Another week and another plan. That seems to be how things are unfolding within Major League Baseball. First there was the plan to play in Japan where it was presumed the COVID-19 outbreak would be over with sooner. That plan got so far that we didn’t even hear about it until weeks after other plans had already been talked about beyond that one. Then there was the “send everyone to Arizona” plan. That was followed by a plan that included teams playing in their respective spring training cities and having a “Cactus League” and a “Grapefruit League” instead of an American and National League for 2020. Last week we heard about another plan, this one included Arizona, Florida, and Texas as the three centers – each with their own “league”.

On Tuesday evening Bob Nightengale of the USA Today reported yet another plan. I mean, it is a new week after all. This plan would also involve three divisions, and it would involve new divisions for 2020 and with home games – but no fans at the start at least.

The new divisions would be geographically aligned to reduce travel as much as possible. The Cincinnati Reds would remain in the Central Division, but there would no longer be an American or National League – just an East, West, and Central. Here’s the breakdown of the division for Cincinnati:

  • Atlanta Braves
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Chicago White Sox
  • Cincinnati Reds
  • Cleveland Indians
  • Detroit Tigers
  • Kansas City Royals
  • Milwaukee Brewers
  • Minnesota Twins
  • St. Louis Cardinals

For the most part it’s made up of the two “central” divisions, but not entirely. The Braves are sliding in from the East in place of the Pirates. Not sure why that’s the case, but it certainly benefits the new East division at the behest of the new Central division.

Here’s what the East Division looks like:

  • Baltimore Orioles
  • Boston Red Sox
  • Miami Marlins
  • New York Mets
  • New York Yankees
  • Philadelphia Phillies
  • Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Toronto Blue Jays
  • Washington Nationals

And here’s what the new West Division looks like:

  • Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Colorado Rockies
  • Houston Astros
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Oakland Athletics
  • San Diego Padres
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Seattle Mariners
  • Texas Rangers

Nightengale reports that this plan could potentially start in late June, “and no later than July 2nd” according to three executives that he spoke with. The plan needs plenty of things to happen before it gets approval. There need to be enough tests available to the public in order to test the players and staff frequently, as a starting point. Having state and city approval for the events would also need to be approved, and it’s unclear right now if that would be allowed everywhere that has a team.

As Nightengale notes, this plan would eliminate the need to “isolate” the players, as they would be able to stay in their own homes within the cities that they play. What isn’t addressed, though, is the lodging situation for when the teams are on the road and how that would be handled.

Perhaps the biggest issue may be off the field, though, as it seems that some of the owners are still fighting against paying a pro-rated salary to the players for the amount of games that would be played if the season were to be played without fans in the crowd despite an apparent agreement between the owners and players about that in late March.

42 Responses

  1. Don

    The reason for a switch of the Braves for Pirates is that the Yankees and Red Sox will have 3 noncompetitive teams to play (Pirates, Marlins, Orioles) for the shortened season. Need to let them pad their wins and have the national (really NYC) media tell us that they are really great teams due to a high win %.

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      No conspiracy theory. Just easier to travel for all teams.

      • JayTheRed

        Yeah I thought the same thing if anything Pittsburgh should be staying in the central they are used to coming to OH, and IL.

        To me the Central looks like a really touch division to win. There are a lot of good teams there.

  2. Tom Mitsoff

    There are some aspects to this plan that make sense. News reports are indicating that commercial flights are experiencing slow increases in the number of passengers, so on the surface it seems like a feasible option for moving teams from city to city. Bus trips would be more feasible, particularly in areas in close proximity such as Chicago and Milwaukee, Baltimore and Washington, etc.

    If each team plays 11 games against every other team in its division, that would equal 99 games. It seems logical that the post-season would consist of three division winners and one wild card team, with one semifinal round before the World Series.

    Having games staged in each team’s home city stadium would open up the option of beginning to allow fans to attend in person if there is some breakthrough in a few months. That wouldn’t be an option for games held in remote states only.

    I’m in favor of any plan that allows games to be played safely. I want to give this front office’s aggressive off-season a chance to produce results.

