Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo flips the ball to home plate during spring training baseball workouts Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

McCoy: Cringing over what baseball might do

Let’s hope altered 2020 state doesn’t become permanent

Why can’t they just leave the game alone?

If/when baseball resumes, the latest format is a head-shaker.

That, of course, is understandable. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything and if/when baseball returns, it has to be under a different format.

What worries baseball traditionalists is that what they do to squeeze in a 2020 season might become the new normal for MLB.

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And that would have baseball’s legion of traditionalists howling at the feet of commissioner Rob Manfred.

If/when baseball gears up, USA Today reports that MLB plans to implement the following (of course, this all could change in a week because this is about Plan Five MLB has talked about):

•Games will be played without fans, and that is totally legitimate and necessary.

•There will be no American League/National League designations. There will be three 10-team divisions, based on geography.

•The Cincinnati Reds would be in the Central Division with the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers.

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•The East: New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays.

•The West: Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics, Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies and Texas Rangers.

That is something MLB would like to implement permanently, changing baseball’s landscape forever.

•The designated hitter, a part of the American League since 1973 but never a part of the National League, would be used by all teams. That’s another cringing addition that most National Leaguers despise. But MLB wants it.

•More teams would make the playoffs, pushing baseball ever closer to the formats of the NBA and NHL. That, too, is something MLB would like to make permanent.

Under the three-division system, all games would be played in domed stadiums. The East would play all games in St. Petersburg, Fla., the Central in Arlington, Tex. (new stadium) and the West in Phoenix, Ariz.

It is doubtful this season could crank up before July, meaning half-a-season.

So what does that mean to baseball’s sacrosant records?

It brings back the old asterisk dilemma. When Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record in 1961. Ruth hit 60 home runs in 154 games. Because Maris hit 61 in 162 games, there was an outcry that an asterisk should be applied next to his name in the record books.

Should they consider asterisks applied to records set in 2020, like if somebody hits .400 or if a pitcher has a 1.05 earned run average?

Should the World Series — or whatever they call it — be a real World Series when a team played half-a-season to get there. And unless Tampa Bay, the Texas Rangers or the Arizona Diamondbacks win the World Series, the championship will be won at a neutral site.

And there are some in MLB’s high circles that would like to play the World Series at a warm-weather or domed neutral site every year.

Fans want baseball in the worst way and the current plan is the worst way — Bastardized Baseball. That is necessary for 2020, probably the only way the game can be played.

But please, please, please … no geographic three-division system after 2020, no DH, no expanded and watered-down playoffs.

The game already is becoming close to unrecognizable to traditionalists with launch angles, spin rates, exit velocity, technological sign-stealing, challenges, efforts to speed up the game that never work and strikeouts, home runs or walks.

Why can’t they just leave the game alone?

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