Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Common-Sense Divisional Realignment Suggestions for MLB Commissioner Bud Selig

I think that in all of sports, there is nothing more universally hated than the present college football BCS bowl system.  It's the only sports system in which a team can go the entire season without losing a game and not win a championship.  Absurd.  It defies all logic.  I would like to think that we could get a group of people in a room, and even if they have never watched college football in their lives, they could come up with a better system.  Because all it takes is common-sense.

This website, though, is not about college football.  It's about baseball, of course!  But like the BCS situation, there are a few oddities with the present MLB format that defy logic.  So, Commissioner Selig, I want to offer just a few common-sense suggestions for you.  Nothing ground-breaking, of course.
  • There are presently six divisions in baseball: NL/AL Central, NL/AL West, and NL/AL East.  Of those six divisions, four of them have five teams, one has six teams, and one has four teams.  Do you see a problem here?  Yep, the divisions don't all have the same number of teams, yielding a competitive imbalance.  The four teams in the AL West have a better chance than the other twenty-six teams because they only have to beat out three other teams (instead of four) to win their division, while the six teams in the NL Central have a worse chance than the other twenty-four teams because they have to beat out five other teams (instead of four) to win their division. 
  • Fortunately, this one isn't a tough one to fix.  Simply move one of the six teams from the NL Central to the AL West, and then all the divisions will  have an equal number of teams.  Ta-Da!  
  • But which one to move?  If only one of the teams in the NL Central was really in a western state... and maybe even had a natural in-state rivalry with one of the teams in the AL West... boy, that would work out nicely.... Oh wait!  Don't the Houston Astros play in the western state of Texas, the same state that the AL West Texas Rangers play in?  (Rhetorical question, but the answer, of course, is "YES!")  The simple solution to the problem is to move the Houston Astros to the AL West.  Speaking as someone who lives in an NL Central city, we won't really miss them anyway.  
  • "But wait!" the hypothetical objector retorts, "if there are fifteen teams in each league, then there will have to be an interleague game played every day."  
  • My response: "That's ok with me."  Plus, this might finally be an excuse to do away with the archaic DH rule.
    • Excursus #1: The Designated Hitter
    • The designated hitter rule was instituted in 1973 as a "stimulus package" for the financially struggling American League.  They figured that by adding the designated hitter, it would allow for American League teams to sign washed-up players who could no longer play the field, but whose name-recognition would still attract fans to buy tickets.  Early examples of this include players like Henry Aaron at the very end of his career.  Seemed like a decent plan at the time.  However, the American League doesn't need this stimulus anymore!  The reason for the designated hitter rule died long ago, and so we should let the designated hitter rule follow suit.   
    • Excursus #2: Inter-League Scheduling
    • Before this World Series, do you know how many times the Texas Rangers played the Cardinals in St. Louis?  I'll give you a hint: Interleague play has been around for fifteen seasons... Give up?  Actually, the answer is zero.  Before the 2011 postseason, the Texas Rangers had never been to St. Louis.  The original draw of Interleague play was the excitement of seeing teams that you normally wouldn't see in a given season.  Because of this, fans expected some sort of rotation in which eventually, over the course of a number of years, every team would visit every other team.  How is it possible, then, that this was the first time the Rangers visited St. Louis?  The answer is what MLB has dubbed the "rivalry" series in which the league has sought to create new rivalries by forcing teams that are geographically close to one another but in separate leagues to play a home and home (six games) with each other every year.  Some of these have been fairly captivating (White Sox/Cubs), but most have quickly gotten stale (Cardinals/Royals).  I think it might be time to say goodbye to the "rivalry" series, and set up interleague play on a purely rotational basis so that every team visits every park.
  • Anyway, back to realignment thoughts... This one is a bit more quirky, and may reveal a bit of O.C.D on my part, but stick with me, and hear my argument out.  After employing my previously mentioned switch of the Astros to the AL West, I think that the Pittsburgh Pirates (NL Central) should switch division with the Atlanta Braves (NL East).  Here are my reasons:
    • 1.) Pittsburgh is further east than Atlanta. 
    • 2.) It could potentially create an interesting rivalry between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies, between two cities that already don't like each other.  I'm actually surprised this rivalry isn't happening at the moment, but perhaps being division-mates will stir the pot.  Now, I know what you might be thinking.  The Phillies have been great and the Pirates have been horrible.  But keep in mind, that the Pirates are on the way up with young talent, and the Phillies are on the way down with old talent.  Perhaps they will meet in the middle
    • 3.) The move of the Braves will give the NL Central the southern presence that they will have lost by moving the Houston Astros to the AL West.  
Well, that's all for now.  I hope that these ideas seem as common-sense to you as they do to me.  I await your rebuttal in the comments section!


  1. Willie Mays never played in the AL

  2. The Phillies-Pirates rivalry did exist, back when they were in the same division. It was hot from 1887 all the way up to 1993, which HOPEFULLY was within your lifetime...

    Besides that, lot of this "common sense" is something even casual baseball fans have been observing for quite some time. Your criticism of the DH is even shallower than most, though I personally do dislike the position.

    The Braves move doesn't make as much sense as you'd think, either. The Braves have a relatively strong presence throughout the NL East. Not so with Central. Though geographically closer, Pittsburgh is on the other side of the mountains, and identifies more as a central-US city than an eastern one. Many of their fans come from West Virginia and Ohio. Perhaps it would help you to look at the Baseball Map of America.

  3. e.c.h......
    He's not the only one to think of it, and that's why he used "common sense" in the title. I don't think anyone's claiming to have been the one who thought of it, he's just outlining that these are things to consider.

    Chill out. Not everything is a pissing contest. Sometimes you just have to pee.

  4. Thanks for catching my mistake on Willie Mays. It has been quickly corrected. I was working quickly without checking my information. Won't happen again.

    With regard to my comments on the Pirates-Phillies rivalry, this blog isn't necessarily intended to be a compendium of baseball history; there are much better places for that. Rather, it is a commentary on the present status of MLB, and presently, I don't think that anyone would argue that the Phillies and Pirates have a rivalry at the moment.

    So my Pittsburgh/Atlanta swap is just an idea predicated on the reality of divisional realignment happening. It's one that to me makes sense. And I looked at what I think is the "Baseball Map of America," and while the Braves do have a strong presence in the east, it appears that their "territory" also extends well to the west, much father than does Pittsburgh.

    And yes, I just had to pee...