A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the sport of baseball was a physical reality, not just some ancient myth. Players threw, caught, and socked dingers. Fans flocked to their side, sitting snug in the confines of MLB stadiums to root and cheer and holler.
It feels like ages ago. I’m not sure I’ve written about baseball in the present or future tenses in weeks. Still, baseball is doing its best to continue to script its evolution through the coronavirus pandemic, continually creating contingency plans for when the game might finally return.
The latest plan consists of using both the Arizona and Florida team facilities usually dedicated just to spring training, creating separate Grapefruit and Cactus leagues for localized, isolated play. And in creating Grapefruit and Cactus leagues, that would effectively call for a hiatus of National and American league play, instead creating a season based purely on the location of team facilities.
In the proposal - one originally detailed last week by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale - we would see the Cincinnati Reds kerplunked in the Cactus League West division alongside the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, and Los Angeles Angels, which certainly wouldn’t appear to be any easier of a division than what they’d face in a 2020 edition of the NL Central, really. The Dodgers have been beasts for years (and just added Mookie Betts), Cleveland has strung together a series of brilliant seasons around Francisco Lindor, the White Sox matched the Reds with ambitious spending this winter to emerge from their deep rebuild, and the Angels now boast both Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. Yeesh.
Over at FanGraphs, Ben Clemens took a deep dive this morning into the logistical pitfalls such an alignment could face, particularly the weather in Florida during the summer (with no domed Grapefruit facilities) as well as the odd number of teams in both alignments. There are ways around those, and the litany of other issues, of course, but none of them truly seem to jibe with how baseball and the MLBPA usually look out for things, so it would take a pretty radical change of priorities to make something of this ilk work, in all reality.
(No link here, but it’s that premise that has me particularly engaged, as it sets a stage for next year’s Collective Bargaining Agreement talks, too. If these two ‘leagues’ were created for the 2020 season, discussions would have to be made regarding the rules overlap the rosters had been built on, specifically the fact that DH and non-DH clubs would be facing one another within the same division. How those negotiations went for a modified 2020 would be pretty damn pertinent in the looming CBA discussions, no? And that’s just one of the things they’d be hashing out in 2020 that will likely be a major focal point of the 2021 discussions, too...)
In other news, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal caught up with new Houston manager Dusty Baker to discuss all things, and since Dusty is one of the single best minds to pick on the planet, it evolved into a wonderful discussion that’s well worth a read.
Speaking of great reads from The Athletic, C. Trent Rosecrans spoke with new Reds hitting coach Alan Zinter about his time spent playing the game in Japan, and how that gave him both perspective - and some valuable insight - into early discussions with new Reds OF Shogo Akiyama.
Back over at FanGraphs, they’re doing a retrospective on the career paths of MVPs of the 1990s, and that means there’s good Barry Larkin talk. Anytime there is good Barry Larkin talk, I will do my damndest to point you towards good Barry Larkin talk, and this is one of those times.
Over at MLB.com, Anne Rogers & Co. took a look at the future of the closer spots on each of the NL Central rosters, highlighting players current in those clubs’ systems that might be the next big thing there, respectively. For the Reds, a literal big was their pick, and the idea does have some merit.
Finally, a zebra running through the streets of suburban Paris, because we all could use footage of a zebra running through the streets of suburban Paris right now.