Royals fans could be seeing a lot more of Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain this season, under a proposed realignment plan to work around the coronavirus pandemic. Baseball is considering resuming play by having teams play at their spring training facilities in Arizona and Florida.
According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, baseball could have radical realignment of the standings to ensure teams don’t travel outside of the state. Under this plan, the Royals would be placed in a division with the Brewers, Padres, Mariners, and Rangers, all of whom play their spring training games near where the Royals train in Surprise, Arizona. Here’s how all the divisions would look under one suggested proposal.
Grapefruit League in Florida
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 in Arizona
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.
Games could be held at spring training stadiums, or at climate-controlled MLB stadiums like Chase Field in Phoenix, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, and Marlins Park in Miami. The designated hitter rule would likely be implemented for all teams. Because each league would have an odd number of teams, Nightengale suggests that each team would have one doubleheader each week, playing two different opponents. The playoff format has not been determined, although the Grapefruit League champion and Cactus League champion would play in a netural site World Series.
There are still several issues with these proposals, primarily how baseball can effectively quarantine over 900 players, coaches, trainers, support staff, stadium operators, broadcaster crews, and employees who will keep supply chains going. Southwest Florida may be particularly at risk for coronavirus spread. Reaction to the plan from players and their wives has been mixed and baseball would need the union to sign off on any plan to resume play while the coronavirus is a threat.
Realigning divisions may be one of several new ideas baseball will likely consider in what will be a season unlike any other.