If the COVID-19 pandemic is going to lead to radical changes to the 2020 baseball season, the White Sox and Cubs might as well play in the same league.
Heck, put them in the same division.
It’s possible. A new plan reportedly being discussed by Major League Baseball includes radical, but temporary, realignment that would allow all 30 teams to use their spring training facilities as the regular season gets split up between Arizona and Florida. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, one proposal has the divisions looking like this:
Grapefruit League (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 (Arizona)
NORTHEAST: Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Oakland A’s.
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.
This proposal has the divisions put together by spring training geography, which is especially important in Florida where the team facilities are much farther apart than in the Phoenix area.
For the White Sox, they share Camelback Ranch with the Dodgers, while the Reds and Indians share a facility in Goodyear, which is only about 20 minutes away. The Angels? They’re in Tempe, on the other side of town, but one of those teams in the east is going to have to come west and the Angels are closest.
It’s important to note that this is just one idea being discussed and it’s far from becoming a reality, but we can still have some fun with it. The Cactus League allows for added flexibility because all the teams are within one metropolitan area, so why not put the White Sox and Cubs in the same division? Nightengale’s story mentions division teams playing 12 games against each other, and who wouldn’t enjoy watching the Cubs and White Sox play each other 12 times this summer? That’s a huge upgrade over not having any baseball at all.
Of course, none of this will happen unless Major League Baseball can ensure the safety of all its players, and that remains an enormous question mark. I don’t blame them for having serious discussions about altering the season, however. No one really knows what the next few months will hold, and if there’s a way to play baseball, it sounds like MLB is determined to be ready.
In the meantime, we get to have fun with these possibilities, so let’s breakdown the possible “West” division the White Sox could play in:
Los Angeles Dodgers – Yikes. The White Sox suddenly land in the same division as arguably the most talented team in baseball. That’s a heavy dose of Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger and Clayton Kershaw. On the flip side, playing the Dodgers frequently would reduce travel and potential exposure to COVID-19 for the White Sox.
Cleveland Indians – Well, no change here as the White Sox would still compete with their A.L. Central division rival. Some normalcy would be welcomed.
Cincinnati Reds – The Reds added familiar White Sox killers Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas so I’m not sure this is a welcome sight. Cincinnati also has a formidable 1-2-3 in its starting rotation with Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer. This would make for some fun matchups with the White Sox this summer.
Los Angeles Angels – Plenty of games against Joe Maddon, which is fun. Hey, since Eloy Jimenez said Luis Robert “will be the next Mike Trout,” they might as well play in the same division.
These scenarios are entertaining to discuss during these slow times without sports, but this plan obviously comes with some hurdles too. For one, what happens if it’s suddenly feasible to open Major League stadiums to fans by August or September? It wouldn’t be ideal to have the White Sox, Indians and Reds playing in the same division as two teams in Southern California.
Also, I’m sure television ratings would be through the roof if MLB can get its season going, but what about the time differences? Arizona is two hours behind Chicago. Unless teams are going to play at 5 p.m. in that desert heat, we’d be talking about a lot of 9 p.m. Central Time starts in Chicago. So much for Tiger King and Ozark.
But that’s why Major League Baseball is having these discussions. And there’s nothing wrong with getting creative during a pandemic. Keep the ideas coming.