Not The Weekly Mailbag: MLB’s New Plan for Restarting Baseball
A Summer Night in the Bronx
To this point, I have consciously refrained from commenting on any of the plans that have leaked to restart Major League Baseball games. For one, any planning seemed premature in March and early April based on the modeling that existed for the virus’ path through the US. More importantly, the plans that were leaked to the media seemed completely unrealistic. I know that as fans, we tend to get excited at the mere possibility of seeing our favorite teams and players play actual games, but variations of the Arizona or multi-zone neutral site games just seemed like logistical non-starters from day one. Players would be asked to self-quarantine away from their families; team employees (including those without the cash liquidity to just up and move on the spot) would be asked to do the same; there were logistical problems like finding enough housing and transportation support for all of the people that would flood the 2-3 zones where games would be played; and testing capabilities were not going to be able to realistically keep up with demand to allow a centralized system of games. Those are far from the only issues with any of the plans released until this week, but they are the easiest to identify right off the bat.
This week though, we’ve learned about a plan that may actually have legs. There are discussions among team owners, players, and the commissioner’s office to start playing games sometime between the end of June and the beginning of July using a form of radical realignment. You can learn more about the plan at USA TODAY, but here are the high-level points:
Games would be played in each team’s home stadiums.
Players and team employees would be able to live at home with their families.
The American League and the National League will be temporarily abolished in favor of 3, 10 team divisions. Divisions would be organized geographically into East, Central, and West.
MLB foresees an ability to play 100-110 regular season games using this plan.
The plan is predicated on testing availability and ability to test returning players for antibodies.
Obviously, that’s not much in the way of details, but this plan appears far more realistic on the surface. The economics and logistics of keeping players and team employees close to home are certainly easier to manage than the previous long-term neutral location plans. There are other concerns that need to be addressed in-detail, such as travel logistics that are safe for players and any other support staff involved, economic concerns (surprise, surprise, the owners are asking for players to take a pay cut), virus/antibody testing logistics, and a host of other issues that still need sorting out. Still, this plan is the first that seems within the realm of possibility.
From a Yankee fan’s perspective, this plan also seems like the most fun. Realigning divisions regionally will allow regional rivalries to blossom in a way that a standard schedule doesn’t allow. Based on alignment, the Yankees will play the majority of their games against the Red Sox, Mets, Phillies, Nationals, and the Rays. Sure, that leads to a tough schedule on paper, but playing half of their games against contenders who also are regional rivals will give a significant portion of the season’s games a near-playoff atmosphere.
Beyond that, the various playoff scenarios that emerge from a plan like this are fascinating. How will playoff brackets be determined? Could we see the top two teams in each division make the playoffs with two wild card entries based on record? Will we see a non-traditional World Series that would be an impossible match-up without realignment? The thought of an expanded playoff tournament sounds like a lot of fun, under the circumstances.
Maybe I’m jumping the gun. Based on how quickly other plans fell apart, maybe I’m too optimistic about this plan. At the end of the day, the most important factor to me about any plan is public health and safety, but surely the parties involved have other concerns as well. I miss the Yankees, but even more so, I miss baseball. This is the most realistic plan that I’ve heard to bring Major League Baseball back, and the baseball implications are fun and exciting. Only time will tell how the return plan will evolve, but I think MLB is on to something with this plan.