Chicago Cubs: New divisions present a challenge for the team
Major League Baseball has discussed multiple plans for a shortened season if baseball happens in 2020. The newest one, involving three ten-team divisions, would be a challenge for the Chicago Cubs.
The latest proposal includes the East, Central, and West divisions of both leagues. The East consists of all the American League East teams and four National League East teams. The Central contains all five AL Central teams and four NL Central teams.
The West contains all ten teams from the AL West and NL West. The exceptions are the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates, who are flip-flopped in the East and Central, respectively. Under this proposal, games would be played at home team parks with no fans in attendance due to COVID-19.
The Cubs, on paper, would have one of the best teams in the central. Still, instead of having to deal with the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers, they would now have to deal with the Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves, both division winners and both won over 95 games in 2019, with the Twins winning 101. The Cardinals won the Central and won 91 games, while the Brewers have made the playoffs two straight years while knocking the Chicago Cubs off their perch in 2018.
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Not to be forgotten are the Indians, who won 93 games in 2019 and somehow missed the postseason. The Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox both look primed to compete as well. The Central division from top to bottom will be the toughest division out of the three if this proposal follows through.
The East is very top-heavy with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays. The West would be a two-team battle with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros.
From top to bottom, the Cubs, Braves, and Twins have the best three rosters talent-wise, but it’s a question of whether the Cubs can keep up offensively with the top two teams after the top guys. They have had trouble keeping up with Milwaukee and Cincinnati the past couple of seasons. And now that the Reds added some hitters to round out their lineup in former Cub Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas, they could give teams fits and maybe compete for a playoff spot.
The White Sox added veteran presence for their young squad with the additions of Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion and Yasmani Grandal. At the same time, the Twins rounded out their already dynamic lineup with the addition of Josh Donaldson. It’s hard to know how teams like the Reds and White Sox will play until they actually play games together.
Teams in the past had loaded up and been unable to succeed, like the Padres in 2015 when they acquired Matt Kemp, Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and James Shields all in one offseason. Acquiring talent does not always equate to wins, so beware Reds and White Sox fans.
If this proposal goes through, the Cubs would have a lot of obstacles to climb to try and get back to the top of their division. But, what better way for David Ross to test his mettle than by going up against the best?