Presumably over a dozen proposals have been bandied about internally, in the quest to find a way MLB could potentially salvage its season with games in the summer and fall. Occasionally, one breaks free from its “sheltering-in-place” and finds the public. Obviously all proposals depend on sufficient testing and the imposing condition of owners and players agreeing on how to distribute a much smaller pot of available cash.
A couple days ago, we learned that one proposal that might have some traction has Arizona, Texas, and Florida splitting up the 30 teams to host what would wind up being three mini-leagues. Let’s look at how it might work if this idea came to fruition.
My first assumption is that there would be no travel from one “pod” to another, meaning that the teams in each mini-league would be playing a newly developed schedule of games only with one another.
My second assumption is that the 30 teams would wind up being split evenly, 10 teams per venue. This not only puts an even number of teams in each mini-league, allowing for every team to be on the schedule every day, but it allows each team to have 9 opponents on their schedule. If you split it, say, 12-10-8, you wind up with a mini-league in which the teams keep playing the same 7 teams over and over. 9 is few enough and you wouldn’t want to reduce the number any.
My third assumption, which becomes a no-brainer once you are split three ways, is that you would throw out the usual divisions and leagues and start from scratch — in this case, aiming to create the mini-leagues based primarily on geography.
The Mini-League Compositions
So you are looking at designing three 10-team mini-leagues that are informed somewhat by geography. The photo that accompanies this article gives a visual rendition of how the 30 MLB teams are distributed.
When I sat down to draw three circles (which are very non-circular in shape) grouping teams, here is what I came up with:
The Southwestern Mini-League (Arizona)
Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
The Southcentral Mini-League (Texas)
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals
Saint Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue Jays
The Southeastern Mini-League (Florida)
Boston Red Sox
New York Mets
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays
The two teams most forced to travel artificially farther to ensure equal groupings wind up being the Twins and Brewers, but it’s not a big difference for them to be housed in Arizona instead of Texas.
Perhaps it’s worth noting (perhaps not) that the mini-leagues do not wind up being especially balanced AL/NL. Two of the mini-leagues have just 4 AL teams out of 10, while one (Southcentral) has 7 AL teams out of 10.
Figure that each mini-league is split into two divisions (in Arizona, for kicks it could be “California teams” and “not California teams”). In each mini-league you would have one division winner, and each mini-league would have one “wild card” team. Then, to get to the 10 post-season teams for which the current format is built, you have a fourth “wild card” team that was the team with the best record, across the mini-leagues, from amongst the remaining 21 clubs.
6 division winners, 3 “wild card” winners, and 1 “wild, wild card” winner — that is, the usual 6 “division winners” and 4 “wild card winners” — and away we go.
Does this seem about right for how a season might go if this model gained traction? Or do you foresee different alignments and/or a different format? Do the mini-leagues wind up with reasonable parity, or is the deck stacked? Questions to ponder out loud as we await progress on this, or any other, possible season.