Reimagining Major League Baseball 2008

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Every year when baseball season approaches, I think about how I would love to realign the Major League Baseball.

A few years ago they threatened to do this. Contract some underperforming teams and move some others around. I was all for this. The expansion of the 90s was unnecessary. All it did was essentially add four minor league teams to the league. It thinned the pitching pool and pushed some very average players into some very above average salaries.

I say MLB is four teams heavy right now. I say let’s do something about that. Since this is my blog I can do that.

The first thing we are going to do is contract the four teams with the lowest overall attendance in 2007. Say good-bye to the Florida Marlins, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates. Yes, I realize that three of those teams have won World Series. Yes, I realize the Marlins did it in 2003. I don’t care. Nobody is going to see these teams so their history doesn’t matter in the process. Their accomplishments are logged in the record books and in Cooperstown. They aren’t drawing fans. That’s what this business is about. Sometimes, traditional businesses fail. These have. They are gone.

The next step in our process is to relocate the next two lowest attended teams. That means we’re moving the Washington Nationals and the Oakland A’s. Billy Beane can still Moneyball in his new home of Las Vegas. That’s right, its now the Las Vegas A’s. At least until they rename the team and make a mint on new merchandise. Likewise, the travelling sideshow that is the Washington Nationals (and before that the Montreal Expos) is on the road again. Their new home will be San Antonio, Texas. I expect they will be renamed the Alamos or some such. Again, new merchandise sails will soar.

I honestly wanted to contract or move Toronto and Colorado, taking baseball out of Canada and the thin air of Denver, but both of these teams ranked well above my 6 team threshold. As it turns out, the 6 teams we’ve eliminated or moved all drew under 2 million fans last year. I don’t know if this is significant, but I think it is.

Now that we’ve spilt the blood, its time to step back further from tradition and really realign the league. My plan is to create regional divisions based on geography rather than history. It will cut down on the daily grind when the teams are in those long stretches of games against their own divisions early and late in the season.

First of all, the remaining California teams are all in one division. We’ll call it the California Division. That one was simple.

Nearly as simple was our Western Division. That one will contain Seattle, Colorado, Arizona and the recently relocated Las Vegas A’s (I’m personally rooting for the Gamblers and a personal services contract for Pete Rose).

Next, we’ve got the Southern Division. It will contain our three Texas teams and the Atlanta Braves. Weren’t you paying attention? That’s the Astros, Rangers, Braves and the relocated San Antonio Nationals (I’m hoping they use the current minor league team name “The Missions” and keep the puffy taco mascot).

Just like that we’re half way to our new league.

Up next is the Eastern Division. It’s largely the old AL East with the addition of the New York Mets. That’s right, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Mets. Now there are two teams for the Boston fans to abhor.

In order to make our regional magic work, we’re going to have to have a couple of five team divisions. It works. I promise. Just watch.

Up next is the newly created Great Lakes Division. This will be Milwaukee, Minnesota, Detroit, and both Chicago teams. And yes, I know that Toronto is on one of the Great Lakes. Trust me, this works better.

Our final division will be called the Mid-American Division. It will be Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Cleveland and St. Louis. These guys will probably have the most travel time, but even then it won’t be that bad.

So now we have six divisions. How to we allocate them to leagues? We do it by placing each division in the league where the majority of their teams played in 2007.

So, the American League gets the Eastern, Western and Great Lakes Divisions.

The National League will be made up of the California, Southern and Mid-American Divisions.

Yes, that means there is an odd number of teams in each league. You know what that means? That means there will be on inter-league game just about every night. I don’t care if you don’t like it. It’s my scenario.

How would that play out you may ask? Well, based solely on the 2007 won/loss records, which includes games played against teams that, in our scenario, no longer exist, here’s how the final standings would look.

