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Olney: realign the Rays out of the AL East

Mar 22, 2010, 10:27 AM EST

Buster uses the Mauer signing as a jumping off point for thoughts on the
A’s and Rays.  For the A’s: Bud needs to make San Jose happen.  No
argument there. My view is that the commish should offer the Giants some
concessions, deem the move to be OK, and make the Giants sue if they
don’t like it. The Giants may be rattling their sword, but they have a
large and disparate ownership group full of businessmen who didn’t get
rich by spending years in litigation.  If Peter Angelos — a man who did
get rich by spending years in litigation — didn’t sue, the Giants
won’t either.

Buster’s take on the Rays is a bit more problematic:

Selig has the power to affect change on behalf of the Rays, too, through
realignment. He needs to get Tampa Bay out of the AL East, to give the
Rays a consistent opportunity for success. This, in time, will give them
a chance to build their brand and make their case for a new ballpark.

There’s been a lot of realignment chatter lately, but someone has to
play in the AL East, don’t they?  And though I realize that the past
decade or so seems like forever, I remain convinced that the current
Yankees-Red Sox hegemony is a temporary phenomenon. Sure, they’ll always
have financial advantages, but the competitive advantages that flow
from them aren’t always going to be this pronounced.

The Jeter-Rivera-Poada-Pettitte isn’t something you can just buy, and it
isn’t something that appears by happenstance, even among the
smartest-drafting team. If the Yankees merely had the dollars or merely
had the core and didn’t have the other, we’d be in a very different
world than we’ve experienced since 1995. It’s a team that didn’t even
make the playoffs in 2008.  I’m not entirely certain the Red Sox will
make the playoffs this year, but I’ll save that for my big predictions
post next week. Anyway, I’ll grant that life sucks for the poorer sisters of the AL East
now, but I am convinced that it won’t suck forever and that making
realignment decisions based on temporary dominance would be a
shortsighted move.

But if we’re going to realign — and Bud says he thinks about it — let’s just go whole-hog with it and make a system that will never be subject to these little eddies of competitive frustration in the baseball-time continuum: two leagues, no divisions, top four teams in each league make the playoffs. If you don’t like that all the action will be in the race for the 3-4 slot as opposed at the top, build in pronounced home field advantage for the top finishers.

Or let’s just leave it as it is and see what happens over the next few years.

  1. Charles Gates - Mar 22, 2010 at 10:55 AM

    What’s the point of divisions in the first place? My guess is that regional groupings of teams made sense 100 years ago because of non-air travel methods. For the most part, this has become moot in today’s airline centric travel enviornment. Do the Mets take Amtrak from Queens to Philly? Or do they jump on a quick flight instead?
    I’m assuming they rack up the frequent flier miles. So, what purpose do divisions serve? Rivalry? Maybe.
    My suggestion on a previous post was to randomly seed teams each season. Either by league, or by MLB in total. Maybe the latter causes teams to lose/gain the DH year over year, or perhaps this makes MLB adopt league wide DH policy, but that’s a whole other argument.
    This division jumble method will prevent a team like the Rays from always being in the same division with the Yankees and Red Sox each year. Could, perhaps, the Yankees draw a division with the Pirates, Royals and other bottom dwellers? Yes. But at the same time, it normalizes the liklihood that a mid level team can have a good year earn a post season appearance.

  2. Jonny5 - Mar 22, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    “Or let’s just leave it as it is and see what happens over the next few years.”
    You know, as I was reading this article this exact thought was running through the back of my mind. So much so that it was hard to concentrate on the article itself. I’m not a big fan of realingment.

  3. Matt M - Mar 22, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    There’s been a lot of realignment chatter lately, but someone has to play in the AL East, don’t they?

    Well, true, but technically only four someones have to play in the AL East, thanks to the 14-team league.

  4. The Common Man - Mar 22, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    Look, I’m sympathetic to the Rays, I really am. I’d hate to have to push past the Sox and Yankees every year. But why should Tampa get this advantage while Toronto and Baltimore don’t? It’s an argument that is only being made now because Tampa is competitive. And it’s not like they don’t have a puncher’s chance to beat out either of their big rivals this year. I like Buster, but this is a dumb idea.
    Honestly, if you want to cut into the Yankees and Red Sox hegemony, add a team in New Jersey and another in Boston. That’ll do it.

