Report: MLB Could Realign into 3 Divisions If 2020 Season Restarts After Hiatus

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2020

LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 01:  A detailed view of a pair of official Rawlings Major League Baseball baseballs with the imprinted signature of  Robert D. Manfred Jr., the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, sitting in the dugout prior to the Spring Training game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 1, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. The Tigers defeated the Yankees 10-4.  (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

Major League Baseball could abandon its regular divisional structure under one plan to start the 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Tuesday that MLB is considering a strategy in which the season would begin in late June or early July and feature at least 100 games. Teams would be grouped together geographically in three 10-team divisions, scrapping the American and National Leagues.

The realignment represents a significant departure from what had become the most-discussed idea to bring baseball back.

ESPN's Jeff Passan reported April 7 that MLB and the MLB Players Association were in discussions to possibly move all 30 teams to Arizona. Games would be played in Phoenix and its surrounding areas, with players and team personnel sequestered at hotels when away from the stadium.

R.J. Anderson of CBSSports.com reported April 22 there was another proposal to use Florida, Arizona and Texas as the three main hubs for teams.

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal referenced Anderson's report and added that even more locations could be on the table:

"The league could open in 10 to 12 states, or in as many as 20 home parks, sources say. Or it could start in Florida, Texas and Arizona, then take a break after say, five weeks, to reassess the viability of moving to other locations. Even states hit hardest by the virus — New York, Michigan, California — might welcome the return of baseball in empty parks, citing it as an example of life returning to normal."

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Some states have begun to relax their stay-at-home guidelines, thus opening the door for some businesses to return on a limited basis.

The NBA announced Monday it would allow for teams to reopen their practice facilities no earlier than May 8, with specific restrictions in place. Teams would be prohibited from having more than four people in the facility at once, for instance.

Nightengale noted MLB's three-division plan is contingent on getting the green light from medical professionals and that widespread coronavirus testing will need to be available to the public.

Given how many hypothetical forms the 2020 season has taken, fans should remain cautiously optimistic about whether the unique realignment happens.