American League East

Boston Red Sox 96-66
New York Yankees 94-68
New York Mets 88-74
Toronto Blue Jays 83-79

American League Great Lakes

Detroit Tigers 88-74
Chicago Cubs 85-77
Milwaukee Brewers 83-79
Minnesota Twins 79-83
Chicago White Sox 72-90

American League West

Arizona Diamondbacks 90-72
Colorado Rockies 89-73
Seattle Mariners 88-74
Las Vegas A’s 76-86

National League California

Los Angeles Angels 94-68
San Diego Padres 89-73
Los Angeles Dodgers 82-80
San Francisco Giants 71-91

National League South

Atlanta Braves 84-78
Texas Rangers 75-87
Houston Astros 73-89
San Antonio Nationals 73-89

National League Mid-America

Cleveland Indians 96-66
Philadelphia Phillies 89-73
St. Louis Cardinals 78-84
Cincinnati Reds 72-90
Baltimore Orioles 69-93

So the playoff teams in the newly contracted and aligned American League would be the Red Sox, Tigers and Diamondbacks. The Yankees would be the wild card team.

In the National League, we’d have the Angels, Braves and Indians. The wild card team would be the winner of a one game playoff between Philadelphia and San Diego.

I don’t have the time or inclination to try to simulate the playoff under this scenario, but I bet they’d be good.

It looks different. It feels different. It is different.

Baseball purists will stroke. John is probably one of them. It’s a risk I’m willing to take.

This is my scenario.

This is my wish.

Play ball.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. I think relaignment is in order and i do like the 32 team format with 12 teams being playoff teams.

    I am adding an important wrinkle in this plan: Realign by payroll spent so all classes of payroll have a chance at the post season. Your divisions can change based on payroll and keep match ups fair. The Pirates who spend 50 million and rank 28th in payroll should not be in a division with the Cubs who rank 3rd in payroll.

    I think you need to add a 2 teams to make it 32 teams. Add 2 playoff spots so there is 12 of 32 who can make the playoffs and instead of restrict a players earnings realign teams based on payroll spent. example:

    Yanks, Red Soxs, Mets, Phils in one division and Teams like the Pirates, Nationals, Indians, Reds in another. This would ensure teams with lower payrolls can be represented in the playoffs. As you spend more you change divisions. This would keep the schedule fresh and teams like the Pirates and Royals would have a chance to play in October.

    check out the plan at:

    http://thefairball.com/mlb-realignment-plan/

  2. Jim Meyer says:

    A correction to my original post.

    I wrote that, after expanding the American League to sixteen teams, that the two leagues would be split into “four eight-team divisions”. As evidenced by the alignments I presented, that should have read “eight four-team divisions”. I apologize for the error.

    You could, of course, divide the two leagues into four eight team divisions. Using Alignment B, you could combine the Eastern and Central divisions in each league into one division, and do likewise with the Midwest and Western Divisions.

    If you were to organize the two leagues into eight-team divisions, you could then use a 132-game schedule, with each team playing its seven division opponents twelve times each (eighty-four division games) while playing the eight teams in the other division six times each (forty-eight non-division games). Again, there would be no inter-league play.

    Under this format, the Division Series would be eliminated.

  3. Jim Meyer says:

    Another advantage of my realignment proposal that I forgot to mention in my original post is that it would simplify the schedule, eliminating the “crazy quilt” schedule that is now the norm.

    Each team would play its three divisional opponents twenty-four times each (seventy-two divisional games). It would play the twelve teams in the other three divisions six times each (seventy-two non-divisional games).

    Three-game series would be the rule under this plan. Each team would play six games a week, with either Monday or Thursday as an off-day. All Thursday and Sunday games would be played in the daytime, as would all Saturday games before June 1st and after August 31st. (This provision would be optional for Arizona, Atlanta and the Florida and Texas teams.)

  4. Jim Meyer says:

    Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go: Contraction is a non-starter. The stillborn contraction proposal of November, 2001 demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that any realignment plan that proposes the elimination of franchises–however marginal those franchises may be–will never EVER see the light of day. There is simply too much risk of litigation, legislative meddling and labor trouble for contraction to be a viable option.