  5. Wooden U. Lykteneau - Mar 22, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    The problem isn’t alignment, but scheduling. And there is a very simple solution — weight the schedule towards the competition.
    In a nutshell: Make the two leagues 15 teams each. Every team plays each team in its league a minimum of 10 times (140 games).
    Interleague play is reduced to two three-game series against the team that finished the same as the other did in the previous year (six games).
    The remaining games are then played against the four teams closest to the team’s finish in the previous year (16 games).
    For starters, you’ll get a World Series rematch every year. What you won’t get is the unfairness of a strong division playing a weak division (e.g. the AL East vs. the NL Central), which can affect the Wild Card races significantly.
    I’m sure some genius will point out that this will make it possible to win a division title with a losing divisional record. Guess what? It’s already happened (2006, St. Louis). Never mind that monster 82-80 San Diego team the year before.
    Sure, it’s five less Yankees-Red Sox games, but it’s also eighteen fewer games for those two teams to feast on the also-rans in that division.

  6. ditmars1929 - Mar 22, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    Typical idiocy from Buster. Baseball, as most things in life are, is cyclical. Yankees/Sox dominate now, but before that it was Toronto winning back to back Series, for example. Tampa went to the Series very recently, and has a lot of young players just waiting to blossom a’la Jeter/Rivera/Posada/Pettite, and those four Yankees aren’t going to last forever, and will be difficult to replace. Christ, by Buster’s logic, the Pirates should be realigned to the International League. They’d probably lose there too.
    An NL Central team, I’m thinking Astros, should move to the AL West so that each league has 15 teams. Other than that, I’d leave everything else as is.
    I hate the wild card, but I do like divisions. Charles, the reason for the divisions these days are 1) regional rivaly as you state, and 2) creating excitement by having more teams/opportunities for the post season.

  7. ThinMan - Mar 22, 2010 at 11:30 AM

    Too much of the realignment chatter has focused on breaking up the Yankees-Sox rivalry. The problem is that some teams have to play in the same division as the Yankees, and if they want to contend while sharing a division with the Big Bad Giant, then they need to step up their own spending to do so. Breaking up the Yankees and Sox would be good for the Sox in the short term, as their payroll could go down while still remaining competitive, while the Mets (or whichever other wannabe contender wound up sharing a division with the Yanks) would find their spending eneds going up or their playoff hopes going down.
    Too many prognosticators like to accuse the Sox of being “Yankees Lite”. I find it interesting that most of them are fans of a team that doesn’t have to share a division against the Big Bad Giant.

  8. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 22, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    An NL Central team, I’m thinking Astros, should move to the AL West so that each league has 15 teams. Other than that, I’d leave everything else as is.

    Not to pick on you, as this keeps getting mentioned, but you cannot have 15 teams in each league unless you are prepared to have interleague all the time. If you lessen the amount of interleague games, one team from each division will always have to have an offday, creating far more scheduling problems (as there isn’t another team to play).

  9. James - Mar 22, 2010 at 11:42 AM

    You don’t need realignment to tweak the schedule. Just go back to the non-weighted schedule so that you don’t have to play all of the teams in your division 18 times a year.
    Everyone, including the Yanks and Sox, agree that playing the same team 18 times in one season, before the playoffs even, is too much.
    Leave the divisions be, and let teams like the Rays have to play over their heads a little to make the World Series like they did a few years ago (if you love baseball wasn’t that the most incredible thing?. I mean if it isn’t hard, it isn’t worth doing, right?

  10. ditmars1929 - Mar 22, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    That’s ok, Church, no pick taken. I appreciate your opinion.
    So you’re agreeing that each league should not only have the same number of teams, but you’re also saying they should have an even number of teams as well, for the sake of interleague play? I can agree with that, but then again, I hate interleague play more than I hate the wild card, so how about we move the Astros to the AL West, and just get rid of interleague play?
    Yeah, I know, I’m a bit old school.

  11. The Common Man - Mar 22, 2010 at 12:16 PM

    You’re still not really getting it. If you get rid of interleague play, you still have an odd number of teams in each league. Now, every day at least one team in each league has to have a day off. Having an odd number of teams in each league simply doesn’t make sense.

  12. J. McCann - Mar 22, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    It won’t always be THIS bad, but it will be bad. The Yanks and Sox will have the 2 highest payrolls in the AL for the forseeable future, and they are both run very smartly now too.
    All that needs to be done is 2 seven team divisions again in the AL, with 2 wild cards and the problem is solved.

  13. ditmars1929 - Mar 22, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    I guess I’m not really getting it. I can see your point, but really, what the hell do I care if teams have rotating days off? It’s not like they play 7 days a week the entire season anyway, no?

