The usual caveats apply to this — it can only be done if widespread COVID-19 testing is available and a long list of logistics could be worked out.
Friday, Bob Nightengale of USA Today wrote about another proposal for a 2020 season. It involves teams based at their own spring training sites in both Arizona and Florida:
The plan would have all 30 teams returning to their spring-training sites in Florida and Arizona, playing regular-season games only in those two states and without fans in an effort to reduce travel and minimize risks in the midst of the COVD-19 pandemic.
The divisions would be realigned based on the geography of their spring-training homes.
The plan would allow teams to return to the comforts of their spring-training sites for three weeks of training, which would also include exhibition games, before opening the regular season, and playing a schedule with wholly different divisional opponents.
Here’s a look at one realignment structure:
Now this is an interesting idea. Travel would be limited because teams would be playing only those clubs closest to them based on their spring training location. In the Cubs’ case, Sloan Park and the others noted in the “Cactus League Northeast” are all within 10 miles of each other. The other Cactus League divisions are a bit more spread out, but all are also within reasonable driving distance. The Grapefruit League divisions as laid out in the article match the “clusters” of clubs that are nearest to each other and play the most games against each other in a normal spring training season.
Here’s how a schedule for leagues aligned like this might work, according to Nightengale:
Baseball, even with the realignment, could still play 12 games apiece against their new divisional opponents and six games apiece against the other teams in the state. There would be at least one doubleheader a night when all teams are scheduled to play because of the odd-number of teams in each state.
The DH would likely be universally implemented as well.
Many of you don’t like the DH, but in a situation like this it would seem necessary, to help reduce pitcher injuries.
The divisional schedule noted above would result in a 108-game season (48 vs. teams in your own division, 60 against teams outside your division). . Such a season could begin in July, and some sort of postseason tournament could be held in November using the big-league stadiums. Nightengale suggests a “World Series” between the Cactus League winner and Grapefruit League winner would be held in Florida, though Arizona could also be a possibility. None of these games would have fans in the stands.
The same caveats and logistical issues as an all-Arizona league would have also apply to any proposal like this, including the difficulties of asking potentially thousands of people to quarantine themselves for several months. It might not be workable. The advantage if it does work out, writes Nightengale:
The Arizona-Florida plan has several advantages, including allowing teams to establish home bases with facilities they are familiar with. There would be 26 ballparks available to be used, including three major-league domed stadiums – Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Marlins Park in Miami and Chase Field in Phoenix.
Nightengale spoke to a “high-ranking official” in MLB who noted:
The official cautioned that nothing has been decided. They will continue to wait until advised by health and government officials that it’s safe to start the season, holding out hope that teams could return to their major-league cities, even including fans.
The latter is almost certainly not going to happen in 2020. I cannot imagine that large-scale gatherings such as baseball crowds of up to 40,000 people will happen this year. But it still might be possible to have games without fans, perhaps starting in July, if all the logistical and testing issues could be worked out. Of course, any outdoor games at spring training venues in Arizona in July, August and even into September would have to be played at night. It’d be largely the same for Florida spring venues, and of course in Florida you have to be aware of frequent summer thunderstorms that could delay or postpone games. Chase Field could be used for multiple games a day, potentially, since it’s air conditioned, and the same for Tropicana Field and Marlins Park.
Granted that this might not work for a myriad of reasons. But if MLB can make this happen with the approval of “health and government officials,” why not?
The latest "Cactus and Grapefruit League" proposal...
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Sounds great, if it can be done safely
Forget it. Cancel the 2020 season and look forward to 2021