Over the last few weeks, several ideas have been floated publicly for how to hold a 2020 MLB season amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. There was an idea to have the entire league play in Arizona, or to use both Arizona and Florida, or to add in Texas to make it a three-state mix. Now the latest version, reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, includes an avenue for teams to use their own home ballparks.
Nothing is official yet, of course, but here are a few highlights of the potential plan so far:
- Three 10-team divisions, based geographically. Each group is a combination of two traditional divisions, like AL West plus NL West, except that the Pirates and Braves swap between their normal spots in the Central/East.
- Teams would play in their normal home ballparks, though it’s possible the season could still begin in AZ/FL/TX for a few weeks.
- Season could begin by “late June, and no later than July 2,” following three weeks of spring training
- Could play 100-110 games, plus postseason
- While there would be no fans at first, they could “perhaps even have several thousand fans in attendance before or during the playoffs”
That’s as optimistic of a plan as we’ve seen yet. It features games all around the country in their normal homes, it minimizes travel between those venues, and it helps players stay closer to their families, which had been a concern in previous iterations. There’s still a lot to be figured out, including financial considerations, and of course nobody knows exactly how the pandemic will evolve in the future. But this is encouraging.
The A’s themselves would be in a Western division that is simply the AL West and NL West combined: A’s, Angels, Astros, Mariners, Rangers, Giants, Dodgers, D’Backs, Padres, and Rockies.
In terms of difficulty, the three divisions appear to be about as even as you could hope for. In Oakland’s Western division there are three heavyweight contenders in the Astros, Dodgers, and A’s, plus another fringe contender in the D’Backs. Everyone else finished under .500 last year, though of course some of the losers could improve. This might actually be the easiest of the three divisions.
The East would also have three heavyweights, in the Yankees, Rays, and Nationals, plus a few more .500+ teams from last year in the Mets, Red Sox, and Phillies, and then a few absolute doormats. The Central is led by the Twins and Braves but also has the strong Indians, Cardinals, Brewers, and Cubs, plus a White Sox club that is poised to make a move up. So, the Central has slightly less elite firepower, but to make up for it they’re probably the deepest overall division.
Of course, the ramifications of the eventual realignment are just details, paling in importance to the idea of having a season at all. Seeing the return of baseball would be a positive signal about the outlook of the pandemic, a welcome distraction from our current situation, and, in baseball terms, a chance for the A’s to take advantage of one of the peak years of their competitive window.