MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has recently floated the idea of realignment for the new collective bargaining agreement. Perhaps this is simply a negotiating ploy, but many media outlets are taking the talk seriously, particularly as a means of improving competitive balance. It certainly makes an interesting alternative to a hard salary cap or increased revenue sharing, not to mention easier to pass. The initial proposal is to abolish the divisions and move one NL team to the AL, making two 15 team leagues. The playoffs would be expanded by one team, with the top five from each league making the cut. I have some thoughts on the proposal, as well as my own proposal for realignment after the jump.
At first glance, this seems to make things more difficult for teams like the Royals who (in theory--almost happening in 2003) could play over their heads and catch their division in an off-year to make the playoffs, or even sustain some extended success within the division as the Twins have done. Instead, they would have to have the fifth best record in the league. (They currently sit 12th out of 14 AL teams. Come on over, Houston!) Furthermore, there are complaints about what this would do to Interleague play. Seeing as I have no idea how to work the schedule, I'll leave that to the experts. I'd like to get your thoughts overall on realignment as well as on my proposal.
Proposal (mostly off the top of my head):
Return to two divisions in each league (listed alphabetically):
The common speculation is that Houston would move to the AL for balance and for a rivalry with Texas, so I chose to move them, but there are other possiblities.
What makes this format palatable is the desire to expand the playoffs. Here, the top two teams from each division make the playoffs, as well as the team with next highest record in each league as the wild card. With the top two teams qualifying, even if two teams (oh, let's randomly say the Yankees and Red Sox) run away with their division, the other teams still have a chance at the wild card as it is less likely (though it would happen on occasion) that three great teams in one division would leave everyone in the dust. If they so desire, the league could even choose the top three teams from each league and have 2nd and 3rd place have a play-in game or three game series (double-header anyone?).
- I have no idea what this would mean for scheduling (especially Interleague play).
- There seems to be no real way to split up the Yankees/Red Sox to further improve balance without one moving to the NL, which seems very unlikely considering the history of both franchises.
- If MLB is interested in expansion in the future, adding one team to each 7-team division should be simple.
This is my proposal. I'd like to hear your reactions as well as your thoughts on realignment overall.
Finally, just for a little humor, I love this quote from Rosenthal:
Selig got nowhere the last time he pushed for a restructuring, following the 2000 season. His plan was for the Diamondbacks and Rays to switch leagues, the divisions to be reorganized and the NL to drop the wild card. The owners balked.
Nearly a decade later, Selig will need to be convinced the battle is worth renewing. In his mind, the rich-man, poor-man setup of the AL East might be less than persuasive.
You'd think a baseball reporter would have a better grasp of math. Then again, it's Rosenthal