The 2020 MLB season will be different from most for a number of obvious reasons stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. But as the league continues to explore contingency plans for how to get underway, one major change in the works deals with the divisions’ alignment.
League officials are considering rearranging the six standard divisions as they relate to possible game locations in Florida and Arizona, USA Today reports. Recent reports have indicated the league may play out its operations this season solely from spring training bases in an effort to minimize travel and possible health risks that come with it. As a result, spring training’s Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues could become the new American and National Leagues in a season unlike any other.
“When you’re trying to get really creative, why say no now?’’ Tony La Russa, senior adviser of baseball operations for the Angels, told the publication of the potential plan. “So you have a unique season. I’ve got no problem with that. I’m not sure we’ll be able play in our own cities across the country, so if you split it up like that, it’s a possibility.’’
Limiting travel to within two states undoubtedly deprives locals in hard-hit cities, however, various authorities have warned that spectator sports may not be an option at all. California Governor Gavin Newsom said that he is not anticipating any major sports leagues playing out in the near future, at least not in California where there have been over 21,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. At the country’s epicenter in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo cautioned residents not to let up despite figures beginning to signal a plateau in cases.
Under the potential plan, MLB teams would have access to their own training facilities. The Marlins, Rays and Diamondbacks are the only teams based out of Florida and Arizona, though it remains unknown if their home ballparks would see any regular season use. The league could explore hosting the World Series at any of those three ballparks to keep teams in the same vicinity all season. Another option reported was to hold the Fall Classic at Dodger Stadium, the site of the jeopardized 2020 All-Star Game. However, Newsom’s recent comments could rule out that possibility as well.
Of the many contingency plans the league is working on, nothing is set in stone yet. Officials maintain they will heed the advice and guidance from public health experts before moving forward with any definite plans.