The latest rumblings from the MLB appear to keep the Atlanta Braves inside the MLB's 'Divisions of Death' -- exactly as Terry McGuirk declared.
Compromises are being made - elsewhere - and negotiations continue, so the usual caveats apply: "nothing is official yet". That said, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich are reporting that the framework of a plan for starting the 2020 season might be presented to the MLB Players Union as early as Tuesday (subscription required).
Let's hit the highlights:
- That floated restart date of July 1st appears to be real - within a couple of days at least
- The idea of playing through the month of October and then starting playoffs in November? Dead. The games counts cited appear to support an end date of September 27th - exactly as originally conceived.
- That's 89 days and the game counts being tossed around are in the range of 78 to 82.
- Opponents and travel would be geographically regionalized: each team's current division plus their counterparts from the other league.
- So the Atlanta Braves stay in the NL East as Braves CEO Terry McGuirk wanted.
- The penalty is that they now have to play the AL East as well.
- No word on whether schedules will be balanced or unbalanced. Here are the most likely possibilities:
- Balanced: 9 games each among the 9 opponents
- Unbalanced: 14 or 15 games vs. each divisional rival, plus 6 games vs. each inter-league foe (making 81 games).
- Expanded rosters. Rosenthal mentions up to "45 or 50", which sounds a bit glib. More likely this would be an expansion of the regular 40-man roster to that size with perhaps 28-30 actively available on any particular game day.
- Expanded playoffs. Try this on for size:
- Teams with the best record in each league get a first-round bye (2 teams)
- The other pair of division winners in each league - plus four wild card teams with next-best records - match up in Round 1. Each series: Best of 3.
- The prevailing 3 clubs advance with the bye teams getting the worst team remaining (probably).
- Call these rounds the Wild Card rounds, Divisional Series, Championship Series, and finally the World Series? Eh, that's probably the least of our concerns now.
So the Atlanta Braves would have to face not only their own tough division, but now the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles.
Heck if you don't win the NL East outright, it will be tough sledding to make one of the Wild Card slots -- even if there are two more such slots available.
On the other hand, I have some real concerns about whether the Baltimore Orioles will win a game this Summer... any game.
The Other Biggest Hurdles for the Atlanta Braves
While there is clear direction to get each team to use their own stadiums for home games, serious barriers still remain for multiple teams that would be on the Braves schedule: namely Toronto and both New York clubs.
- Canada requires a 14-day quarantine period for anyone traveling onto her soil, and the definition of 'non-essential travel' might have to be debated.
- New York stadiums might be usable by July, but that's still up in the air.
Beyond that, there's the money angle (as usual). For details on this, please refer to the latest TomahawkTake.com podcast in which we address many of these issues, for Rosenthal and Drellich have effectively confirmed our concerns on this subject.
Still, it's clear that a plan is coming together. If so, we could be 7½ weeks away from Opening Day 2020.
There's still a lot of horse-designing still to happen between now and then.