    • JayTheRed

      Tom, I can’t think of too many remote states that have Major League baseball teams. Every city that has a team has a pretty large population. and has had more Covid 19 cases than anywhere in each state. The more dense the population is the bigger risk of catching the virus.

      I honestly feel like the spring training sites would still be the best option due to less density of people overall. Plus eventually if things do get better in the summer months maybe they could allow some fans still to part take in games.

      I keeping seeing all of these places that claim we are flattening the curve in new cases yet every graph I looked at today had no sign of flattening for the United States as a whole. The number of cases in the world and even in individual states several have not gotten any better per day and some are even starting to get worse too. Data doesn’t lie. There are very few places that have actually began to lower the number of new cases a day by state.

  3. Jeff

    I actually like the 3 divisions. I hope they keep it that way going forward.

    • TB Smith

      It just might simply things like travel, playoffs, etc…definitely worth considering..

  4. Dave Eberly

    It makes no geographical sense to switch Atlanta and Pittsburgh. I actually added it up. The total distance (via car, fwiw) between Eastern Division cities (counting NY twice) and Pittsburgh PLUS the distance between Central Division cities (counting Chicago twice) and Atlanta is ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME as if you simply kept the divisions as-is. (10,639 miles vs. 10,596 – so close it is a rounding error).

    SO, why switch the teams? It is confusing and without purpose.

    • Colorado Red

      Make the east easier for the NY teams.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        It would also make it easier for Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

      • Dave Eberly

        This is the only conclusion, actually, IMHO.

    • JayTheRed

      With Covid-19 it gives baseball the opportunity to have an excuse to try new things.

  5. Big Ed

    This is likely the best option that they can come up with. It cuts travel times immensely. The Mets and Yankees would really only have to fly to Toronto, Pittsburgh, Miami and Tampa, and could have their own cars on Acela trains to Boston, Philly, Baltimore and DC.

    They could also partner with the CDC or other public health entities on a massive testing plan, because detailed data over 100 days on 1000+ people of various backgrounds would almost certainly be useful in some way. (Especially if MLB and the union pay for it.) They are almost certainly going to find that quite a few players have had the virus but were asymptomatic; regular testing on those guys would be instructive to researchers, as well.

    Trying a makeshift season is making the best of a bad situation on a lot of levels.

    • Jim Walker

      A problem is that a person’s most recent test can only say they weren’t infected when the test was taken. With the players moving freely within the community as suggested by this plan, a player could literally be tested then walk out the door onto the street, get sneezed on and become infected. But we wouldn’t know this till his next test. In the meantime, he could have infected an entire team or more.

      • Big Ed

        That’s a problem that can’t be solved, Jim. The virus is with us to stay; the trick is to minimize its impact. Having organized data is better than not having data, and the sample of people involved in doing an MLB game will yield data will help to understand some aspect of this, every bit as much as any other sample, be it of homeless people in Boston, random people in Santa Clara County, etc. Researchers would not be “burning” tests on sporting events, and in fact would likely have as controllable samples as they could hope for.

        The odds are that there will never be a vaccine and that herd immunity is the main defense, which is true for thousands of other viruses, etc. In the meantime, physicians and researchers will continue to make progress on learning how it spreads, isolating the most vulnerable, and treating the patients whose condition worsens, including for example how to fight a cytokine storm.

        And players, coaches, TV crews, etc. will not be “moving freely within the community, as suggested by this plan.” They will be instead “moving within the community” just like Kroger and Home Depot workers are doing every day now, and like government workers from the governor to the guys on the garbage trucks. If a liquor store worker can report to work, then so can a bullpen coach, especially where there is a testing regime that will yield some useful data.

        Thirty percent unemployment, which is where we are headed, will result in a far worse public health disaster over the long run than what this virus presents now.

      • Jim Walker

        I am not sure what the difference is between “moving freely in the community” and “moving in the community”. Anyone who is not sequestered, as the previous MLB plans had inferred, is free to move about in the community just like anyone else. I don’t see a difference.

        I doubt that the male population of players ranging in general from their early 20’s to their mid 30’s is any less likely to engage in risky behavior than the norm. In fact if crowded entertainment venues and social interaction centers including such things as bars are open, they’ll probably be more likely to be frequenting such places than the norm.

