As fans across the country await the official decision on baseball’s return, many logistics of the plan proposed to the MLBPA have been leaked. With one component being a potential realignment of divisions, the 2020 schedule could look a lot different for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ladies and gentleman, we are inching closer to seeing baseball’s highly anticipated return, and the beginning of the 2020 season for the St. Louis Cardinals.
A return won’t come easy though and we have plenty of hurdles left to jump.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported early Monday morning on the first step to a long and ever so delicate process for the league’s hopeful return to the diamond.
Rosenthal outlined the proposal, which was discussed in the aforementioned Tuesday meeting, consisting of the following:
- A regular season beginning in July with a schedule of 78, 80, or 82 regular season games.
- Expanded playoff picture with seven teams from each league as opposed to five.
- In an effort to prevent as much trouble as possible, a regional schedule where teams would play only the opposing teams in their same division as well as the teams from the same geographical division from the other league. For example, the NL Central teams would only play each other as well as the teams from the AL Central.
- Reduced pay for players as a result of the season likely consisting of games with no fans.
Okay, cool. That sounds easy, let’s just start playing now. Right? Well, not exactly. Sure, both parties (owners and players) want to get back in the swing of things (no pun intended), but it isn’t that simple. The proposal and hypothetical agreement between the owners and the Players Association starts and ends with the reduction of players’ pay, which is discussed further in a recent article by site expert Matt Graves.
Simply put, if team owners get too greedy, and the players understandably can’t agree on a specific amount, no games will be played.
As for the other elements of the proposal, that’s where we can have some fun and debate what might happen if and when we reach a point where baseball is played.
First, let’s look at what the schedule could potentially look like for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re all familiar with the division rivals from the highly competitive NL Central, but the addition of the AL Central certainly spices things up. The Cardinals would become a frequent opponent to the Twins, Indians, White Sox, Royals, and Tigers.
The article from Ken Rosenthal stated that the schedule make-up could consist of four three-game series’ against each division opponent as well as two three-game series’ against each team from the opposite division.
In 2019, the Minnesota Twins (101-61) captured their first AL Central division title since 2010, beating out the second-place Indians (93-69) by eight games. After that, the division wasn’t all that competitive. The White Sox (72-89) finished in third, followed by the Royals (59-103), and the MLB’s worst, Detroit Tigers (47-114).
Heading into the 2020 season, the only major change for the division would potentially have been a significant improvement from the White Sox. With the additions of Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Kuechel, and Edwin Encarnacion among others, there is a real sense of optimism among the Southsiders regarding the 2020 season and beyond.
Other than the White Sox, the AL Central would have likely looked similar in 2020. The Twins remain one of baseball’s premier clubs, thanks to their deadly lineup, the Indians continue to be a solid force in the American League, and the Royals and Tigers will likely still struggle immensely.
So, what does this mean for our St. Louis Cardinals? It is interesting to see how the Cardinals fair against these AL Central teams which could end up being half of the St. Louis schedule for the 2020 season.
Over the past five years, the Cardinals have gone 28-21 (11-9 in 2015, 1-3 in 2016, 4-0 in 2017, 9-8 in 2018, and 3-1 in 2019) against AL Central teams. The sample size isn’t great to base predictions off of, as teams have obviously changed in the last five years, but it is one of the few ways to compare teams that rarely see each other throughout the season.
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The additions of Minnesota, Cleveland, and Chicago to this hypothetical “MLB Central” division will certainly bring a brand new level of competition to the 2020 season. Plus, seeing these nine other teams in a constant cycle would certainly make the strategy of each game much more complex.
Teams like Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Detroit could easily pose a much more difficult challenge than originally anticipated as teams will become incredibly familiar with each other — more than ever before.
Meanwhile, in the NL Central, the Cincinnati Reds are determined to make a run of their own this season after a very successful offseason, highlighted by the additions of Mike Moustakas and Nicholas Castellanos.
Although the Cubs endured a managerial change, the roster itself looks pretty identical to what it did in 2019. For the Brewers, their biggest offseason move was the seven-year extension for 2018 NL MVP, Christian Yelich. Beyond extending Yelich, there was a ton of turnover in the middle of their roster, but it didn’t end up with them looking much more dangerous. Most expect the Pittsburgh Pirates to be at the bottom of the NL Central in 2020, but anything can happen.
Although competition will likely increase in 2020, the idea that there will be seven teams from each league to qualify for the Postseason will surely help any contending teams, St. Louis included.
Whether or not you are in support of this idea, there is finally real movement towards our beloved sports making their way back into our everyday lives, and that is definitely something we can all find happiness in.