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Interleague time brings the usual realignment talk

May 20, 2011, 2:37 PM EDT

Image (1) us%20map.gif for post 4243

Every year, just as interleague play gets going, someone decides that it’s time for baseball to undergo some sort of divisional realignment. They just go together as topics I guess. Probably because they both involve messing with the natural order of things. I have no idea.

Just read one by Tom Van Riper in Forbes. It’s like a lot of others in its desire to obliterate the old leagues and group teams by geography while preserving some rivalries.  As with most such proposals it creates more problems than it solves, in my view. I mean, get a load of his “Eastern Conference Northeast Division”:  Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Blue Jays. And you think that Toronto fans complain about their division now?

Of course I think we can deal with that as long as his proposal for the Braves’ division stays: Atlantic Division – Orioles, Nationals, Braves, Marlins, Rays.  Sold!

Seriously, though, here’s my thing on realignment: if it is to be done, it should be done in increments, to solve specific problems and only when making minor changes makes manifest sense. Like, say, if the Rays relocated to Portland Oregon or something.  Otherwise, you’re probably best served just eliminating divisions altogether, going to a fully balanced schedule and taking the top 4-6 teams in overall record for the playoffs.

Wait: that’s so crazy it just might work!

  1. tuftsb - May 20, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    I still want the Rays to go to Nevada and join the AL West – the Las Vegas Rays works for me!

    • Jonny 5 - May 20, 2011 at 2:53 PM

      Then they’d need to change the logo from the image of the fish belonging to the batoidea family to some guy with bad sideburns and Elvis style sunglasses.

    • jimbo1949 - May 20, 2011 at 5:53 PM

      The Las Vegas Ray Bans.
      nuff said.

  2. spudchukar - May 20, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    Yes, I have said it before, but still, why not send the Astros to the American League West? I know the rub is 15 teams in each league, but what would be the harm of having inter-league play every day? If it is to be maintained, and I assume it will be, isn’t a daily inter-league contest just as interesting as all at once?

  3. kopy - May 20, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    Why do we need to realign the divisions again?

    • spudchukar - May 20, 2011 at 3:05 PM

      Having six, five team divisions, seems a little fairer.

  4. Jonny 5 - May 20, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    Forbes huh? Interesting.

    problems < profits

  5. rebarratige - May 20, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    It’s an iron triangle. There’s parity of competition, preservation of rivalries, and geographical compactness.

    You can definitely design a system that will have one of those qualities. You can probably design a system that has two of those qualities. It seems impossible, however, to design a system that has all three of those qualities – at least not without creating, moving, or eliminating teams.

  6. bennyblanco1 - May 20, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    Riper makes some good points. Craig’s idea isn’t bad either.

    But there is something I like about the National League and American League. Maybe its old fashioned but it just feels right.

  7. sknut - May 20, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    Not to be too picky, but how can the Twins be in the “Eastern Conference” and Cubs, White Sox, and Brewers in the “Western Conference”?

    • kopy - May 20, 2011 at 4:35 PM

      It’s not being picky. It’s common sense. As a Minnesota fan, I already put up with this from my hockey team. http://jerome.ohnui.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/NHL-Map.png

      Those repeated long flights to division games (in green) takes a toll on the players. Hopefully moving Atlanta to Winnipeg will change this. Geography should come first when creating divisions, if games against divisional opponents will be occurring more frequently than against others.

  8. bjavie - May 20, 2011 at 3:17 PM

    Really? I disagree. Just leave well enough alone already. Isn’t the AL and NL and AFC and NFC part of what makes MLB and the NFL so much better than the NBA and NHL. Seperating out Conferences geographically just seems like dumbing it down to me.

  9. natstowngreg - May 21, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    Having two leagues that don’t play each other during the regular season is not the natural order of things. It’s an artifact of the turn of the 20th Century, when Byron Bancroft Johnson invented a second major league and it succeeded (unlike most other attempots at creating second major leagues).

    MLB and the NFL have non-geogrphic leagues/conferences because each represents the combination of an established league with a successful competitor. The NBA’s competitor was unsuccessful, and the established league absorbed a few of the competitor’s teams within a geographically-based league. Same for the NHL

    I’m not buying the argument that because something existed 110 years ago, it must be continued indefinitely. I see no harm in having each MLB team play a few games each season against teams from the other league. We still have a World Series, and each league has its own playoffs.

    As for deciding home field in the World Series with an exhibition game, it makes no sense.

    • mdak06 - May 23, 2011 at 8:57 PM

      MLB is not like the other leagues. Playing each of the other 29 teams in your sport is easier when you’re playing one game at a time, 82 in total (i.e. NBA & NHL). MLB doesn’t do it that way – it plays roughly 51 series (more if there are two-game series thrown in) per year. Trying to jam in a series with each team would render any division (other than two huge conferences) meaningless, and would kill rivalries.

      Killing the AL and NL just because of how they started a century ago is just as senseless as maintaining it just because it’s “always been that way.” The reason to keep the leagues is because of the rivalries that already exist between the teams in those divisions & leagues. There’s no good reason to break up all of those rivalries.

      Having said that, I think that there are a couple problems that could and should be solved now with minor realignment. The two big ones I see are that Texas is in a division with everyone else two time zones away, and (more importantly) there’s one division 50% larger than another (6 vs 4).

      Balance the leagues – create six 5-team divisions by sending someone from the NL to the AL (Houston probably makes the most sense). Have interleague series the entire season, with a couple of “interleague weeks” during the season to finish the rest of the IL games. Play 72 division games, 70 non-division league games, 18 interleague games, for a total of 160 regular season games. It’s simple, it cuts a couple games off of the schedule to allow a little more time for the “wild card series” that will happen soon, and it’s fair.

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