Report: MLB 'cautiously optimistic' of plan to start 2020 season in late June

Tim Stebbins
NBC Sports Chicago

Major League Baseball is cautiously optimistic that it can start the 2020 season in late June, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Per Nightengale's report, MLB is considering a plan that entails abolishing the American and National Leagues in 2020, curating three divisions of 10 teams. Clubs would be realigned based on geography, only playing within the newly formed divisions.

Games would be played in home ballparks without fans (rather than spring training or minor league sites).

RELATED: MLB has recently discussed starting 2020 season in Arizona, Texas and Florida

This plan is the latest idea for a potential 2020 baseball schedule. As has been the case with previously reported possibilities, this proposal is contingent on the approval of medical experts and expanded COVID-19 testing capacity, which is currently unavailable to the country.

For the Cubs and White SoxMayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday she can envision a scenario where baseball returns to Chicago this summer. However, she said it would likely be without fans and added that the city is "a ways away" from that scenerio. 

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker recently extended the state's stay-at-home order through May, and there's currently no telling what will happen come June 1. It's unclear how this proposal would be affected by stay-at-home orders expanding past May in MLB home cities.

Dr. Anthony Fauci recently discussed a scenario in which fans could attend games while social distancing, though he said it's more likely that games will be played without fans in attendance.

"That is possible, but it's going to be the virus that determines what the timetable is," Fauci told YES Network. "Because if we get the virus under really good control, and certain regions of the country can get gradually from the gateway to the Phase 1 to the Phase 2 to the Phase 3, it is conceivable that you may be able to have some baseball with people practicing physical separation, namely, you don't pack a stadium.

"I think quite likely, although it's always dangerous to predict, I think it's more likely that you're going to have more of a television baseball than a spectator baseball." 

From a purely hypothetical standpoint, this is how the league could align divisions under the proposal:

EAST

Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles, Phillies, Nationals, Braves, Mets, Marlins

CENTRAL

Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, Reds, White Sox, Indians, Twins, Tigers, Royals

WEST

Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres, Giants, Astros, A's, Mariners, Rangers, Angels

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Report: MLB 'cautiously optimistic' of plan to start 2020 season in late June originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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