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The Arizona/Florida Plan

Let’s call this the MLB Plan 2.0 for playing a season.

Major League Baseball, assessing myriad proposals, has discussed a radical plan that would eliminate the traditional American and National Leagues for 2020, a high-ranking official told USA TODAY Sports, and realign all six divisions for an abbreviated season.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the proposal is one of several being discussed.

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 COVID-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.

[…]

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, Florida, Marlins Park in Miami and Chase Field in Phoenix.

Financially, it could be a huge boon for the TV rights holders. You could have a captive TV audience the entire day. Games in Florida could begin at 11 a.m. ET and still have games in prime-time for East Coast teams and their fans. The time slots still would permit West Coast teams to play prime-time games in Arizona.

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.

There could still be division winners and wild-card winners, perhaps adding two more wild-card teams to each league, or a postseason tournament with all 30 teams.

The winner of the Cactus League in Arizona would play the winner of the Grapefruit League in Florida for the World Series championship, utilizing the domed stadiums in late November.

See here for the previous, Arizona-only idea.Plan 2.0 followed pretty quickly, which suggests MLB heard the criticisms of that scheme and either had this in its back pocket or came up with it quickly. One potential problem with this idea is that each of the two “leagues” has 15 teams in it, and since there won’t be any travel between Florida and Arizona, that would lead to scheduling challenges. Those challenges can be overcome in a variety of ways, some more conventional than others. Again, we don’t know what’s truly realistic right now, and we don’t know what will actually work in the real world, but it’s a worthwhile exercise to try and figure out something that could work. It costs nothing to brainstorm, and who knows, we might be in a better position than we think. May as well be ready for it if that happens.

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5 Comments

  1. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    This plan has to involve testing and the diversion of medical staff, testing capacity, and medical equipment. Since we dont have enough to deal with sick people and our front line workers….MLB needs to wait.

    This is a tonedeaf, entitled, and dangerous plan.

    Sports should come back last.

  2. Flypusher says:

    There are some major logistical challenges, but great opportunity for MLB. Baseball isn’t the national pastime anymore, as the NFL and NBA are more popular. But Baseball would be the only game in town for the sports-starved fans. The PR value of giving Americans games to watch would be enormous.

    It’s been pointed out that the people involved would have to be in effect quarantined, and besides players, umps, ground crews, announcers, etc., you’d need support staff at the places the baseball people are quartered (food, laundry, etc.) and those people would need to be sequestered too, and obviously would have to be separated from their families. The people who own the teams have enough $ to offer these people enough pay to make it worth their while- military families deal all the time with a parent being deployed far away all the time, so if this gig will pay the rent and feed the kids, you’ll get the support staff you need. This would also be good PR for the owners- they are providing good-paying jobs in a recession.

  3. brad says:

    I don’t think it will be good PR for the owners. All they care about are their profits.

    The PR will be for the all the players, umps, ground crews, announcers, support staff who will most likely be away from their families.

  4. Jason Hochman says:

    Is it worth it to use all of this brain power to figure out a plan for the baseball season? Certainly having sports return would be a morale booster but is it worth the risk just to play sports.

    Fly–the NFL is in the off season now anyway so sports starved fans wouldn’t be missing it in normal circumstances.

  5. […] background. I’m less interested in the particulars, which includes something similar to the MLB games-in-a-bubble idea, than I am with the basic concept that no one has any idea when things will return to something […]