It turns out that playing an entire short season in Arizona isn’t the only option Major League Baseball is considering.
A second plan would have the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants realigned into the same division as MLB’s longstanding American League/National League would be shelved for the remainder of the 2020 season with baseball being truncated thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, all 30 big league teams would move to their spring training sites in Arizona and Florida to play out the regular season in games played with no fans in the stands. It is apparently one of several plans under consideration, including one that came out earlier this week in which all 30 teams would crowd into Arizona for the 2020 season.
Under consideration is a setup in which the A’s and the Giants would become divisional rivals for a year, joining the Cubs, the Diamondbacks and the Rockies in a division based around the northeast part of Phoenix’s Valley of the Sun.
It would make for some short drives. The A’s train in Mesa’s HoHoKam Stadium, which is 3.2 miles from the Cubs’ Sloan Park, 8.7 miles from the Giants’ Scottsdale Stadium and 11.5 miles from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, a complex on Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community land just outside Scottsdale that is shared by the Rockies and the Diamondbacks.
Of course, the Diamondbacks have Chase Field, their regular-season home, nearby, and it might become a factor. It might be used by the Diamondbacks, or it might be used on a rotating basis by all teams, given that it has a roof and could comfortably host day games in the Arizona summer where it’s common for 100-plus degree temperature days to stretch out over three months or more. It’s 17.5 miles from HoHoKam.
According to USA Today, this plan would allow teams to return to their spring training bases for about three weeks of Spring Training II, then stay put as baseball transitioned into regular season play. Because there are an odd number of teams (15) in each state, there would be doubleheaders played almost daily. One plan would have the A’s playing a dozen games against each of the four other teams in its division and six games against the other 10 teams for a total of a 108-game season.
Here’s how the Cactus League might sort out:
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.
A potential Northeast division including the A’s would likely see Oakland as a preseason favorite with the A’s coming off a 97-65 season and with almost all of the key players back and healthy. The Diamondbacks (85-77) and Cubs (84-78) also finished last season with winning records. The Giants (77-85) and the Rockies (71-91) did not.
According to Nightengale, the designated hitter would be used by all clubs and the post-season could range from a 30-team tournament to a more standard division winners and wild card teams.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3