        We already know this age group is less likely to experience immediately severe symptoms, often to the point of being apparently asymptomatic. What we don’t know but are starting to see are possible signs that despite being outwardly asymptomatic, this age group is nonetheless subject to internal morbidities which may haunt them the rest of their lives.

        The HIV crisis was not solved by herd immunity. It was stunted in short run by changes of individual behavior. In the long run, we have developed, as you suggested will happen with COVID-19, effective treatments.

        Today while there is still no HIV vaccine, highly effective preventive medicines (PrEP) are available along with treatments for those afflicted. Hopefully we get to at least this position with COVID-19 in relatively short order.

        In the meantime because COVID-19 can and does impact everyone just as they go about their normal daily life, we need to maintain efforts to keep its curve blunted because of its capacity to overwhelm our ability to treat the number of victims it creates.

        I’m not going to do numbers for herd immunity here; but my belief is the cost there in lives broken and dollars is every bit as much the 30% unemployment would be. In short, there are no really good pain free choices. To say more moves into the realm of politics which we don’t do here.

  6. Jim Walker

    There is a lot that has to break right logistically for this plan to work.

    Topping the list is having enough tests available to burn large amounts on sporting events.

    Following testing is being able to assure freedom of movement and access among and within the various cities. If virus hot spots develop, cities or areas may temporarily impose quarantine on persons coming to or going from those areas. And this is assuming individual players would even be willing to travel into a hot zone.

    And these are just for starters.

    I hope to see games ASAP as much as anyone else; but, I question whether the “as soon as” is going to be anytime during the 2020 baseball weather season in moderate and northern climates.

    My suspicion is that having looked at the cost and practicalities of various plans we’ve seen floated over the last several weeks, MLB has come down to this sort of arrangement as the last best realistic hope of having a 2020 season in terms of both the likely virus environment and economic realities. Unfortunately it looks a lot like a wing and prayer.

    • greenmtred

      As always, Jim, you make a lot of sense. As opening occurs, it’s virtually inevitable that infection rates will increase. How much is the question, but Germany–after an effective response–reopened to some degree and immediately spiked their rate to just within the acceptable range. I, too, will be a little surprised if there is actually MLB played this season, though I’m itching to see it.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Your point about testing is right on, Jim. Having capacity to test every player at least every couple of days will be necessary.

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      Exactly. 100% agreed. The elected leaders need to get testing going. DC needs to assist to get things like tests and equipment going nationwide where it is needed.

  7. Curtis Williams

    I like the plan and it allows for the players who cant be away from their families more than a week or two to play baseball. Also like that there wont be any late night games while watching the REDS.

    Positive side note, the All Time REDS have made it to the National League Championship over at!

  8. TR

    I think Pittsburgh to the East is due to the in-state rivalry with the Phillies, similar to others like Cincy/Cleve, St.L./K.C., Houston/Dallas, S.F./Oak., along with the two teams each in NYC, Chicago and LA. Milwaukee and the Twin Cities are not in the same state but are not too far away from each other.
    I don’t mind the Braves in the Central. The Reds and the Braves had quite a rivalry during the BRM days, and also going way back to the days of ‘Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.’

  9. Jim Walker

    Exactly on it being an individual decision. If I was 36 closing in on 37 and had made as much money as Joey Votto, for instance (~$178M just in salary), unless I had frittered virtually all the money away, I would be much less driven by the money (potentially) left on the table ($75M) than by my long term health prognosis.

  10. Stock

    if they did this plan I would suggest 100 games. 11 vs. 8 teams in your division and 12 vs. your geographical rival (Cincinnati/Cleveland). You need an even number of games to ensure 50 road games and 50 home games. Each team takes 3 road trips. 5 or 6 games vs. each of the teams in the division.

    Cincinnati’s Road trips should be (Chicago, Chicago, Milwaukee), (Atlanta, Detroit, Cleveland), (KC, STL, Minnesota)

    That said I don’t think this is a good idea. To assume we won’t have a relapse is a very risky assumption. Georgia will show us the way but I think Georgia moves back to step 1 next month.

