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New MLB Proposal Could See Three Divisions, Teams Playing at Home

As the professional sports world continues to hover in limbo as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to run rampant across the globe, we continue to get some promising information about the potential return of sports, hopefully sooner rather than later. With that in mind, Major League Baseball continues to float potential proposals to get their season started after Opening Day, originally slated for March 26, was postponed. After seeing previous proposals get floated, it sounds like there is a new concept being brought up that is starting to gain momentum among those in the know and in positions of power.

According to a recent report from Bob Nightengale from the USA Today, MLB is preparing to get their season started by no later than July 2 and likely in late June, with teams playing at least 100 games. According to Nightengale, not only would we see baseball this summer, we’ll see it with teams potentially playing in their own ballparks, even if there are no fans in attendance. Of course, seeing that fans weren’t going to be in the equation more than likely in any of the other potential plans to start the season anyway, playing in your home city and park is likely much more palatable to the players.

It’s important to note that this concept still has to be signed off on by medical professionals and to ensure that there is ample COVID-19 testing for players and team personnel. If that can come to fruition, it would allow players to stay at home with their families as opposed to being quarantined, which was a major sticking point for a lot of players. There are trade-offs to seeing how things unfold with this potential system though when we get right down to it. One of those potential trade-offs is the alteration of how the league would look in this potential system.

Instead of six divisions with five teams each, the report says that MLB is looking to potentially go to three 10-team divisions in order to limit travel. That means you’ll still see a fair amount of matchups between geographical rivals but there will be other teams in the mix as well. In addition, teams would only play the other nine teams in their division, meaning that teams will miss out on playing two-thirds of the rest of the league under this format. That could have its ups and downs depending on which potential division you land in under this concept. Let’s look at the bandied about divisional alignments under this concept.

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

CENTRAL: Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers

WEST: Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners

Clearly, in this concept, the East Division powerhouses like the Yankees, Nationals and possibly the Rays or Phillies, get a major advantage. They face three teams that finished in the basement of their respective divisions last season in the Orioles (AL East), Pirates (NL Central) and Marlins (NL East) for what would be roughly one-third of their potential slate. None of those three teams won more than 69 games last season and it’s hard to see them being vastly improved this season.

The Central Division would be a tough one as the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals battled deep into September fighting for a playoff spot and the NL Central title. Minnesota won the AL Central with a 101-61 record while Cleveland missed the playoffs despite picking up 93 wins. Cincinnati is improved dramatically, at least on paper, while the Braves won the NL East after recording 97 victories a year ago. While the Tigers and Royals are part of the mix, the fact remains that most of the rest of the division is pretty solid.

By comparison, the West could be a cutthroat division in this concept and there could be some cannibalization of each other’s records. Houston won the AL pennant last season with 107 wins while Oakland was a wild-card team with 97 wins. The Dodgers won 106 games to post the best record in the NL during the regular season. Arizona, Texas, the Angels and even San Diego improved from last season and could make things tough for the powerhouses in the division. On the flip side, you have to wonder if Colorado, Seattle and San Francisco wouldn’t be lamenting their luck in this situation.

The current plan is to have at least some form of spring training to get the teams and players back into some semblance of game shape. It’s unclear how much rosters will be expanded, if at all, in order to accommodate for the situation. The fact that we could see baseball, even in a radically different form, with the potential for players to stay at home, is a concept that one would think everyone could get behind. Let’s hope that things pan out this way and we can get back to seeing games sooner rather than later.

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Chris Kubala

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