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Realignment? No way. How about "unalignment"

Apr 21, 2010, 8:40 AM EDT

In reaction to the “radical realignment” proposals that floated around last month I made an off-hand suggestion to do something far more simple and far more elegant in order to address the temporary problem of the Yankees and Red Sox hegemony: break all of baseball down to two leagues, with no divisions, a fully-balanced schedule and have the top four teams in each league make the
playoffs. It’s not original or anything —  others have suggested the plan before me — but it’s so damn appealing.

Today Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan develops the notion in an excellent column. What’s more, he does something that might actually help get the ball rolling: he gives the plan a name. He calls it “unalignment,” and it makes so much sense that I wouldn’t be shocked in the least if a hundred baseball writers came out to today to dismiss it out of hand:

AL teams would play everyone in the league 11 times a year, with 19
interleague games. Those in the NL would play eight teams 10 games each
and seven teams nine games each, plus the 19 interleague contests. If a
team goes somewhere twice one year, it would host that team twice the
next season. The interleague games would rotate yearly. And if baseball
prefers 15 teams in each league, it could move Milwaukee (or another
willing participant) to the AL and use a schedule with at least one
interleague game every day instead of confining them to two blocks a
year.

Passan has an excellent response to those who think that such a plan would kill divisional rivalries: tough. While ESPN won’t like it if we cut the Yankees-Red Sox games down to 11 from the current 18, unalignment would at least give every other AL team a larger piece of the gate from New York and Boston games than they currently get. Bonus: while we may lose seven Yankees-Red Sox games, we also lose even Indians-Royals games and many others of that ilk.

The biggest thing this plan has going for it is fairness. Everyone plays more or less the same schedule (interleague is still a problem, but let us not make a perfect world in which interleague play does not exist the enemy of a good plan).  As Passan notes, it avoids the pitfalls of the NBA and NHL systems in which everyone gets into the playoffs for one in which making the playoffs is still difficult, but no longer impossible for those stuck in a tough division by virtue of accident of geography. It retains the part of their systems, however, which rewards the best records no no matter where they happen be located.

I think it’s time to get this bandwagon out of the garage and out on the road.  Unalignment, baby.

  1. BC - Apr 21, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    Too much travel. Between cost and logistics it wouldn’t work.

  2. Will - Apr 21, 2010 at 10:58 AM

    Why is everyone trying to “fix” a game that isn’t broken? Attendance, ratings, revenues, etc. are all strong, so what exactly is the point of making radical changes?
    Aside from all of other reasons mentioned, one division would be a bad idea for the following:
    1) It takes even more relevance away from finishing first, which diminishes the regular season. At least now, two teams have to finish first in their division.
    2) Because of the unbalanced schedule, you can somewhat justify a 100-win team having to beat an 85-win team in the LDS. Theoretically, the accomplishments of winning different divisions are not the same, so the playoffs don’t negate the outcome of the regular season. With one division, why exactly should the first place team have to survive three other teams whom they’ve already outlasted over 162 games?
    Finally, anything that models the NBA and NHL should be avoided at all costs.
    http://captnsblog.wordpress.com/

  3. Yossarian - Apr 21, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    Unalignment? Look, it’s a lot easier. Six divisions of five teams each.
    BAL, BOS, NYY, NYM, WAS
    PHL, PITT, DET, CIN, CLEV
    TB, ATL, FLA, STL,KC
    CWS, MINN, TOR, MILW,CC
    LAD, OAK, SEA, LAA, SF
    TX, HOUS, DEN, ARIZ, SD
    18 games within division=72
    6 games w/each team in 3 divisions, two of which rotate each year=90
    Oh, and get rid of the DH….