    The quarantine of the players in AZ and FLA seems like a best chance to have a complete season. I feel bad these players will not see their families for 3 – 4 months but for $1+ million I would be willing to quarantine myself from my family for 3 – 4 months. Reality is these players are away from their family 3 months during a regular baseball season.

    With 3 divisions how do you do the playoffs? 6 teams mean 4 have play in games including 1 division winner. 12 teams would probably be the best solution. One second place team gets a first round buy.

    • Doug Gray

      Lots of guys won’t come close to making $1M this year. And that was before there wasn’t a full season. And that was also before the owners also decided that they want the players to take less than their pro-rated per game salary for the games that they do play.

      • Stock

        I understand that. That was not my point at all. Enough to represent the majority do though and the majority will determine what happens this year. I think for an extra 2-6 weeks away from their families players will not balk at playing in AZ/FLA if it ensures the completion of the season.

        My guess is most of the pre-arbitration players don’t even have children and many don’t have wives yet. If everything was laid out for them i am willing to bet many of these players would prefer the quarantine in AZ/FLA if it meant a chance for more games and greater pay.

    • Jim Walker

      Playoffs> How about 6 teams with the best 2 division winners getting byes. Then 2 best of 5 (or of 3) series followed by 2 best of 7 (or of 5) followed by World Series. This would look a lot like the current structure with the byes replacing wildcard games

  11. Scott Benhase

    Doug, has Nightengale or another reporter mentioned roster sizes for this proposal? I’d think they would need to expand temporarily the 40-man roster size to at least 50 players to account for the almost certain viral sickness that will occur among the players. A team could see 5-10 players at once get sick and then the team would be at a competitive disadvantage. This is a huge roll of the dice, if they do it. Like others have said, I want MLB baseball this summer, but…

    • Doug Gray

      There has been talk of expanded active rosters, but no hard numbers have really been discussed.

      • Jim Walker

        How about all 40 available but only 20 or 21 active for any given game with a limit of 7 pitchers. (recall once upon a time pitchers were to be limited to 13 of 26 spots this year)

  12. Frank Fritz

    We’re going to pass up 60,000 deaths at some point today. With a locked down country for the last like 6 weeks. And almost everything we know suggests that we are under reporting that number, too. (this is hardly the only study showing this, but it’s one that was published this morning)

    We are also seeing that there can be long term lung, kidney, and liver damage from simply having this.

    Not really sure what you were reading that makes those things “overblown”, but I don’t agree much at all with that one.

    • Jim Walker

      As I suggested in a reply to a comment above, do the math for herd immunity in a population of 330M based on 60K deaths per 1M infections or even revise the infection # to 2M. Then try to keep a straight face when saying that is any less devastating to our economy than 30% unemployment.

    • Jim Walker

      Then of course there is the nagging issue we still don’t know even if or how long someone who has survived COVID19 infection is immune to reinfection.

  13. Stock

    Renbutler needs to quit watching Fox News and get honest reporting.

    Dr. Fauci predicted 100,000-200,000 deaths several months ago. We are at 60,000 reported now and by the end of June will be in the 80,000-120,000 range depending upon how things go in Georgia and other states reopening. Does not sound “overblown” to me. Assuming things go smoothly this summer (which my feeling is that won’t happen) we will still be faced with the crisis come November unless we have a vaccine. I could see as 200,000 being a vast understatement.

    20,000 tests is nothing. Pence stated we would be able to do 5,000,000 tests a day in March. To date we have done 5.7 million total. 20,000 tests is the same as testing 1 our of every 16,000 citizens a day. I guess Pence’s 5,000,000 quote was overblown.

    As Frank stated 60k deaths and 1M infected is the known death count and infected. Actual numbers are much higher.

  14. RedNat

    2 recent disappointing findings are 1)that there is a 40 % false negative rate with the testing

    even if you test negative you could still have it

    2) even if you get the virus and form antibodies that does not mean you are immune from getting it again. this makes me think that a vaccine would not be very effective either.

