No one knows what a 2020 baseball season might look like, or whether there will be one. Still, more than two weeks into what would have been the start of the season, Major League Baseball executives continue to spitball ideas about the potential logistics of a season if it becomes possible to conduct one without undue health risks to players, league employees, fans, and society.
On Friday, USA Today reported on the kernel of an idea circulating in MLB’s offices to conduct a season with teams based out of their spring training facilities in both Arizona and Florida. In such a scenario, baseball’s leagues and divisions could realign. Rather than identifying teams as members of the American and National Leagues, their rivalries would be based on the geography of their spring training homes, with games taking place between Cactus League teams in Arizona and between Grapefruit League teams in Florida.
According to the report, such a plan would result in the use of the DH in all games. Expanded playoffs would be a possibility for a regular season that even in a best-case scenario will be shorter than a typical campaign.
While such an idea would allow teams access to familiar, robust training facilities, it would generate even more logistical hurdles than an idea that came to light earlier this week, in which all 30 teams were based within a one-hour drive of each other in Arizona. The multi-hour distance between some spring training camps in Florida, for instance, would make it difficult for teams to conduct series without staying in a road hotel.
In deference to the difficulty of a Florida/Arizona plan, a conversation between MLB and the MLB Players Association on Monday barely touched on the idea of the realigned league. Most of the dialogue focused on an Arizona-only setup.
A realigned 2020 season in Florida and Arizona, according to multiple industry sources, is just an idea. It has not been fleshed out to the point where it can be called a plan. And there has not been anything of a formal proposal by MLB — whether to federal, state, or local government officials or to the MLB Players Association — about restarting the game.
That context will hover over most of the ideas that bubble into public dialogue about a potential restart in the coming weeks. The league is currently working to identify possibilities to salvage some portion of the season — almost surely for some or all of any season — in the absence of fans.
Many ideas are likely to raise several public health red flags upon closer inspection. The league and players are aware of that, which is why they aren’t affixing a timetable on efforts to reconvene. It’s wildly premature, against the backdrop of a pandemic, to say definitively how a season might take place or when it might become possible.
Members of the industry continue to formulate and develop ideas in hopes of being ready if it becomes safe to return to play. But it remains unknown whether such conditions will exist in 2020, making the exercise of designing a possible season — for now — entirely theoretical.