April 10, 2020
We have no idea when Major League Baseball will return. We have no idea if baseball will return this year at all. And, we have no idea what it will look like when it does.
There have been many proposed plans swirling around that would implement some kind of "biosphere sports" idea, with MLB teams and personnel essentially quarantined together in a specific place to play baseball safely (they hope) before the world gets a COVID-19 vaccination. One idea centered around the league being completely in Arizona. A new one has teams in their respective spring training homes — in either Arizona or Florida — for the entirely of the 2020 MLB season.
This could be really good news for the Phillies.
The proposed plan would divide the teams based on their spring training homes, not their actual homes, in order to make travel less (but still) complicated. Which means Philadelphia — a team that conducts spring training away from the rest of the NL East on the west coast of Florida near Tampa — would draw a much much easier slate of games.
Here's a brief comparison of Philly's regular NL East rivals, and their proposed "Grapefruit League North" rivals:
|Team||2019 record||Phillies H/H|
Grapefruit League North
|Team||2019 record||Phillies H/H|
As can clearly be seen, the Phillies would move from a division in which they are slated to finish either 3rd or 4th, with three other teams coming off of winning records in 2019 into a grouping of teams with just one winner — albeit the very talented Yankees.
The Pirates, Blue Jays and Tigers, theoretically being an opponent for Philly 12 times each (with six games against the other Florida teams according to the proposal) is quite tantalizing.
Here's a look at the full divisional realignment under the newest plan:
GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE NORTH: New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates.
SOUTH: Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles.
EAST: Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins.
CACTUS LEAGUE NORTHEAST: Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics.
WEST: Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels.
NORTHWEST: Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals. [USA Today]
But with the blurred lines between the NL and AL in this potential league proposal, the Phillies could get perhaps another boost to their competitiveness — the designated hitter.
The Phillies currently have nowhere to play slugger Jay Bruce, who is the fourth outfielder behind Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and either Adam Haseley or Roman Quinn. He could be a perfect DH against right-handed hitters.
And what will they do against lefties? Well, the extra hitting spot in the order could present an opportunity for top prospect Alec Bohm, who hits from the right side and can play first and third base.
The extra hitting spot in the order could help the Phillies a lot, but baseball purists could finger this as the beginning of the end. If a season does take place with a universal DH, it is hard to imagine MLB scaling it back for 2021.
The new-look MLB will be very interesting and could give an advantage to Philadelphia — which it will gladly take. All of the above is far from a foregone conclusion, but it feels good just to read an article about baseball, does it not?
The winner of the Cactus League in Arizona would play the winner of the Grapefruit League in Florida for the World Series championship, utilizing the domed stadiums in late November. The official cautioned that nothing has been decided.
They will continue to wait until advised by health and government officials that it’s safe to start the season, holding out hope that teams could return to their major-league cities, even including fans.
Yet, for now, they’ll continue to explore all options, knowing that anything and everything is possible for a season like no other. [USA Today]
One way or another baseball will be back. Hopefully, a safe return in 2020 will be its next chapter.
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