    I have been saying this from the beginning the return to baseball will be player driven. the players are not exactly chomping at the bit to get back to the field this year imo.

    it is hard to imagine guys like Joey Votto ever wanting to play again with this virus floating around but I feel in 12-18 months the younger players are really going to start feeling it in the wallet and are going to want to get back out there. only then will baseball resume.

    • Doug Gray

      The thing with this is that we don’t really have a good treatment right now. If and when we do find something, and there are at least some things that *seem* promising, that changes things even if there isn’t a true vaccine.

      The whole thing stinks. Every last bit of it.

  15. Jim Walker

    You are correct about the players being exposed and eventually some of them getting the disease whether or not they are playing baseball. But we also know that travelling around the country is likely going to increase their odds of getting the disease and bringing it back to their home areas. And once one guy on a team has it, he is likely to pass it to others on the team before testing identifies him as positive.

    As somebody said above, this is very much an individual choice for each player to make.

    However what does it say about us as fans if we are tuning in to watch these guys taking these risks to entertain us?

    Doesn’t it in a sense reduce us to being the same as folks sitting in the coliseum in Rome cheering in the gladiators as they fought to death, knowing that some of these guys are going to probably become ill and die just because they are playing the game for us?

  16. Stock

    Lupica reports games in AZ/TEX/FLA will happen

  17. Don

    I agree this whole thing stinks and one can only wonder who’s numbers to believe.

    I do not think it as bad as some people make it and it is not a do not worry.

    Being from New York State (not close to NYC, it is~ 7 hr drive to NYC and 8 hr drive to Great America Ball Park from my house) I am inundated with what is the worst place in the world (outside China) for this virus.
    Using Official NYState data from the state public websites:
    The antibody testing in NY shows that 25% of the NYC/Long Island population (10.7 million total population, ~ 2.6 million people) have the antibodies, it is about 4% in my area of the state (~40,000 out of about 1million).
    For NYC/long island there has been ~14,000 deaths, 580,000 tests of people with symptoms and 240,000 positive tests in this area.
    The death rate is being reported as 14000/240000 or ~ 6%. In reality the death rate should be reported as 14000/2600000 = 0.5% (about 50 times worse than the annual flu rate of 0.01%) but what give the bigger headline and website clicks for advertising revenue. 85% of the deaths are people over 60 (my wife is 64 so I am concerned) and 90% of those death have at least one other health factor which results in weakened immunity to any virus.

    It is currently true today, a person having the antibodies is not known to be immune. This is true of every virus ( per Fauci and Brix) and until there is a 2nd outbreak of a virus we will not know if someone that has antibodies is immune. The theory is that one will be somewhat or fully immune because that is what occurs with all virus known to date.

    I do not have any answer but trying to share data which I think may be relevant and help to inform people.

    My opinion is that those over 60 should take extra care to keep away from others, those under 60 should be vigilant about trying to not spread any virus (do not go out in public with symptoms, limit large gatherings, limit physical contact) and people should act like every person you meet may have some disease you can catch. Wash hands a lot, do not touch face with your hands and be respectful of those around you. Everyone should do this all the time anyway.
    Boost your immune system with Zinc, Vitamin C and D.

    Based on the study which shows the virus lives only a few minutes in sunlight, baseball should only schedule day games starting at noon local time so that players will be in sunlight the entire game when on the field and a majority of the fans (lower the capacity to maybe 40 to 50% of max) of will be in the sun as well. Put in UV Lights in the stadium where the sun does not shine which will kill the virus as well.

  18. ChrisInVenice

    Yes, please. The Strat-o-Matic Simcinnati Reds are not cutting it (although I appreciate the effort of those involved!)

  19. RedNat

    Its all macho talk Sliotar. I am sure the players “miss the game” but whe push comes to shove i got a feeling the players will remain hiding in their ivory towers.

    The mentality of Pete Rose is non existent today. “I would walk through hell in a fire suit to play baseball ” is definitely not the attitude of today’s players. They just wont risk getting sick unless they need the money

  20. MBS

    This plan makes little sense, unless they plan on bussing their players to avoid airports. Otherwise a flight from Cincinnati to Miami is 2:30 hours, to Dallas is 2:45, to DC 1:30, to LA 4:00, but a bus to LA would be a long trip.