A possible MLB re-opening plan would feature three realigned divisions

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

Major League Baseball’s determined effort to salvage the 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic has led to several reported plans and endless speculation over the last six weeks.

Now another possible plan is gaining attention after USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported MLB is considering a three-division plan in which teams would play exclusively against division opponents.

How the proposed MLB plan would work

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According to Nightengale, a schedule of at least 100 games would play out beginning in late June, or ideally no later than July 2.

The plan would eliminate the American League and National League for the 2020 season and would end with an extended postseason format. No other details about how that format might look were shared.

The most notable detail included is that the plan would be based around all 30 teams playing some or all of the season at their home ballpark, albeit without fans in attendance. Of course, the plan would need the approval of medical experts to become a serious consideration. Nightengale says he spoke to three anonymous executives with knowledge of talks who expressed optimism this plan could have legs.

Realigned divisions

Here’s a look at how the divisions would be realigned based on Nightengale’s report.

(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

According to Nightengale, the realigned divisions would be strictly based on geography in order to cut down on in-season travel.

As we quickly noticed, they also create a host of intriguing possibilities and potentially fun matchups from a historic standpoint and based on each team’s 2020 outlook.

Rebirth of rivalries

The realignment would keep most divisions fully intact. The only exceptions being the Pittsburgh Pirates moving to the East and the Atlanta Braves taking their place in the Central. This would allow most of the league’s biggest rivalries to remain intact and could potentially add fuel to other feuds placed on simmer due to MLB’s rotating interleague schedule.

There are some potentially juicy scenarios within this plan. Just imagine the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros fighting for the top spot out west given the history stemming from the 2017 World Series and the sign-stealing scandal.

World Series rematches and opportunities for decades-old redemption abound as well. The Braves’ path to a division title wouldn’t go through Philadelphia or Washington anymore. Now it goes through Minnesota 29 years after those franchises engaged in a classic World Series won by the Twins in seven games.

How about the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets playing meaningful games against each in September or October?

Brand new rivalries could develop as contending teams would face new roadblocks to reach the postseason. The Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds are popular choices to be this season’s breakout team. In this plan, they could end up fighting for one spot. The same is possible of the Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres out west.

Could this plan gain support?

It’s possible, but as with every plan reported, suggested or speculated about, it’s contingent on several factors. Most importantly, it will need to ensure the safety of the players, coaches, umpires and their families.

When reports of an isolated season in Arizona and Florida first surfaced, players were split in their responses. Some were willing to sacrifice time away from their family to get the season in. Others were hesitant. Then there was another group that outright resisted the suggestion. That group included the powerful voices of Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw.

Playing closer to home might be enough to ease their minds somewhat, but the ultimate goal is still the health and well being of everyone directly involved. As such, this still feels like a long shot. But the mere suggestion does at least give us something fun to visualize.

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