As we approach the second full month without baseball, we know that MLB is doing all it can to figure out how to have some actual baseball action this year. Some crazy ideas have been broached in respect to this, both on the location and in-game aspects.
One of the first thoughts was to have all 30 teams sequestered in Arizona for four months with no interaction with the outside world. No family, no fans, nothing but baseball personnel. That did not go over well with some players, especially those with young families.
Now, this particular plan of action seems to be gaining steam: 10 teams each playing in three new divisions, playing clubs only within their geographical areas. It could possibly start in Florida, Texas, and Arizona, being that these locations all have access to multiple domed stadiums, allowing for maximum playing time. If the Covid-19 pandemic allows, then teams could move to their home stadiums, and the realigned divisions would cut down on travel.
The East division would be the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, and Miami Marlins.
The Central division would include the Chicago White Sox and Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, St Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, and the Detroit Tigers.
Most importantly to the Dodgers, the West division themselves, the Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, and the Houston Astros.
That last team provides a really interesting wrinkle to the whole shebang. It seems that teams would only play the other teams in their division for the whole season, however many games that works out to be. If there is a 100-game season, teams would play each other around 11 times. With the Dodger players now knowing how the 2017 World Series actually shook out, there could be some awkward moments at best, and some heated moments or fights at worst. (Not that I think that Dave Roberts would allow his club to be anything other than well mannered. But you never know).
In looking at the rest of the division, it still includes all of the normal division rivals, plus the AL West division. The Dodgers were headed towards winning their eighth straight division title in normal circumstances. Now they would theoretically be battling the Astros, A’s and perhaps the Angels for the top spot. Winning the division may not even matter in this season, as 10 to 14 teams would potentially make the playoffs. What that scenario would look like is yet to be determined. But of course the top spot would still be the preferred place to be. (Also, 14 teams is too many especially in a shortened season).
The timetable for the start of the season appears to be right around July 1st. If that start point can be achieved, then there is time for 100 games plus a playoff scenario, that would extend into November. If teams played every day starting July 1, then the season would end October 8. Of course, playing every single day straight is not feasible, so there would have to be some double headers included in that. I’m also wondering if teams might play more than a three game series against each other to further cut down on travel.
In any case, we’ve talked previously about how the Dodgers roster allows them to handle almost any scenario better than most other teams. They have eight starting pitchers on their roster, and their bench is so much deeper than a lot of other teams. The bullpen might be overworked, but is suspect that would be the same for all teams.
There also have been some other rumors flying around, about which changes we might see during this pandemic-shortened season. Some are practical, like a league-wide DH (which as much as I hate the thought of, if just a precursor of what’s to come). Eliminating instant replay, having a shorter pitch clock, and implementing an automated strike zone could move the game along, but still would have some issues to be worked out especially in the case of the automatic strike zone.
Ties and mercy rules could be put into effect. More far reaching ideas such as ghost runners have been broached. Nothing like saying it is really a little kid’s game. There’s also a buzz for every inning starting with the teams 1-2-3 batter, or picking a special batter to hit in a key spot. If the Dodgers could just put Justin Turner or Max Muncy or Mookie Betts or Cody Bellinger in wherever they wanted despite the actual place in the lineup, well I’d be all for that. But also I would put their 1-9 lineup against any other in the league also.
Regardless, there seems to be a lot of movement towards getting an actual season in this year, and that is good news. It will most likely be without fans, but as long as they can do so safely, live sports will do this country a bunch of good. Not getting my hopes up, but if this happens, there will be just two more months until meaningful baseball.