Houston, You've Got a Realignment Problem. (updated)

When Houston joins the American League next year, they probably won't enjoy having to play the divisional schedule against quality teams like the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels. But their toughest opponent will be their travel schedule - significantly longer trips, the worst being between Houston and Seattle.

Baseball did Houston no favors in this realignment.

If baseball wants to realign teams for a sense of fairness, they could/should look to resolve other issues such as geographical rivalries, the designated hitter issue, the cost and competitive effect of travel on teams.

Set of Issues

The first step in resolving these issues is to do away with the concept of separate leagues - that is an arbitrary and outdated concept. (Umpires have combined into one group).

The second step is to resolve the DH issue since you can only have one rule. Either way, just decide.

The third issue of travel cost and the effect of travel is a realization that this is a business and that you can create an alignment of teams that result in less travel costs and less negative effect on team play.

With the general acceptance of using the wild card concept for playoffs, the number of divisions becomes arbitrary. You could have six divisions with five teams, five divisions with six teams or three divisions with ten teams. Which makes the most business sense?

Current Alignment (2013)

For the current 30 baseball cities, the six divisions with five teams is a geographical Rorschach test reflecting the evolutionary nature of franchise movement.

The sample divisional alignments below were generated by calculating a minimum travel distance between divisional teams for all possible combinations of teams in a division of the specified size. Legend: The number shown is roughly the sum of direct miles between stadiums for each pair of teams in the division - think of it as a ‘relative travel weight'.

Option 1: Six Divisions

Keeping six divisions, teams can be realigned to have minimal intra-divisional travel.

 Division 1 Division 2 Division 3 Toronto Blue Jays 1262 Chicago White Sox 1045 Los Angeles Angels 1517 Boston Red Sox 919 Cleveland Indians 639 Seattle Mariners 2863 New York Yankees 537 Pittsburgh Pirates 854 Los Angeles Dodgers 1449 New York Mets 542 Cincinnati Reds 839 San Francisco Giants 1222 Philadelphia Phillies 686 Detroit Tigers 669 Oakland Athletics 1209

 Division 4 Division 5 Division 6 Atlanta Braves 1857 Milwaukee Brewers 984 Colorado Rockies 2565 Tampa Bay Rays 2016 St. Louis Cardinals 1120 Houston Astros 2976 Miami Marlins 2296 Kansas City Royals 1297 Arizona Diamondbacks 2403 Washington Nationals 2020 Chicago Cubs 958 San Diego Padres 3126 Baltimore Orioles 2103 Minnesota Twins 1325 Texas Rangers 2534

Option 2: Five Divisions

An alignment using five divisions would result in six teams each. The 162-game schedule would be 18 games against the five divisional teams, and three games each against the other 24 teams.

One benefit of this option is that Seattle gets grouped with the California teams. However, one competitive issue is the relative travel within a division - the northeast cluster of six teams would have significant less travel than the midwest division.

 Division 1 Division 2 Division 3 St. Louis Cardinals 3072 Milwaukee Brewers 993 New York Yankees 578 Kansas City Royals 2562 Chicago Cubs 961 Washington Nationals 835 Houston Astros 2995 Minnesota Twins 1940 Philadelphia Phillies 574 Texas Rangers 2407 Detroit Tigers 1282 Boston Red Sox 1197 Arizona Diamondbacks 4160 Chicago White Sox 975 New York Mets 578 Colorado Rockies 3021 Toronto Blue Jays 1911 Baltimore Orioles 726

 Division 4 Division 5 Los Angeles Angels 1592 Miami Marlins 3304 San Diego Padres 1885 Pittsburgh Pirates 2417 Oakland Athletics 1600 Atlanta Braves 2142 Los Angeles Dodgers 1547 Cincinnati Reds 2241 Seattle Mariners 3786 Cleveland Indians 2535 San Francisco Giants 1620 Tampa Bay Rays 2821

Option 3: Three Divisions

An alignment using three divisions would result in ten teams each. The 162-game schedule would be either 11 or 12 games against the nine divisional teams, with three games each against the other twenty teams.

The benefit of three divisions is better travel balance within each division, developing more potential rivalries and better geographical clusters.

 Division 1 Division 2 Division 3 Houston Astros 9822 Cincinnati Reds 2701 Philadelphia Phillies 2783 Seattle Mariners 8728 Detroit Tigers 2859 Baltimore Orioles 2760 San Diego Padres 5011 Chicago White Sox 2170 Washington Nationals 2827 Colorado Rockies 6517 Cleveland Indians 3162 Toronto Blue Jays 4077 Oakland Athletics 5649 Minnesota Twins 3964 Tampa Bay Rays 7029 Arizona Diamondbacks 5096 Atlanta Braves 4710 New York Yankees 2990 Los Angeles Angels 4812 Kansas City Royals 3856 New York Mets 2995 Los Angeles Dodgers 4829 Chicago Cubs 2179 Boston Red Sox 4107 Texas Rangers 8621 St. Louis Cardinals 2840 Pittsburgh Pirates 3374 San Francisco Giants 5704 Milwaukee Brewers 2438 Miami Marlins 7558

Suggestion

Baseball should realign to three divisions of ten teams.
This alignment provides the following benefits:

• Every team would play all 29 teams in at least one series each year.
• Teams would develop more regional rivalries.
• Increased marketing revenue since the stars on each team will play in every city over a two-year period.
• There will be less travel imbalance affecting quality of play.

Data - using Lat/Lon values of each stadium from wikipedia, the straight line distance was computed for each pair of stadiums. The table can be accessed in one of the following forms.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.