Major League Baseball is currently on hiatus after the coronavirus-related lockdown shuttered stadiums and ended the 2020 baseball season before it even began. But the league now says that it’s considering a radical plan that would bring back baseball — but a shortened, somewhat chaotic, special coronavirus version.
The MLB is considering a “radical realignment” according to USA Today, that could see teams play the 2020 season without regard for leagues and with a “universal designated hitter” present in every game.
The plan “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.”
Instead of playing in their home stadiums, teams would play only in Arizona, where the “Cactus League” — the half of MLB teams who hold their spring training in the southwest — has several stadiums set up for major league players. Games would not have in-person audiences but would be broadcast on major networks.
Instead of the American and National Leagues, the teams would be divided based on where they play their pre-season games: either Arizona and the southwest, or Florida and the southeast.
“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,” USA Today says.
Fan reaction to the plan was mixed, but the MLB says that it would only be for the 2020 season, which has already been cut short because of coronavirus. The national lockdowns, and the possibility of communicating the deadly virus, has led league officials to get “really creative” according to Angels’ senior advisor of baseball operations, Tony La Russa.
“When you’re trying to get really creative, why say no now?’’ La Russa told USA Today. “So you have a unique season. I’ve got no problem with that. I’m not sure we’ll be able play in our own cities across the country, so if you split it up like that, it’s a possibility.’’
The MLB is also considering other plans, including a shortened season — to take place whenever the country begins “opening up” from coronavirus-related lockdowns — and extending the regular MLB season into November.
Other sports leagues are also considering contingency plans if coronavirus lasts longer than a few months. The National Basketball Association (NBA) is leaving the door open for a resumed 2019-2020 season. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told media last week that he is “hopeful” play will resume in June.
“All I know from all the science and everything that I’m reading, I think we’re making enough advances that several of them will come through so we can start planning what a comeback would look like,” Cuban said. “If I had to bet, and this is more a guess than a bet, I’d say early June is when you see teams start to take the field and maybe play games just for television.”
The National Hockey League (NHL) was almost at the end of its season when coronavirus struck. Hockey analyst Brian Burke told ESPN that the league is likely considering a “centralized” location for the Stanley Cup finals, hopefully to be held this summer.