  4. Will - Apr 21, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    Why is everyone trying to “fix” a game that isn’t broken? Attendance, ratings, revenues, etc. are all strong, so what exactly is the point of making radical changes?
    Aside from all of other reasons mentioned, one division would be a bad idea for the following:
    1) It takes even more relevance away from finishing first, which diminishes the regular season. At least now, two teams have to finish first in their division.
    2) Because of the unbalanced schedule, you can somewhat justify a 100-win team having to beat an 85-win team in the LDS. Theoretically, the accomplishments of winning different divisions are not the same, so the playoffs don’t negate the outcome of the regular season. With one division, why exactly should the first place team have to survive three other teams whom they’ve already outlasted over 162 games?
    Finally, anything that models the NBA and NHL should be avoided at all costs.
    http://captnsblog.wordpress.com/

  5. Moses Green - Apr 21, 2010 at 11:22 AM

    Wrong again, I’m writing from Craig’s bandwagon and his bandwagon clearly stated that one NL team would have to move to the AL. Feel free to disagree with me for as long as you would like to keep being wrong.

  6. funi - Apr 21, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    I been say thins for years! Just have an AL and NL league. Top 4 make playoffs, so if 4 teams from east coast make it, so what!!

  7. Chipmaker - Apr 21, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    Some first thoughts:
    1. Passan enslaves his idea to the 162-game schedule. There is NOTHING magical about this number. It was meaningful, mathematically, in 1961 when the AL expanded. Now it sticks around by organizational inertia, though the CBA and various other concerns make a space in which 162 fits nicely. But the schedule does not HAVE to stay at 162.
    .
    2. This actually slightly expands interleague play — currently AL teams play 18 IL games, NL teams either 15 or 18. I proclaim “ick!” just on principle.
    .
    3. The current divisional alignment (which is not magical either; no worries about reworking it however) with the wildcard serves an economic imperative — it keeps more fans interested longer into the late season. While non-divisional alignment would not really change that, fans would be rooting for their team to lock up the fourth place in the league. It loses a bit of zest, really. (And if their team is chasing an opponent in the standings which they will not meet again in the season, there’s no last-stand tension to anticipate. Current divisional alignment means always having intradivision rivals match up sometime in the final two or three weeks.)
    .

  8. Flipsy - Apr 21, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    1. Still leaves 3 teams stuck with BOS and NYY
    2. You need to work on the geography (PHL is futher north than WAS) and TOR is fairly far east so is also in the wrong bucket.
    3. Keep the DH

  9. Chompers - Apr 21, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    Let’s make this even simpler. How about placing the Astros in the AL west and create a new rivalry with the Rangers and even out all the divisions. Has anyone proposed this before?

  10. Will - Apr 21, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    @32, Chipmaker
    Good point about rooting for 4th place. Sounds like something out of Semi-Pro. Maybe MLB could call it the Bud Selig Mega Bowl.
    http://captnsblog.wordpress.com/

  11. Kev - Apr 21, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    have the AL and NL drop their two worst teams to the minors and promote the two best teams from the minors to MLB. Just like english soccer. im sick of seeing the same teams stink each year.

  12. Pokey Okie - Apr 21, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    Keep the DH, get rid of pitcher batting in the NL. So, So Boring, In fact let increase the rosters and have and offensive lineup and a defensive line up. A player could do both, but only if he can catch and hit.
    LOL

  13. Pokey Okie - Apr 21, 2010 at 2:12 PM

    Do away with professional sports and spend the money on education.

  14. Joe Jackson - Apr 21, 2010 at 3:06 PM

    In 1995 I said, “Screw baseball”.
    It’s 2010. I say, “Screw baseball”.

  15. riscifiguy - Apr 21, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    At least the 4 x 4 MBL playoff format is less of a scramble then the NHL and NBA present us with and less confusing then the NFL’s playoff voodoo!
    It is absolutely elegant compared to college basketball (a field of 64, a field of 32 and a field of corn stubble) or the college football non-playoffs where fan attendance and spending power seems to outweigh quality of play.