    Having said that, here is a realignment plan that will actually work, and that can actually be implemented:

    (1) Add two new teams to the American League; one in either Buffalo, Charlotte or Indianapolis and the other in either Las Vegas, Portland or San Antonio.

    (2) Split the two leagues into four eight-team divisions by geography, using one of two possible alignments.

    ALIGNMENT A:

    American League North: Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City and Minnesota.

    American League South: Baltimore, Charlotte or San Antonio, Tampa Bay and Texas.

    American League East: Boston, Cleveland, New York and Toronto.

    American League West: Anaheim, Las Vegas or Portland, Oakland and Seattle.

    National League North: Chicago, Colorado, Milwaukee and St. Louis.

    National League South: Atlanta, Florida, Houston and Washington.

    National League East: Cincinnati, New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

    National League West: Arizona, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

    ALIGNMENT B:

    American League East: Baltimore, Boston, New York and Tampa Bay.

    American League Central: Buffalo or Indianapolis, Cleveland, Detroit and Toronto.

    American League Midwest: Chicago, Kansas City, Minnesota and Texas.

    American League West: Anaheim, Las Vegas or Portland, Oakland and Seattle.

    National League East: Florida, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

    National League Central: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.

    National League Midwest: Chicago, Colorado, Houston and St. Louis.

    National League West: Arizona, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

    What should be contracted is not the number of teams, but the number of games on the regular season schedule. Using either of these alignments, you can reduce the schedule from 162 games to 144; seventy-two games within the division and seventy-two outside the division, with no inter-league play.

    Abbreviating the schedule in this fashion would accomplish several important objectives: First, it would alleviate the weather problems often encountered in many Northeastern and Upper Midwestern cities in April, September and October. (It would also reduce the likelihood of having to play World Series games on chilly nights in November–something I consider utterly perverse.) Second, it would compress the pennant races into a shorter time frame, thus holding the fans’ attention more successfully. Third, it would be less taxing on the players, both physically and mentally. It would keep them fresher and allow them to present a higher quality brand of baseball to the fans. Fourth, it would reduce travel time and travel expenses for every Major League team.

    The playoffs under this scenario would consist of three rounds. The first round, the so-called “Division Series”, would be concurrent best-of-three series featuring the four division winners in each league. There would be no “wild cards”; to qualify for the post season, you have to win your division. Division winners would be paired in a “1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3” seeded format.

    The winners of the Division Series would then meet in the best-of-five League Championship Series for the right to represent their leagues in the best-of-seven World Series.

  5. John says:

    Bruce and I have had this discussion a few times.

    Here are the biggest issues I have with this whole scenario at this point and time:

    1) Cubs and Cardinals in different leagues. That’s the best rivalry in the game. I will not debate this.

    2) Sawx, Yankees and Mets all in the same division. Good Lord, ESPN and FOX would pretend as if the other five divisions just did not exist at all.

    3) Moving Washington. The Nationals will draw better with their new ballpark, and our nation’s capital should have its own team, even if it’s shitty.

    4) The Pirates have one of the best ballparks in the game. They just have a horrible owner and management. Sell em to Mark Cuban for pity’s sake.

    I like moving the A’s to Vegas. Contract Tampa and Florida and keep KC for tradition’s sake.

  6. Francisco says:

    Do not say goodbye to the Marlins just so quick. They have stockpiled some of the leagues best talent both in terms of players ready to play everyday and some can’t miss talent on the farm. It will be incredible if this team is around .500 this year but watch out if the stadium makes it through. They raided some great talent from the Tigers just like they did with the Mets, Red Sox, etc. We are waiting on our stadium. They have the system and the management to win two or more in the next 5-10 years.

  7. Todd says:

    That was pretty good. My Phils would shoot to the division lead!!

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