Phillies would benefit from rumored realignment for 2020

Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

The latest of several reported 2020 season scenarios for the Phillies being discussed includes realigning divisions according to spring training sites.

Spectrum Field could be the home of the Philadelphia Phillies for the 2020 season … without fans.

It is becoming more and more clear that just about anything is on the table at this point as far as getting the 2020 season underway, safely.

So much so, that one of several scenarios Major League Baseball is considering is what USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports as a “radical realignment”: all six divisions being realigned according to Grapefruit and Cactus leagues, rather than the traditional American and National leagues.

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Under this scenario, shared to USA Today by a “high-ranking official,” each team would return to their spring training site in Florida and Arizona. Following three weeks of training and exhibition games, the regular season would begin with all games played in only those two states, without fans, in an effort to minimize travel and risks associated with COVID-19.

Divisions within the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues would be created according to geography. A potential realignment structure would look as follows, as outlined by Nightengale:

Grapefruit League

  • 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

  • Northeast: Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics.
  • 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.

The Phillies playing in a division shared with the Yankees, Blue Jays, Tigers and Pirates would be extremely beneficial, not to mention manager Joe Girardi and shortstop Didi Gregorius often matching up against their former American League East team.

Last season, outside of the Yankees’ 103 wins, the Blue Jays (95 losses), Tigers (114) and Pirates (93) were among the worst teams in baseball; the Pirates fared even worse in 2020 spring training action, winning only three of their 18 games. Meanwhile, the Yankees finished 11-8, Blue Jays 12-6 and Tigers 8-9. The Phillies had the best record across all spring training action, 14-5.

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Girardi’s knowledge of the Yankees, and the Phillies’ All-Star-caliber lineup featuring Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Gregorius, Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and others would allow them to go head-to-head with their 2009 World Series rival.

Also, as The Athletic’s Meghan Montemurro notes, this proposed Grapefruit League North division would benefit the Phillies, in that four of the five teams in the National League East are currently projected as playoff contenders.

Nightengale writes that this scenario, different from the previous ESPN reported scenario that all games would be played exclusively in Arizona, would too present some logistic challenges:

"The Cactus League provides more flexibility given all of the teams are within an hour’s drive of each other. Also, Florida, with teams spread throughout the state, presents a bigger challenge if players, officials and support staff would needed to be quarantined, which has not been determined."

Also, under this scenario, a universal designated hitter would likely be implemented, which could be a disadvantage to National League teams having minimal time to find the right player for the role. Alternatively, there would be several “pros” if this scenario plays out, as outlined by Nightengale:

  • Teams can establish home bases with facilities they are familiar with.
  • 26 ballparks are available for use, including three domed stadiums – Tropicana Field and Marlins Park in Florida, and Chase Field in Arizona.
  • TV rights holders would have a “captive” audience the entire day. “Games in Florida could begin at 11 a.m. ET and still have games  in prime-time for East Coast teams and their fans,” Nightengale writes. “The time slots still would permit West Coast teams to play prime-time games in Arizona.”
  • The Grapefruit and Cactus league winners would play in Florida for the World Series championship in late November, utilizing a domed stadium.

While now at least two scenarios have been leaked, nothing official has been decided by MLB, the MLBPA, and others, and they will continue to hold until “advised by health and government officials that it’s safe to start the season, holding out hope that teams could return to their major league cities, even including fans,” Nightengale writes.

A crazy scenario of baseball like this would be better than no baseball, knowing with confidence that the health of all those involved would not be impacted, of course. It will be interested to see in the coming weeks what path MLB ultimately decides to take for the 2020 season.