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ESPN: “There WILL be baseball” in 2020

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USA Today reports a three division format is under consideration

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

According to a report by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, we can expect to have a 2020 baseball season, one way or another. Passan points to a number of States lifting restrictions on businesses, creating a climate more accepting of public events, even if there is no public in attendance, at least to start.

The article speculates that the season could be rolled out something like this...

“Finalize a plan in May.

- Hash out an agreement with the players by the end of the month or early June.

- Give players a week to arrive at designated spring training locations.

- Prepare for three weeks.

- Start the season in July.

- Play around an 80- to 100-game season in July, August, September and October.

- Hold an expanded playoff at warm-weather, neutral sites in November.”

Of course, such a plan is not without obstacles. The status of the Coronavirus pandemic, whether medical experts say it’s safe to have gatherings, even in empty stadiums, and the availability of tests to ensure the safety of players and all those involved is a chief concern.

They’d also need an actual agreement for player compensation in the absence of any fans in attendance, since owners insist that the last agreement to pay players on a pro-rated basis for games played does not apply to games played without gate receipts. Players believe that they already negotiated a comprehensive agreement and now the owners want to take more from them.

Bob Nightengale of USA today reports that a format is under consideration, one also referred to by Passan, that would have the 30 MLB teams divided into three divisions, East, West and Central. Games would begin in Florida, Arizona, and Texas, and possibly move to the teams’ home towns at some point.

The scenario put forth by USA Today would have the season beginning in late June with three divisions aligned as such:

EAST

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

CENTRAL

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

WEST

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

Travel would be minimized in this format, and it would appear to overcome the problems with players not being able to associate with their families for the duration of the season, even if fans were not in attendance at any stage. Teams would play a complete schedule within their division, before some sort of a playoff, to be held in a neutral site.

Nightengale suggests that this format has some traction, although discussions are ongoing.

“It’s all coming together,’’ one of the officials said. “I’m very optimistic.”

The ESPN article goes on to put forward several other possibilities, including a giant playoff with multiple phases of round robin competitions, ending with a big bang on Thanksgiving weekend, just as the college football regular season is winding up.

Another format would include all 30 teams playing in Arizona, at least to begin the season. There are 15 major league clubs that have spring training facilities within 100 miles of each other. But that would involve quarantines, and could hardly include players’ families.

One issue to be decided is whether a designated hitter would be used in all games, or just some games in any new format. Just one more thing to consider.

Meanwhile, Jon Heyman of the MLB Network is reporting that the Amateur player draft, which was scheduled to take place during the College World Series in Omaha on June 10, is set to go forward on that date, although the CWS itself has been canceled. The draft would be held in a virtual format, just as the NFL draft was recently held, drawing great praise, not to mention 55 million viewers.

The Baseball Hall of Fame inductions for Derek Jeter and Larry Walker will be postponed to 2021. The two were set to be inducted this summer along with former Union chief Marvin Miller and Southfield native, catcher Ted Simmons.

The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) is set to begin their season on May 5, and ESPN is in negotiations to televise some of those games. Either way, there WILL be baseball in 2020.