At the outset of 2020, everybody had plans and goals. Scandals that rocked the baseball world started to take a back seat to Major League Baseball Spring Training.
Then the stoppage of play in the midst of spring training threw plans and goals in flux.
Last month, I wrote an editorial on a three-part season where teams would be given points based on positions where they finished in the standings.
Recently, agents and media members have published different ideas on how the season should commence, how many games should be played and the cities where the games could be played.
While all of the ideas are intriguing, one was published by USA Today where there would be three, 10-team divisions that played a 100-game schedule before embarking on an expanded playoff schedule.
The divisions would be divided as follows.
East: New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins.
West: Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
Central: Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers.
There is one plan that reportedly has Arizona hosting all 30 teams, and there is one that has the 30 teams spread out in three states. The states that would host the games would be based in Arizona, Texas and Florida. Two of those states host spring training leagues, Arizona and Florida. Arizona also has a fall league and could be the epicenter of a ton of MLB traffic later this calendar year.
How could Texas fare into this idea? While the Texas Rangers’ $1.2 billion Globe Life Stadium has yet to be opened, the facility could play a huge part in launching this idea. With Minute Maid Park in Houston, the Alamodome in San Antonio, Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Momentum Bank Ballpark in Midland, Wolff Municipal Stadium in San Antonio, Southwest University Park in El Paso, Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi, Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Hodgetown in Amarillo, LaGrave Stadium in Fort Worth, Baylor Ballpark in Waco and several other top-tier college fields at the beck and call of MLB, the state may benefit financially in the idea to have 10 Major League teams call Texas home for the 2020 season. That is, if they are able to have some semblance of fan attendance with recognition of social distancing.
If Texas could play host to the Central Division, it would make for some interesting rivalries and renew old ones. However, the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros would not be one within the state, as they would be destined for the desert of Arizona.
The Cubs and White Sox, south of the Windy City, could prove to be a hot-blooded one. Throw in the Brewers, Reds, Cardinals, Tigers, Royals, Indians, Twins and Braves for the flavor to give the division some fascinating summer matchups.
Another key point about Texas hosting the 2020 Central Division would be the minimal minor league presence these teams have in the state.
While the Rangers’ minor league affiliates are in Round Rock (Astros AAA), Frisco (Rangers AA), Corpus Christi (Astros AA), El Paso is the home for the Dodgers’ AAA Chihuahuas and Amarillo is the Padres’ AA Sod Poodles. So, a cost-effective minor league system is a concern in the short-term, especially in light of recent news where Minor League Baseball may be shutting down several of their affiliates for cost concerns.
The only team in the proposed 10-team alignment that would have a minor league affiliate in the state would be the Milwaukee Brewers, whose AAA Missions’ home is in San Antonio. It would be a likely host for the Brewers.
Under this plan, here are the Central Division teams and their minor league affiliations:
Atlanta Braves: AAA-Gwinnett, AA-Mississippi, High A-Florida, A-Rome.
Chicago Cubs: AAA-Iowa, AA-Tennessee, High A-Myrtle Beach, A South Bend.
Chicago White Sox: AAA-Charlotte, AA-Birmingham, High A-Winston-Salem, A-Kannapolis.
Cincinnati Reds: AAA-Louisville, AA-Chattanooga, High A-Daytona, A-Dayton.
Cleveland Indians: AAA-Columbus. AA-Akron. High A-Lynchburg, A-Lake County.
Detroit Tigers: AAA-Toledo, AA-Erie, High A-Lakeland, A-West Michigan.
Kansas City Royals: AAA-Omaha, AA-Northwest Arkansas, High A-Wilmington, A-Lexington.
Milwaukee Brewers: AAA-San Antonio, AA-Biloxi, High A-Carolina, A-Wisconsin.
Minnesota Twins: AAA-Rochester, AA-Pensacola, High A-Fort Myers, A-Cedar Rapids.
St. Louis Cardinals: AAA-Memphis, AA-Springfield, High A-Palm Beach, A-Peoria.
The alignment could definitely work, especially in the case of the eight-team playoff scenario.
An alternative set up to this idea is the MLB teams playing in their own cities without fans. The lack of revenue certainly would be an uncomfortable tradeoff for the safety of the players. While this helps the players remain acclimated in their own towns, the idea of playing before empty fields is very similar to closed practices and scrimmages.