News and Notes

MLB 3-Division COVID Plan Has Climate Implications; Rugby Stars Join Climate Fight


Major League Baseball is reportedly considering blowing up the National and American Leagues — just for a coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, mind you — in favor of three, geographically-condensed, ten-team divisions. This could be a precursor to the way sports may be organized in a carbon-constricted world in the not-too-distant future.

And a group of rugby players from the U.S. and Canada recently joined forces to take on climate change. They promoted the Global Climate Pledge — an initiative that aims to get two billion people worldwide to commit to reduce their carbon footprints by 2022 — during Earth Week.

All in a TGIF — it’s Friday, right? — GSB News & Notes



Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has consistently maintained that the regular season will be played at some point in 2020. But since spring training was shut down five weeks ago due to the coronavirus pandemic, most plans for the resumption of baseball floated in the media have featured all 30 teams playing all of their games at the many spring training stadiums in the Phoenix area.

Outdoor baseball¹ in the broiling Arizona summer?

You might want to rethink that one, commissioner Manfred.

And according to a report published Tuesday in USA TODAY, MLB did just that. It is now considering an outside-the-box scheme in which teams play in their home ballparks with the season beginning in late June or early July.

Under the proposal, the traditional American and National Leagues would be cast aside — for 2020 only — in favor of three, geographically concentrated, 10-team divisions. Teams would only play against the other clubs in their division in a regular-season schedule of about 100 games before an expanded playoff season would ensue.

The divisions would look like this.

East: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Miami Marlins, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays and the 2019 World Series Washington Nationals

Central: Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, and St. Louis Cardinals

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


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Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels gestures to the crowd after hitting a home run in a June 2019 game vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. Local rivalry games like these will increase in number this summer if a plan for a coronavirus-shortened season being considered by Major League Baseball becomes a reality (Photo credit: Alex Gallardo/AP)


My gut tells me most fans would look at this lineup and say, “This is awesome!” After all, the prospective divisions are chock full of natural geographic rivalries.

I had a different reaction.

If this plan actually comes to pass, I thought that Manfred and Company will have provided a template for what all sports in North America will look like in a carbon-constrained world.

Fast forward to 2030 and imagine that:

  • Humanity has not come close to decarbonizing by the “45 percent-by-2030” rate that the UN IPCC² said in 2018 was necessary to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
  • We are beset by many more frequent, damaging and costly extreme weather events than we are experiencing now.
  • According to respected polls, more than 85 percent of the public understands that human-caused climate change is the reason.

In that kind of world — a world that sadly is entirely within the realm of possibility and may well be likely, expect perhaps for that last bullet — it is easy to envision businesses, baseball and other sports included, being in a carbon lockdown of sorts.

Limiting air travel significantly will have several benefits for the teams beyond reduced carbon emissions:

  • Improved bottom lines
  • Enhanced brand image
  • Reduced jet lag, something that players, coaches and staff should like.

Fans will, of course, miss juicy cross country matchups. But hopefully many of those 2030 sports fans will remember the sports-less spring (and maybe summer and…) of 2020 and say, “I can live with that.”

All in all, geographically-desirable division lineups seems like a small cost to pay for sports to demonstrate real leadership on reducing carbon emissions.



A growing cooperative of organizations worldwide kicked off a project on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day to have 2 billion individuals — roughly a quarter of the world’s population — as well as corporations join in signing a Global Climate Pledge by 2022.

Top rugby players, including members of USA Rugby, Rugby Canada, University of Michigan Rugby and Harvard Rugby, pitched in on the launch of Pledge by committing to a raft of greener habits. Those pledges are being shared with fans in a series of videos distributed via social media.

The hope is that fans will not only mirror these environmentally-friendly behaviors, but also become engaged on the climate change issue.

“I think it’s safe to say that people care about themselves a lot,” said Naya Tapper, USA Women’s Rugby all-time leading try scorer and Pan-American Games silver medalist. “But we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our planet so we have to take care of it just as much as we take care of ourselves. The well-being of the earth should matter to us.”


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Naya Tapper, carrying the ball for Team USA (Photo credit: World Rugby)


The Global Climate Pledge bills itself as being the first movement to take such an inclusive and ambitious approach, engaging billions around the world in climate action.

“Sports are ubiquitous, they bring people from different backgrounds and ideologies together towards a common goal,” noted Alena Olsen, a member of the women’s U.S. rugby team who created the first video. “Those are the same things we’re trying to do with the global climate pledge. My teammates know that I care a lot about sustainability and it was inspiring seeing everyone lead the rugby community and take on the challenge in their own way.”


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Alena Olsen (Photo credit: Team USA)


The Global Climate Pledge consists of an individual and organizational pledge, both of which can be taken online. These rugby stars have taken their involvement to the next level by becoming ambassadors.

“Climate change sounds overwhelming to most people and they don’t know where to begin, which is why the Global Climate Pledge was created,” said Michelle Thatcher, CEO of the U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce, the organization at the heart of the Pledge. “It is designed to engage far beyond the environmental choir. You don’t need to be an expert to start helping the planet, as shown by the amazing dedication of these rugby teams [and players].”


¹ Chase Field, the retractable-roofed, climate-controlled home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, would also be used, offering only a modicum of relief.
² IPCC = the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change



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Amy Steel: Netballer, Climate Analyst, and Climate Activist

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