If you’re getting tired of hearing about new schedule and realignment plans from Major League Baseball in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I don’t necessarily blame you. However, the most recent plan, as outlined in USA Today, not only seems somewhat reasonable, but also might indirectly benefit the Yankees in a few ways.
According to the plan, the American and National Leagues as we know them would be discarded for the 2020 season. The schedule would include about 100 games, with no fans in attendance. Teams would be lumped together into three 10-team divisions based on geography. The proposed divisions are as follows:
At first glance, not a lot changes for the Yankees. The entirety of the American League East would still be in their division, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Yankees were expected to be the heavy favorites in the division this year, with only the Rays expected to pose a serious threat. It’s too early for the Blue Jays, the Orioles are still directionless, and the Red Sox are caught in that awkward season between rebuilding and reloading, reminiscent of the 2016 Yankees. The Yankees were going to face their divisional foes about 70 or so times total in a full season, and playing them more often in a new format still wouldn’t be a bad thing.
But the real fun comes with the new teams. While there’s definitely some star power being added to the division, there’s really only one team that could seriously go toe-to-toe with the Bombers for the division lead, and that’s the defending champion Washington Nationals. They would become a serious division rival, but both teams would likely make the playoffs.
The additions of the Mets and Phillies would also be intriguing. These teams have hovered around .500 for the last few years, but always seem to be capable of more. Both teams still have solid starting pitching and some powerful bats, and seeing the Yankees compete against Jacob deGrom, Pete Alonso, Bryce Harper and Aaron Nola could present some interesting matchups.
I love that interleague play, while expanded in recent years, still isn’t overdone. But admittedly, it would be a lot of fun to pair up more often with some geographic rivals like the Mets and Phillies. New York-area fans are surrounded by Mets and Phillies fans, but don’t often get the chance to see their teams duke it out. This year might be the chance to settle these debates on the field with more regular play.
The two other teams to be added wouldn’t present much challenge to the Yankees. The Pirates aren’t exactly loaded, and the Derek Jeter-led Marlins are the NL’s Orioles. It’s important to note that the real NL East includes the Atlanta Braves, while the Pirates play in the NL Central, but under these proposed guidelines, the Pirates would be in the Yankees’ division instead. This is another win for New York, as the Pirates are far weaker than the Braves, who are a young playoff contender.
An additional benefit comes with the fact that all games would be intra-division – this means that the Yankees would never have to face the Astros, Twins, Athletics or any other contending team not in the hypothetical East division. Replacing seven games each against those teams with contests against the Pirates and Marlins could seriously help the Yankees’ chase for the division crown.
At the end of the day, this is just another proposal in what has been (and what will likely still be) an endless amount of proposals to eventually play the 2020 MLB season as normally as possible. However, I think this one has a chance. Playing strictly local games seriously limits travel while also not forcing players to uproot their families and live in hotels. This can’t realistically happen until widespread testing is readily available, and the league will have to figure in many fail-safes in case of an outbreak. But, in a perfect world, this new realignment plan could work this season, and might end up inadvertently helping the Yankees.