A universal DH, scrapping the traditional American and National Leagues, new division rivals and an automated strike zone and are just a few of the radical ideas being tossed around as officials are working hard to come up with a plan to get back on the field for a reputable 2020 Major League baseball season. Of course, this all depends on if and when they get the go ahead from the proper sources.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale is reporting on a plan that would drastically realign baseball as we know it.
The realignment of the American and National Leagues is an idea that has been tossed around before, but one that may take place, at least if this season is played. According to Nightengale (who cites an anonymous high ranking MLB official) the plan is to scrap the American and National Leagues and have six divisions (5 teams each) to be split among the spring training sites of Florida and Arizona.
With the idea of reducing travel and minimizing the risk of contracting the Corona Virus, the teams would return to their respective spring training sites in Florida and Arizona and would only play regular season games against the opponents in those states. Of course, there would be no fans.
Nightengale reported what the realignment plan could look like.
The “Grapefruit League” would have the North, South and East division while the “Cactus League” has the Northeast, West and Northwest. According to Nightengale, the Grapefruit League’s North division would feature the Yankees, Phillies, Blue Jays, Tigers and Pirates. The Mets would reside in the East, along with the Nationals, Astros, Cardinals and Marlins.
Here are the rest:
(FLA) South: Red Sox, Twins, Braves, Rays, Orioles
Northeast: Cubs, Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies, A’s
West: Dodgers, White Sox, Reds, Indians, Angels
Northwest: Brewers, Padres, Mariners, Rangers, Angels
The post season structure would essentially remain the same with a slight tweak. Each division winner would qualify for the playoffs, but instead of one Wild Card team per league, there would be two Wild Card teams who qualify. This idea was already in the discussion phase but the pandemic may bring some changes to the forefront a little sooner that originally planned.
Okay, let’s have a little hypothetical fun. Under this scenario, the Mets and Yankees could potentially meet in a League Championship Series. (Note: If you’re curious about the last time that the Mets and Yankees met in the post season, check out the upcoming book, “The Subway Series: Baseball’s Big Apple Battles And The Yankees-Mets 2000 World Series Classic,” by Jerry Beach. Pub: Sports Publishing) The Yankees and Red Sox would still play each other but not as much as if they were in the same division.
The Mets would renew their 1980’s rivalry that they had with the Cardinals, while still having the World Champion Nationals as a divisional opponent, along with the beleaguered AL Champion Astros.
Reportedly, the plan would have the teams returning to their respective spring training sites for a three week period where exhibition games would be scheduled.
With a 3-week spring training session, you wonder if baseball will stick with the “three batter minimum” rule that was supposed to be implemented this season. The rosters will expand to as many as 30 players (15 pitchers?) but will that be enough time to have relievers ready to face a “minimum” of three batters in their early outings. Maybe, they scratch that rule for the first month of games. In case you’re wondering, as I did when I first heard of this plan, there would be a universal DH.
Let’s say Major League Baseball decides to implement this plan, or some other idea, and start the season on July 1st or shortly thereafter. The regular season could last four months with the playoffs to take place in November. With that timeline in mind (taking into account some scheduled doubleheaders which has also been mentioned in Nightengale’s report) there could be up to as many as 110-120 games played.
If and when any plan is implemented, it will likely feature the use of the automated strike zone. In the past, I have not been a proponent of an automated strike zone, but it’s something that may have to be used if baseball does have a season. I could envision using the “auto-strike” but the umpire would not be standing directly behind the catcher. Could the home plate umpire be positioned to stand behind the pitcher?
Nothing is etched in stone as baseball continues to ponder ideas for a potential 2020 season. ESPN had reported another idea where baseball would conduct its season entirely in the state of Arizona.
Getting sports back would be nice but it does not compare to getting the country back on its feet, but a return of some kind would be beneficial to the collective psyche.
MLB Network has been showing classic games from the past during this downtime for the sport. It’s been a nice distraction to relive some of the classics in their (almost) entirety, however, even some of the die hard baseball fans have begun clamoring for new ballgames.
I’m like anyone else, I want to see a fresh, new slate of ballgames, but in the meantime, my “baseball life” functions on the credo, “Hey, it’s better than ‘nuh-tin’.”
How many times have you seen Carlton Fisk’s dramatic, walk off homerun in game 6 of the 1975 World Series. I have to admit. To see it in the context of the entire game gives you an even better historical perspective of what happened that night.
Like I said, “Hey, it’s better than ‘nuh-tin’.”
Karpin’s Korner appears every Friday on nysportsday.com