season in either Arizona, Florida or Texas. It’s unclear how exactly that would work. All 10 teams in the East division have their spring training complexes in Florida, so it would seem that the Phillies would begin the season playing games in that state.
The plan certainly needs work when it comes to specific details. It will need to be approved by medical experts and enough testing will need to be available to operate a plan in which limited air travel is necessary and players do not need to isolate themselves in hotels.
One of the advantages this plan holds is that players will not need to be separated from their families, unlike previous ones. Some of the biggest MLB stars, including, Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw, have publicly expressed hesitation about being away from their families.
Despite there being a ton of optimism about baseball returning in 2020, it’s important to keep in mind that the situation remains fluid on a day-to-day basis. In the coming weeks, we should all get a better understanding of what the season should look like if there is one.
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