  14. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 22, 2010 at 12:59 PM

    Pretty much this. The only way you could have an equal number of teams AND reduce interleague play is to have an even number of teams in each league, which means adding two more teams (16 and 16). While Neyer has mentioned, a few years ago, that MLB could support two more teams (Portland and Charlotte are two places he mentions), he is usually the only one pushing for expansion.

  15. Dan in Katonah - Mar 22, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    I view it akin to changing the Constitution. Sure, we can pass various laws to address issues as they arise, but to alter the fundamental set up of the leagues, it should not be based upon conditions that are transient or subject to seasonal change. Sure the Yankees and the Sox tend to be power-houses and have money to outspend, but it is not necessarily always going to be so (pre-2004, the Sox were not the Evil Empire North). Moving one team away from its division to give it a chance to do well is asinine, particularly a team that is very much on the come with a stocked farm system. Let the market correct itself and stop falling for the media-assisted efforts of Bud to generate pre-season baseball chatter.

  16. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 22, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    The problem isn’t rotating days off, teams would be off for half the week. As it stands now, every team plays fri/sat/sun right? Realign the divisions, and keeping it 15v15, roughly every 7 weeks one team would be off for the entire weekend. Extrapolating that further, a 6 month season (April thru Sept) would now have to add roughly 3 weeks at a minimum, keeping the 162 game schedule. So Playoffs would now start another month further back than they already do (Dec baseball in MN/NY/Phil/Bos,

  17. monkeyball - Mar 22, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    The Giants may be rattling their sword, but they have a large and disparate ownership group full of businessmen who didn’t get rich by spending years in litigation.

    Um, Craig? Managing General Partner for the Giants? Some guy who, um, did get rich by spending years in litigation (or, more to the point, threatening to do so)?

  18. Tom - Mar 22, 2010 at 2:02 PM

    Don’t forget Bernie Williams in that Jeter/Rivera/Posada/Pettitte group. That’s two certain Hall of Famers, two near HOF’ers in Bernie and Pettitte, and one of the best hitting catchers of all time, all coming up roughly at the same time. Obviously being able to have a payroll nearly 50% of the next highest team and double the league average helps but having one of the greatest cores of home-grown players (certainly in the past 30 years) is really what’s led to the Yankee dominance in the past 10-15 years.

  19. Spice - Mar 22, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    This is why Angelos didn’t sue:
    Opposition from the Orioles
    The move was announced despite opposition from Peter Angelos, owner of the nearby Baltimore Orioles. Since 1972, the Orioles had been the only MLB franchise in the Baltimore-Washington area, which he considered a single market in spite of vastly different cultures and populations in the two cities. Angelos contended that the Orioles would suffer financially if another team were allowed to enter the market. Critics objected that the Orioles and the Washington Senators had shared the market successfully from 1954 through 1971. This reasoning disturbed many in Washington who recalled that it was the Griffith family, owners of the Washington Senators, who allowed the St. Louis Browns to move to Baltimore in 1954 in the first place.
    On March 31, 2005, Angelos and Major League Baseball struck a deal to protect the Orioles against any financial harm the Nationals might present.
    Under the terms of the deal, television and radio broadcast rights to Nationals games are handled by the Orioles franchise, who formed a new network (the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) to produce and distribute the games for both franchises on both local affiliates and cable/satellite systems. MASN was not, however, immediately available on all cable providers, adding to the frustration of Nationals fans. In fact, most in the DC area missed almost the entirety of the Nationals first two seasons. The deal with Angelos makes the Nationals the only major league baseball team which does not own their own broadcast rights.

  20. scatterbrian - Mar 22, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    So the poor Rays haven’t been to the World Series since 2008, and now we need to realign the league to give them a better chance?
    If something’s ever done, I’d like to see two teams dissolved, making seven divisions of four teams each. Every team would play each other 6 times (27*6=162), three at home and three on the road. The seven division winners plus the best non-division-winning team go to the playoffs, seeded strictly on win totals. This would mean elimination of AL and NL, and an agreement on the DH rule.
    (the suicidal)

  21. Rays fan - Mar 22, 2010 at 4:01 PM

    Not surprisingly, this tends to be a pretty hot topic among my friends, and has been ever since the rays were added to MLB in the AL East. It was pretty cruel treatment for an expension team, but the bottom line to me has always been:
    To go to the World Series, you need to have the best team in your league. Period. I don’t care if the Rays play the Yankees and Red Sox 18 times a year each, or if they only play them in the playoffs. It’s irrelevant; either way, if they don’t beat those teams when they do play, they don’t belong in the World Series.

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