As the weather heats up around the country, so does anticipation for America’s greatest pastime. Rumors continue to swirl about when and how Major League Baseball will put together a season if league officials and state legislation deem the sport feasible to play amid a pandemic.
Here is my proposal for getting things started by no later than the Fourth of July weekend.
Can you imagine the hype leading up to Independence Day for Opening Day?
Games and Scheduling (In brief)
Approximately four months to play a 117-game regular season. Playoffs go into November, but do not continue past this month.
Teams play the entire regular season schedule within their division. Play everyone 13 times to avoid ties for head-to-head record. Doubleheaders would probably have to be applied but at a minimum. Here is a modified version of a three-division,10-team plan that multiple outlets reported on last week pertaining to what the MLB is considering, with a playoff format intact.
North-East Division: Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Phillies, Pirates, Blue Jays, Brewers, Twins, Tigers, Orioles
This region is perfectly arranged based on geography, which is what the league is trying to incorporate in a possible realignment to benefit travel and caution.
Splitting up the Beltway teams is the only flaw with the order of these divisions, but let’s face it: the reigning champs are light years ahead of the young birds from Baltimore.
I think the Camden faithful would appreciate a break. Plus, as currently constructed, they aren’t even in the same league.
One of the greatest rivalries in sports would persist with New York and Boston. Current NL East foes get to square off. Perhaps Milwaukee and Minnesota can get something brewing while they reside in the same division?
Detroit and Pittsburgh can use this time frame to exorcise some growing pains. Think of it as an extended spring training for these two.
Seriously, can you imagine the potential firepower in this division?
Bryce Harper, Pete Alonso, Christian Yelich, and their respective squads could be aiming for Evil Empire. The vibrant Twins, with their addition of Josh Donaldson, are poised to be dangerous with promising young bats and a capable rotation.
And don’t forget about the young winter birds from north of the border that spell images of the spry Atlanta teams from the past couple of years.
Mid-South: Cubs, White Sox, Cardinals, Royals, Reds, Indians, Braves, Nationals, Rays, Marlins
This division doesn’t have many flaws in terms of talent. Well, maybe there is an exception.
LOOKING AT YOU MIAMI!
As far as geography is concerned, this division holds the best placement for natural rivalries. The North and South will still battle in the Windy City.
The Midwest rift between Kansas City and St. Louis would continue at a higher pace, perhaps holding serve for the most polite rivalry in baseball, if not all of sports.
Then there is another Midwest connection, pitting Cincinnati against Cleveland, which sounds boring for any sport that doesn’t involve LeBron James. Nonetheless, the Reds have shown promise, especially with their pitching staff.
The Indians have an electric shortstop in Fransisco Lindor to go along with the pesky Tito leading the way. The potential contests between buddies Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger is enough to get excited for this one.
The most potent rivalry, though, stands with current NL East powers in this format. The are so many storylines that exist between the two, and more could develop between Atlanta and Washington.
While the defending NL East champs look to overthrow the reigning World Champions, the heavyweight bout between youngsters Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Juan Soto are what make this ticket worth the price of admission. In a condensed season, one or both of these stars could get hot and put up numbers that would look impressive in any full slate of 162.
There is Tampa Bay and Miami.
Much like the aforementioned Pirates/Tigers matchup, this contest doesn’t have much sizzle. The Rays have won 186 games the past two seasons, while the Marlins hang their hat on showing up at the park every day. They’ve lost 203 in the same span. The one thing these teams have in common is the annual challenge of putting butts in seats. These two can at least look forward to performing in typical fashion for most of 2020.
West: Dodgers, Angels, Athletics, Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Astros, Rangers, Mariners
The Tinseltown rivalry would be an apt label for the type of show Mike Trout, and Cody Bellinger would put on. Oakland could join the fray and battle for the Wild West with the potency of Matt Chapman and a ton of value pieces, ala Billy Beane.
Houston and Texas would still have their standoff in the Lonestar state. The Astros, all of a sudden become part of a tier with the aforementioned hegemony. They now have to deal with more ammunition coming at them, but with less of a warning. Bang! Bang!
The obvious shaky part of this division lies in Seattle and San Fransisco. But the M’s got off to a hot start last year, going 13-2 before losing six straight. Scott Servais will look for that same kind of hot streak and hope this Seattle team doesn’t plummet. As for the Bay Area, the G-Men can look forward to Gabe Kapler’s antics in a smaller sample. Who knows, the manager may dial-up Rob Nen to pitch at any given time during a game.
Speaking of former San Fransisco greats, Madison Bumgarner will make the transition to Arizona with a ton of familiarity in this division.
Colorado and San Diego round out the current NL West looking to merge with the standing AL West, with the latter being a dangerous sleeper in this group. The Padres welcome an infield that stars Fernando Tatis, Jr. and Manny Machado to go along with a pitching staff headlined by Chris Paddack. Sorry, Colorado, Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon won’t be enough to keep up with this region of power.
Just imagine Mike Trout playing a dozen or so games between Coors Field and Chase Field in addition to the stadiums he is already playing in on an annual basis.
Twelve teams would be a part of the MLB playoffs in 2020.
Four would be from each division. Seeds 5-12 play the first round. Everyone else gets a bye. The top three teams are the division winners. The fourth seed should be the team with the best record remaining.
Everyone else falls in line according to record (more to come on tiebreakers). The opening round would be a best-of-three series. This part of the format could test the waters of the much needed multi-game series of the current Wild Card structure.
MLB did right by the sport in adding the Wild Card game in 2012, but a one-game stand is poor practice. Use this unconventional time to see what a three-game series looks like.
If all home stadiums can be played in by this time, then the higher-seed gets the field advantage. MLB could complete this particular scenario of the first round in three to four days, or maybe even do a double-header at one venue and a contingent Game 3 at the other.
The second round would consist of a best-of-five series, aligning the remaining teams with matchups based on traditional contrast seeding. From there, the rounds should go to best-of-seven, including the fourth and final round, the 2020 World series.
Tiebreakers for playoffs: head-to-head, road record, Fewest Runs Allowed, Coin Flip televised or streamed by Jose Canseco.
An unusual set of circumstances calls for unorthodox measures for MLB in 2020.
With fewer games played, it could be likely that tiebreakers are warranted. There will also be pressure not to add make-up games beyond a scheduled end date for the regular season.
Adding a team’s road record to the front of the measure should provide an exciting twist. If you play well on the road, you get rewarded for rising during chaos.
It’s one thing to play in your inaudible home park, but performing well in other venues without the electronic display of fans gets value in 2020.
If that doesn’t work, a team that limits the fewer runs gets the nod. In a season with an interrupted spring training and uncertain start, pitchers will likely face the biggest challenge of getting prime. Expect a ton of offense. This evaluation will reward teams whose pitching staff and defense can manage this uptick the best.
And if all else fails, fate relies on the execution of Jose Canseco’s coin toss. Come for the flip, stay for the distinguished glory that The Chemist provides. It’s 2020 y’all.
Get used to MLB in such form.