Andy Masur: Newest Plan For Baseball Makes Sense In Ways…

White Sox

An aerial view from a drone shows Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, which, like all Major League Baseball (MLB) parks sits nearly empty on what was to be opening day on March 26, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Here we sit, several weeks after Major League Baseball was supposed to have started. We are anxious to get outside and resume life as we knew it, but we have to wait. Medical professionals need to give us the go ahead when they deem it safe to return to some semblance of normalcy. It’s difficult to remain patient, folks need to get back to work and to a lesser extent, we need our sports. I have no inside knowledge, but I really feel like we’re close to getting baseball back up and running. 

Rumors about various plans continue to pile up, but the latest one might be the best so far. It was reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, that the league suggested a new plan. It would allow players to actually be home and play in home ballparks this summer. Perhaps without fans, depending on what the medical experts deem safe. Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw were both on record saying they didn’t want to be sequestered under the previous “Arizona Plan” It would have meant players and staff would be away from their families for almost 5 months. This plan alleviates that part of the plan. 

Under the proposal MLB would do away with the “American and National” Leagues and instead break it down to 3, 10 team divisions, the East, Central and West. Teams would only play regular season games against their own division and the playoffs would be expanded. Here’s the breakdown on what the “divisions” could look like if approved:

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.

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

WEST
Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. 

There are a couple of things I might change about the alignment. Makes no sense for the Braves to be in the Central, so flip them to the East and bring the Pirates to the Central. You could also argue that the Astros and Rangers would be better off in the Central, because they are on CDT. Tough to replace them in the West because no other teams really make sense going to that division. 

The best part about this proposal as laid out is the travel situation. Playing all of your games within a 2-3 hour flight (most cases will be much less) is ideal, cutting down on one of the most grueling parts of a season. In a lot of cases, no flight would even be required. The Chicago, New York and Los Angeles teams would bus between ballparks. San Diego is a bus ride from Los Angeles. Chicago to Milwaukee also an easy trip. You see where I’m going with this. Atlanta in the Central is really the only fly in the ointment.

I figured to play 108 games, division opponents could play each other 12 times, 6 home and 6 road, likely with 2 visits to each city. That is smart, because there is guaranteed to be at least a couple of rain outs, especially in the Central and East, and a second trip could make scheduling make up games easier. 

The question of playoffs has not really been answered yet. With three divisions might there be a playoff bye for the team with the best record overall? How many teams will qualify? I have a few scenarios in mind, see what you think.

Scenario 1:
Top 4 teams in each division qualify for playoffs, ranked in win order 1-4
Team 1 would face Team 4, Team 2 would face Team 3 in a 5 game series
Winners of that round would face off in a “division round” of 7 games
From there it gets tricky, you could “seed” the round covering the entire league and the top team theoretically could get a bye to the “World Series”.

Scenario 2:
Again, have top 4 teams in each division qualify for the playoffs and seed 1-4. Team 1 faces Team 4, Team 2 faces Team 3, both would be 5 game series or even a 3 game set.

Winners emerge and 6 teams would still be alive, 2 from each division. those teams are then seeded 1-6 based on record with 1 v 6, 2 v 5, 3 v 4.  3 winners emerge re-seed 1-3, team 1 has a bye to the championship round.

Scenario 3:
You could have a tournament bracket, with the top 4 in each division qualifying. The bracket would be determined by record and all divisions combined (tie breakers could be run differential or in some other fashion)

1st round best of 3 (1v8, 2v7, 3v6, 4v5)

2nd round best of 5

WS round best of 7

This one is a little cleaner with no byes.

Whatever MLB decides, it will certainly buck the traditional postseason we’ve all become used to. It will also test the “old school” way of running a regular season. I consider myself more of a purist, but I still find this intriguing and kind of fun in a way. If it gets us to a season sooner rather than later, I’m all for it.

Catch every Chicago White Sox game on WGN Radio, 720.

Read more of Masur’s Musings here.

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