If Major League Baseball wants to put the Atlanta Braves in the central division for the 2020 season, it's going to have to first convince the club's front office to get on board.
USA TODAY reported last week that MLB was considering a proposal that would scrap the traditional National and American Leagues in favor of a three-division layout. Hoping to salvage the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic, league officials are looking at options that would limit travel as much as possible in order to prevent further spread of the disease.
Under the reported layout, Atlanta would move over to the central division and leave the rest of its NL East rivals behind. But according to Braves chairman Terry McGuirk, there's no scenario in which the team would be open to that idea.
"That is not happening," McGuirk told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday. "There is no possibility of that happening. It has never been discussed by Major League Baseball…We live in the East. We play in the East. Our travel will be in the East. We're an Eastern division team, and that's where we'll stay."
Of the 10 clubs listed in the central, the Braves would easily be the southern-most team. Their closest opponents would be the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds, each about a 90-minute flight away.
However, the Braves are still located farther west than any of the teams in the east division.
Even if they were put in the east, Atlanta would still have to face seven clubs that play in the northeast region of the U.S. Aside from the Florida-based Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins, the closest team would be the Nationals in D.C., also about a 90-minute plane ride away.
While most road trips include multiple stops-and northeastern cities are closer together than those in the Midwest-the direct flights from Atlanta to their opponents' airports would be about the same length.
If the Braves were to replace a team in the east, the logical choice would be Pittsburgh Pirates. Although located farther east than the Braves, the Pirates are relatively close to central teams Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati. As members of the NL Central, they also might be more open to playing in the central.
ESPN reported Wednesday that league officials are finalizing a return-to-play proposal that will be submitted to the players union by next week. If a geographically based layout is in MLB's plans, then the Braves have made clear where they stand on changing divisions.
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