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MLB weighs Florida-Arizona plan to kick-start 2020 season

Bradford William Davis
New York Daily News

After Major League Baseball swiftly downplayed its lambasted Arizona relaunch plan, it has emerged with a new idea to bring baseball back as soon as possible in 2020, in spite of the coronavirus pandemic.

The league has discussed using Arizona and Florida, which host MLB’s spring training games, as dual hubs for a regular season, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. MLB’s two-state solution would hope to restore baseball to the country by restricting Grapefruit (Florida) and Cactus League (Arizona) players to their respective spring homes and the surrounding ballparks, meaning no travel between the two regions. All with the goal of playing ball during the pandemic without contributing to its spread.

Major League Baseball has discussed starting the 2020 season at teams' Florida and Arizona spring training hubs.

Unlike the Arizona Plan, which was slated for May according to multiple reports, no specific timeline was mentioned by USA Today. Nor did the MLB official, who leaked the plan under the condition of anonymity, walk through the logistical hurdles needed to keep both baseball staff and the public safe during the ongoing pandemic in either state.

However, in keeping with current social distancing guidelines, games would be played without fans.

This plan would temporarily upend the longstanding American and National League structure, including the regional divisions, forming new ones based on proximity between spring facilities.

For example, the Yankees (AL) and Phillies (NL) could become designated rivals since they’re both located in the Tampa area, even though in a pandemic-free United States, they usually wouldn’t play each other outside of an occasional interleague matchup. USA Today reports that the DH would be implemented across all 30 teams, removing one of the last distinctions between the AL and NL.

The respective winners of the Cactus and Grapefruit League could play each other in a World Series from a domed location. The report also mentioned the possibility of an expanded postseason tournament with additional wild cards, or even all 30 teams.

There are two distinct advantages to MLB’s latest leak over the previous Arizona-only plan, though none of which appear to be explicitly public health-related.

First, playing in different time zones, with more parks available, would simplify TV scheduling. Including all the extra Florida ballparks, which include the Marlins and Rays’ domed homes, would reduce the amount of doubleheaders.

Second, every team would have the convenience of playing near their spring training facilities, adding some normalcy to a year upended by an unprecedented global pandemic.

USA Today reported that it is currently unclear whether players and the thousands of other workers needed to operate a game and season would need to be quarantined outside the confines of a ballpark. The official told USA Today that this plan is one of many and would only launch with the backing from health and government leaders.