MLB, MLBPA discussing realignment, two 15-team leagues

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ESPN’s Buster Olney has heard from three different sources that Major League Baseball and the players’ union are discussing a plan to move one team from the National League to the American League in order to even up the amount of clubs in each circuit.

The National League currently has 16 teams and a six-club Central division. The American League has 14 teams and a four-club West division. This new plan, which still needs to be voted on and stands only a “50-50” chance of being passed according to an Olney source, would even up those two lopsided divisions while putting 15 clubs in each league.

From a competitive standpoint, it’s the kind of thing that needs to happen. It’s not fair that the teams in the National League Central are at worse odds of reaching the postseason than the teams in all other divisions. The Cardinals, or Brewers, or Cubs must finish with a better record than five other squads in order to win the division and secure a playoff berth. The division winner in the American League West, meanwhile, only has to beat out three teams. The odds can change yearly based on talent level and the Wild Card race — at the moment it’s an advantage to have the Astros and Pirates on the schedule frequently — but simple math says a team in the Central will face a disadvantage most seasons. And, hey, the Bucs are showing signs of life.

Two club executives suggested to Olney that the Astros, currently at the bottom of the NL Central, would likely be moved to the AL West to create a potential rivalry in Texas with the Arlington-based Rangers.

There’s also been a discussion of getting rid of divisions altogether, and simply awarding playoff spots to the top five records in each league. The NHL has a well-received setup that is fairly similar.

It all makes a world of sense, and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that Major League Baseball tweaked its divisional alignment. Now let’s hope that it doesn’t take too long, as instant replay has, to be properly implemented. Change is a good thing, especially when it rights a clear wrong.

Adam Eaton sustains leg injury after tripping over first base

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Nationals’ outfielder Adam Eaton was carried off the field after stumbling over first base on Friday night. In the ninth inning of the Nationals’ 7-5 loss to the Mets, Eaton appeared to catch his ankle on the bag as he ran out an infield single, suffering a leg injury on the fall. He was unable to put pressure on his left leg after the play and required assistance by two of the Nationals’ athletic trainers as he exited the field.

Eaton is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday, but Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker told reporters that it “doesn’t look too good.” It’s the first significant leg injury the outfielder has sustained since 2014, when he went on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring strain. He’ll likely be replaced by Michael Taylor in center field for the next couple of games, though that could be a temporary fix as the Nationals seek a better solution during Eaton’s recovery process.

Madison Bumgarner likely sidelined through the All-Star break

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It’s been just over a week since Giants’ left-hander Madison Bumgarner got a serious scare after a nasty dirt bike accident. He escaped with bruised ribs and a Grade 2 strain of his left shoulder AC joint, but there was some speculation that the injuries would cause a significant, if not permanent, setback in the southpaw’s career. Thankfully, things aren’t looking quite so bleak today. Not only will Bumgarner not require surgery, but he could return as soon as the week following the All-Star break, the Giants said Friday.

Of course, that timeline is wholly dependent on how smoothly the recovery process goes, so nothing is set in stone yet. NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic estimates 2-3 months of rest and rehab, including “two months before he can get back on the mound and then another three to four weeks of throwing and rehab starts before he’s big league-ready.” It’s a long and laborious schedule, but still looks much better than any surgical alternative.

Prior to the accident, Bumgarner was working on a solid start to the 2017 season. He maintained a 3.00 ERA, 1.3 BB/9 and 9.3 SO/9 through 27 innings with the club, though his average 1.75 runs of support per start fed into an 0-3 record.