Try as they may, the biggest obstacle to any of the Rangers’ rebuilding plans the last two years has been figuring out this puzzle: How do you deal with a problem like the Astros? And the A’s?
Well, what if MLB actually took care of that for you?
In a story first reported by USA Today on Friday, one of the league’s latest considerations for a restart would include spring training sites in both Arizona and Florida as home bases, leading to temporary and radical realignment. Sources confirmed the conversations but termed them along the lines of simply just another hypothetical possibility. Hypothetically, then, the big winner in such a plan might just be the Rangers.
The hypothetical theory calls for geographic realignment based on the location of spring training sites. It would remove the two teams that have dominated the AL West recently. The Astros have three straight seasons of 100-plus wins; the A’s have back-to-back wild-card seasons with 97 wins.
The Astros train in Florida, so they’d go to a different league entirely. The A’s are across the valley in spring training, which, for the purposes of this purely hypothetical exercise, means they might as well be on the East Coast.
How big a deal would this be for the Rangers? A very big deal. The Rangers went 12-26 against the Astros and A’s last year; they were 66-58 against the rest of baseball. The Astros and A’s were expected to dominate the division again this year.
In this regard, the Rangers’ relatively remote home in Surprise, Ariz., would work in their favor. Call it the Surprise Field advantage. The Rangers would be paired with camp mate Kansas City and the clubs in the nearest two-team facility, San Diego and Seattle, which share Peoria. None of those teams won more than 70 games last year. The Rangers were 16-10 against those teams last year, though they did not play San Diego. Milwaukee, in centrally located Maryvale, would make up the fifth team in the Northwest division and be the likely favorite, although the Brewers are considered to be on something of a downward trajectory.
The rest of the Cactus League would look like this, according to USA Today:
Chicago White Sox
Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Northeast would tilt heavily toward the A’s, but Chicago remains formidable. The West would be stacked. There would be a bunch of issues still to work through, like the DH (according to USA Today, it would likely become universal for the season) and playoff format (likely to be expanded by two teams, which would only further improve the Rangers’ chances).
Does it make sense? Who knows? There are a ton of issues related to every potential scenario being discussed and the first question is always going to need to be: Is the coronavirus pandemic contained?
If not, that’s all it is, just talk to waste the time while we’re all locked up.
But if it becomes a viable route for getting teams back on the field for some semblance of a season, no matter how strange it may look, this plan would benefit the Rangers perhaps more than any team in baseball.