Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How About Radical Realignment?

UPDATE: With word on June 11 that baseball is considering realignment, I have added a new post: http://pinetarandbrickbats.blogspot.com/2011/06/15-team-leagues-no.html

Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner, has proposed adding two teams to baseball's playoffs. That would put 10 teams in the playoffs. Besides the possibility of watering down the quality of the baseball's postseason play, the prospect of more games causes images of World Series snow delays to flood my mind.

I have never been a big fan of interleague play and when the playoffs were expanded to eight teams, a radical thought came to me: Why not blow up the leagues and start over? I used to be a traditionalist: I loved the war between the American and National Leagues.

But those days are long gone. The line between the leagues has largely been erased. There are no longer separate umpires. Players move more frequently between the leagues. The big difference between the Senior and Junior Circuits is the use of the designated hitter. I never was one who railed against the DH, but I wouldn't mourn its passing either.

With the two leagues sharing so much DNA now, I think something has been lost. No longer do players care about the All Star Game. The World Series is no longer the ultimate battle to decide bragging rights. Now, there's a chance that the teams meeting in the Fall Classic faced off in the regular season. I find it less compelling this way.

That's why I think a radical reimagining of the teams is needed. I take my inspiration from the decades when there were two, 16 team leagues. My plan calls for dividing the teams, plus two new ones for balance, into four, eight team leagues. I'm sure there are two cities silly enough to build a stadium to get a major league team. Maybe Charlotte and Nashville?

The new leagues would put a premium on traditional rivalries. As in the days before expansion, the schedule would be reduced to 154 games. Teams would play 22 games against only their league rivals. For playoffs, the top two teams in each league would face off in a seven-game series. The four winners would then meet, possibly in a rotating schedule among the leagues by year.

The biggest problem I encountered with realigning the teams was in the Upper Midwest. I was left with nine teams in League II. I moved the Indians in with the the more southern teams. I could have moved the Royals, perhaps, but the Missouri I-70 rivalry was too good to pass up.

I'm under no illusions that baseball will ever adopt such a radical idea. Owners would lose eight dates off the schedule. Others will complain that fans will never get to see three-quarters of the teams. But that would bring an element of mystery to the post-season.

And think of how exciting and important every game would be. And rivals like the Cubs and White Sox would be fighting for a pennant, not just bragging rights from two short series each season. And the season would be eight games shorter. With the demise of the Sunday doubleheader, this could move the World Series back into October where it belongs.

Here are my league lineups:

League I
New York Yankees
New York Mets
Boston Red Sox
Philadelphia Phillies
Pittsburgh Pirates
Baltimore Orioles
Washington Nationals
Toronto Blue Jays

League II
Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox
Milwaukee Brewers
Minnesota Twins
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds

League III
Seattle Mariners
Oakland A's
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks

League IV

Houston Astros
Texas Rangers
Florida Marlins
Tampa Bay Rays
Atlanta Braves
Cleveland Indians
two new teams


  1. I'd just go with 3 - Can't split up Cincy and Cleveland so put Indians into II. Slide Toronto into II(it is closer to Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin). Atlanta and the Forida teams into I and Texas and Houston into III.
    Of course, that would mean the whole playoff and World Series thing would be complicated, but it can be done.

  2. I completely agree with you that the baseball season should end in October. Baseball is a spring and summer sport and the "fall classic" should not become the "winter folly". You are right, there is no difference between the AL and NL anymore other than the odious designated hitter rule, which should have never been in the first place and should be eliminated at the earliest possible time.
    I would, however, like to see a system where teams play all the other teams throughout the season. I get tired of watching the same teams keep playing each other over and over again. I think this would give a truer picture of how each team stacks up against the others. It would be more interesting for hitters to face a wider range of pitchers, and it would allow fans to see more players than they currently do.

  3. Bud Selig proposed this idea almost 15 years ago.


    It wasn't good then, and it's not good now. It destroys everything unique about baseball (it's long history) and introduces little new. "Mystery" was possible in the 1950's when all you knew about other teams was box scores. Now I can watch any team, see detailed statistical breakdowns of every player, and find any fact about any game going back decades. There would be no "mystery" except why fans would be forced to watch the same 7 teams over and over again all year long while missing out on all of the others. I'm sorry, but as a Cubs fan I don't want to see the Brewers 22 times a year while never seeing the Mets, Giants, Phillies or Dodgers.

    (And I'm not even addressing the problems of haphazardly adding two teams and cutting games, especially when the season be shortened without cutting any games.)

  4. Thanks for the comment. I missed Selig's proposal. I can understand your point of view. But personally I don't care if the Brewers ever play the Tigers or the White Sox or Yankees. It all seems contrived to me to make sure a few real rivals can play. As far as the history of baseball, I think interleague play, the DH, unified umps and expansion have changed things already.


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