With the coronavirus epidemic bringing the sports world to its knees, people like myself are struggling because the boys of summer are currently missing in action.
To its credit, Major League Baseball has tossed a few ideas around, but so far the MLB has no concrete plans as to what to do, but I have a plan.
Let’s call it the Bob Plan. And as actor Peter Sellers expressed it in one of his “Pink Panther” movies, “a plan that cannot fail.”
It is a plan that can be fully implemented starting next season, but why wait for 2021? There are parts of it that could be used to provide fans with a much-needed 2020 baseball season, though shortened to 100 or so games.
However, my guess is that the current MLB season may not get off the ground at all. It’s like I’m having a bad feeling that when my ship comes in, I will be at an airport.
Unfortunately, in real life, I will actually not be at an airport in early June since my proposed yearly baseball sojourn to the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Area has been canceled by the COVID-19 outbreak. No plane in sight.
The Oakland A’s ticket office has already returned the money I spent on tickets for the two SF Giants at A’s games on June 6-7, and the Great American theme park in the San Jose area has also refunded my ticket money. Roller-coaster rides will have to wait a year.
So what better time to present my Bob Plan for the 2021 MLB season. It’s not all that complicated. There will be six sub-divisions consisting of five teams each that brings the total to the current level of 30 clubs.
Broken down further, two sub-divisions will comprise the West division, two sub-divisions will comprise the Central division and two sub-divisions will comprise the East division, meaning that the West, Central and East will each be made up of two divisions of 10 teams each.
At the end of the regular season, there will be six champions crowned, each winning one of these six sub-divisions — the West One, West Two, Central One, Central Two, East One and East Two. All are listed below.
Now stick with me on this:
The largest number of games will be played by teams within their own five-team sub-divisions. As an example, in what would now become a 160-game season (unlike the current 162), teams in the West One sub-division would play each other 20 times, which would account for 80 games per team. And then add 12 games that each West One team would play against West Two teams, and that would add up to 60 more games, meaning that West One vs. West Two meetings would round out to 140 (80 plus 60) leaving 20 games still to be played for each of the West teams to complete their 160-game schedules. It would be the same scenario for all 30 MLB teams.
So what about those 20 extra games? No problem.
For example, in the forthcoming 2021 season, West teams would play two games against each of the 10 East teams, thus adding the final 20 games to bring the grand total to 160 games. And then in year 2022 — -on a rotating basis — West teams would face Central teams the same 20 times.
Now let’s indulge in some postseason play leading to the World Series.
There will be, of course, the six sub-division champions champing at the bit and fit.
Now let’s add the four nonwinning teams from all six sub-divisions with the next-best records. They will meet in one-game wild-card playoffs (No. 1 vs. No. 4 and No. 2 vs. No. 3).
Those two wild-card survivors will join the six sub-division champions in an eight-team playoff series, which is exactly the same format that has been used up to this year. The four best-of-five winners will go on to meet in a best-of-seven series to determine which two survivors qualify for a trip to the World Series, which would be, as always, another best-of-seven affair.
For seeding purposes throughout the entire playoffs, the team matchups will be determined by regular-season win-loss records. As an example, the team with the very best record would be seeded No. 1 and would face the No. 8 team which has the lowest winning percentage. The rest of that round of series games would pit No. 2 vs. 7, No. 3 vs. 6 and No. 4 vs. 5, much the same way college basketball and the NFL handle pairings.
While it may be true that teams prefer home-field advantage (and that’s what the won-loss pairings would render), don’t forget that the Washington Nationals won the 2019 World Series despite losing all three of their home games. Houston’s problem was that it couldn’t win in four tries at home.
For this shortened 2020 season (I still don’t think it will happen), the World Series could wind up with two American League teams playing each other, or it may end up with two National League teams having at it. And probably in stadiums with few or no fans.
Whatever the case, if we made my Bob Plan permanent beginning in 2021, the World Series would no longer be between the National and American League champs but instead would be between, let’s say, the West One’s Oakland Athletics and the East One’s New York Mets. Wouldn’t that be a gasser?
Of course, the biggest plus to my plan would be the bringing together teams from the same geographical areas (less travel), which would mean that the New York Mets and New York Yankees would meet often (like 20 times), thus bringing more excitement to their budding city rivalry. The same would go for the following matchups: Oakland vs. SF; LA Dodgers vs. LA Angels; Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox. And to a lesser degree, you would have Cleveland vs. Cincinnati, Texas vs. Houston, Miami vs. Tampa Bay, Washington vs. Baltimore and St. Louis vs. Kansas City.
In selecting teams for division play, my biggest challenge was trying to choose between the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres for West One and West Two spots. I chose the M’s for West One occupancy because San Diego geographically fits in better with teams from Arizona, Colorado and Texas.
OK, MLB, do you have a better plan than the Bob Plan?
BOB PLAN FOR MLB SUB-DIVISION TEAMS
WEST ONE — Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, *Seattle Mariners.
WEST TWO — *San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros.
CENTRAL ONE — Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins.
CENTRAL TWO — Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians.
EAST ONE — New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates.
EAST TWO — Tampa Bay, Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles.
* could be switched
The six sub-division champs would be joined by two wild-card one-game survivors to form an eight-team playoff format that has been in use for a number of years, including the 2019 playoffs.
Bob Barrows is a retired Tribune sports writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.