  16. MassiveDynamic - Apr 21, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    I don’t like this idea AT ALL!!! And, I really have to laugh at a lot of these posts and their suggestions, like, Get rid of the D/H, A Salary Cap, get rid of Inter-league play, less Yankee-Redsox games…Blah Blah Blah!!! I say, increase the amount of NL league teams until the Al & NL have the same amount…Period! I say, NO to…Salary Cap…my team basically keep the majority of small franchise owners rich with Luxury/Welfare tax. If those greedy small franchise owners would invest the Welfare money they get from my team instead of sticking it in their pockets, it would make for better baseball. Next…No to ending Inter-league play. A lot of those games are some of MLB’s best games…Next..Cut the amount of Yankees/Redsox games???This rivialry is the best in ALL of Professional Sports. I say, Keep the same amount of Yankees/Redsox games, even if you have to cut out a lot of the unimportant smaller Franchises…They don’t matter to me any how! It’s just all these jealous small franchise team fans bitching, which I sick of hearing about. Let them move to New York or Baaston if they want better Baseball games. Personally, I think the only change I’m in favor of, is when my Yankees are on the West Coast, the games should still take place at 7:00pm Eastern time. Why should NY Yankees fans have to sit up half the night just to see the Yankees play. Let the West Coast games start at 4:00pm, other than that, I’m for keeping MLB just the way it is, PERIOD! Why fix something that doesn’t need fixing??? Sounds like a dumb idea to me!

  17. H. Ruth - Apr 21, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    Why is Joe Jackson letting us know he’s not a baseball fan, responding to an article on baseball????

  18. Simon Oliver Lockwood - Apr 21, 2010 at 4:17 PM

    You spent your childhood looking up at the Yankees? As a Twins fan? Was your childhood exclusively between 1961 and 1964? The Twins have always been in a different division from the Yankees.

  19. Fred - Brandon MB - Apr 21, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    Let me correct your ignorance. Not “all teams” in the NHL make the playoffs. 16 of 30 teams qualify for the playoffs under the NHL’s current format, compared to 8 of 30 teams in MLB. It just means one additional round of eliminations. In return, twice as many teams have something to play for after the trade deadline, and twice as many teams get some post-season gate revenue.
    I prefer the NHL system to the MLB playoffs approach.

  20. pkinflor - Apr 21, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    how about strength of schedule based on previous years finish — thus the yankers, bosox, and cards end up with tougher schedules and the weaker teams get to fatten up their records a little, which tends to build attendance and fan base.

  21. smsetnor - Apr 21, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    Anyone who tosses aside natural and division rivalries as an over-rated non-factor has never tried to sell tickets for a Rockies-Braves game.

  22. dealdo - Apr 21, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    It’s a retarded idea, a powerhouse team like the Yankees playing weak ass teams (Royals, Indians etc.) in the other divisions and their own 11 times per season pretty much means 44 or 55 guaranteed wins, win half of your other games and you’re in the postseason no doubt every year. Being a Yankee fan, I wouldn’t mind but I’m pretty sure the fans of the lesser teams would

  23. bgtmr1 - Apr 21, 2010 at 7:20 PM

    Unalignment sounds O.K.,but why not go all the way back. Lets go to two divisions, per league, have the top two teams of each division make the playoffs. Balance the league play and dump this interleague garbage play.

  24. jim - Apr 21, 2010 at 7:36 PM

    Inter-league play is absolutely worthless and a complete waste of time. It was interesting for a couple of years but now it’s just annoying

  25. MassiveDynamic - Apr 21, 2010 at 9:17 PM

    What’s annoying to you, is great games and fun times or me. I love going to the games and watching my 27 time World Series Champions, the Legendary NY Yankees pummel the NY Mutt’s, and other matchups like The NY Yankees vs LA Dodgers, San Fran Giants and one of the series that I already have tickets for, and looking forward to, the rematch of the NY Yankees vs The Phillies, with my Yankees beating the Phillies like a drum, once again. I bet you’re a fan of the offensive lacking NL, and you hate another great aspect of the game of Baseball, the D/H. Personally, I think that gutless Selig should make the D/H the standard in MLB, and finally force the NL to adopt it. Like I stated in my last post, I’m totally against any change in the game, with the exception of making the West Coast teams all start their games at 4pm during the week, so I don’t have to stay up half the night to watch my NY Yankees. Other than that, keep MLB just the way it is right now, period!

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