According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, MLB is considering a temporary realignment plan for the 2020 season. It will involve teams playing all games within their respective spring training leagues and new divisions formed based on the geography of the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. The plan also calls for a universal DH.
For the Phillies, it means they will play home games presumably in an empty Spectrum Field. Their division rivals for the 2020 season would consist of the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Detriot Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates. Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and Marlins Park in Miami will also be in use as well as Chase Field for the Cactus League. The National League and American League will be temporarily eliminated and the Phillies will play regular season games within the new North division as well as the South and East division. The new alignment goes as followed:
North: New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Detriot Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates
South: Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles
East: Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins
Northeast: Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and Oakland Athletics
West: Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels
Northwest: Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals
According to Nightengale, a three-week spring training would be held at each team’s existing site in either Florida or Arizona. Teams could play 12 games against each division rival and six between the teams in the other divisions within each league. A Cactus league team will not travel to play a Grapefruit League team and vice versa. There will also be at least one doubleheader a night and games could start as early as 11 a.m.
Similar to the Arizona plan ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported, the plan is still in its very early stages. It’s also one of many contingency plans MLB is reportedly discussing. The details are not completely fleshed out. It’s unclear what the plan would be if it was deemed safe for teams to return to their home ballpark.
The playoff structure is unclear as well. There could be division winners and the World Series could pin a Grapefruit League team against a Cactus League team in a domed stadium in late November.
If baseball is played in 2020 with this plan in place, the Phillies odds of making the playoffs should increase considerably. They move from arguably the best division in baseball, the National League East, to the worst. The Yankees will most likely be the favorite to win the Grapefruit League North but could be a favorite for a Wild Card spot if the traditional playoff format is in place. It’s important to note, however, that the Grapefruit League itself is still strong. The Nationals, Mets, Braves, Red Sox, Twins, Rays, Cardinals and Astros are sure to give the Phillies a tough time.
It’s also important to end this by saying that regular season baseball in 2020 is far from a guarantee. Considerable progress has to be made in regard to the mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic in order for MLB to even consider returning in a timely matter with a plan like this in place.
If anything, if you’re a Phillies fan, this plan should further motivate you to stay home and practice good hygiene and social distancing so that the Phillies can play in a division with the Blue Jays, Pirates and Tigers.
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