Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Radical Plan for Realignment

With Bud Selig and the Players Association open to realignment in the game of baseball, the question remains as to what form of realignment would be the best?  The following plan is most certainly more radical than what will actually happen, and many baseball fans probably wouldn’t be excited about a huge change.  However, the following plan will create two even leagues and focus on natural geographic rivalries to create more fun for fans.  

One of the keys to the plan is the addition of two expansion teams, which will even out the two leagues at 16 teams apiece.  If one team was to move over from the NL to the AL, as planned, then the leagues would be even at 15 teams apiece, but there would always be one odd team left out.  There are plenty of cities which are big enough to support a big league ball club: San Antonio, Indianapolis, Portland (Oregon), Memphis, Sacramento, San Jose, or even Las Vegas.  If realignment is going to happen, it would be a good opportunity to expand the big leagues and to even out the NL and AL.

The next step would be to completely redefine the boundaries of the two leagues, in order to create inter-divisional rivalries with teams that are in the same geographic region.  Fans today like interleague play partly because you can watch teams that reside in the same region, but are part of different leagues, compete.  For example, more consistent matchups like Cubs-White Sox, A’s-Giants, and Dodgers-Angels, would create regional hype that would surpass what is seen at the present time during interleague play.  Obviously, the NL and AL as we know it would be destroyed and while it may be best to have no divisions at all, I can’t see leagues without divisions ever getting passed through the Commissioner’s office, the owners and the Players Association.  So, each league would have four divisions with four teams each, all built on geographic location.  For example...

League 1, Northwest Division:
Oakland Athletics
San Francisco Giants
Seattle Mariners
Portland/Sacramento/San Jose Expansion Team

League 1, Pacific Division:
Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres

League 1, Southwest Division:
Colorado Rockies
Houston Astros
Texas Rangers
San Antonio/Memphis Expansion Team

League 1, Midwest Division:
Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals
St. Louis Cardinals

League 2, Northeast Division:
New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Philadelphia Phillies
New York Mets

League 2, North Division:
Detroit Tigers
Milwaukee Brewers
Minnesota Twins
Toronto Blue Jays

League 2, Mideast Division:
Baltimore Orioles
Cincinnati Reds
Cleveland Indians
Pittsburgh Pirates

League 2, South Division:
Atlanta Braves
Florida Marlins
Tampa Bay Rays
Washington Nationals

The best possible playoff system for a realigned league would involve the best four teams from each league reaching the playoffs, but that would involve two leagues without divisions.  With divisions, each division winner would make the playoffs and then anywhere from two to four wildcard teams as well, depending on how many teams Selig and the owners wanted.  Either way, the regular season would need to end earlier in order to accommodate a longer playoff season.

While radical, the preceding plan would work to even out the two leagues and match divisional teams based on geographic rivalries.  Most likely, fans will only see the Astros, Diamondbacks, or Marlins change to the American league.  That will be the extent of realignment, but it may not work as well as a more radical, less popular option.

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