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Realignment? No way. How about "unalignment"

Apr 21, 2010, 8:40 AM EST

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. Jeff - Apr 21, 2010 at 10:09 PM

    I think they need to go back to interleague the way it was originally conceived. To give teams more games in their own region. For instance, the AL west plays the NL west, AL central plays the NL central, and AL east plays NL east. Even up the leagues by moving Houston to AL west. Aside from this, I think the best idea would be to just dissolve the AL and NL, and just have Major League Baseball and have 3 divisions and wildcard make playoffs. Or maybe that should be the 3 division leaders and the next 5 best teams regardless of division to keep the current number of 8 playoff teams.

  2. Marty - Apr 22, 2010 at 1:19 AM

    RobRob is wrong about 11 games. For over sixty years, both leagues had a schedule in which each team played every other team in the league 22 times (11 at home and 11 on the road).
    Johnny Salami has the right idea. Add two more teams to the AL, redivide each league into four 4-team divisions, and have only division winners make the playoffs. Get rid of the abomination called the Wild Card. After all, how can you be the World Series champion if you aren’t even the division champion?

  3. Marty - Apr 22, 2010 at 1:27 AM

    Simon, The Twins and Yankees played in the same league without any divisions from 1961 to 1968. (Baseball subdivided into East and West Divisions in 1960.)
    Smsetnor, Those people who passed on the Rockies-Braves game missed a hell of a no-hitter.

  4. Steverman - Apr 22, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    Even better idea- trash interleague play, so I can sit in Minnesota and see the Red Sox or the Angels more than once a year. I do not give a rip about any of the NL teams until it comes to World Series time, and I’m sure that anybody in the NL cities don’t give a rip about the Twins or the Red Sox or the Angels either

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