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So what do you think about the realignment thing?

Jun 13, 2011, 9:12 AM EDT

Bud Selig defiant

As Drew wrote over the weekend and as everyone has been talking about since, Major League Baseball is considering realignment. There are a couple of flavors to it:  either just having the Astros moving to the AL or having that happen plus the elimination of divisions.  As has frequently been noted in these reports, that this will happen is no sure bet. It’s just something on the table.

My initial reaction to it all is cautious optimism. I agree with Drew’s take about it being unfair that some teams are in a four team division and others in a six team division.  I don’t have a visceral problem with an interleague series taking place at all times because, by this point, interleague has been around long enough to where it isn’t remarkable. Maybe if there is more overall interleague play it will allow the unfairness of teams in the same division playing interleague slates of varying difficulty to be fixed a bit.

As I’ve written a few times recently, I also like the notion of divisions being eliminated and the top four or five (if they insist on an expanded playoffs) teams making the playoffs. This would help some AL East teams or others who, in the future, may have to deal with a would-be divisional foe with a massive spending advantage. And would help reduce the possibility of a truly wretched team from  making the playoffs. If it did happen you’d almost have to balance the schedules, it seems, and I’m not sure that baseball is willing to take Red Sox-Yankees games off the schedule.

My biggest area of concern is less of a competitive concern than it is of a business concern, and it may very well be the reason this doesn’t happen:  as of now we have multiple playoff races, even if they’re diminished somewhat due to the wild card and playoff expansion.  If you go to a “take the top five teams” scenario, would it not make it likely that, in several years, you’d really only have one playoff race, and that’s for the fifth best record in each league?  Not exactly riveting, and it could have a negative impact at the gate.

But like I said, I haven’t wrapped my brain around it yet and, unless and until there is a concrete proposal out there with some non-trivial chance at passing, I’m not sure I want to invest more brain time in it.

But I do want to know what you think, so let’s do this totally unscientifically with a quickie internet poll.  More importantly, let’s talk about it in the comments.

  1. uyf1950 - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    I like the idea of just 2 divisions. With the top 5 teams in each making the playoffs. I’m not thrilled with the Astros being the NL team to move though. Although I under their reasoning. Just food for thought but why not the Marlins and have a Florida rivalry between the Rays and Marlins. Just my opinion.

    • ralphb14 - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:43 AM

      I’d move the Brewers back to the AL and leave the Astros in the NL to preserve tradition. Move the Royals to the West and keep the divisions. The Brewers would revive regional rivalries with the White Sox, Twins, Indians, and Tigers.

      • mikedi33 - Jun 13, 2011 at 10:15 AM

        As Craig pointed out one has to address the schedule in any realignment plan and this will be the tougher aspect. A balanced schedule is virtually impossible with inter league play. The end result will probably be a minor change only like moving the Astros.

      • umrguy42 - Jun 13, 2011 at 10:38 AM

        As a Cardinals fan, I’m entirely in favor of moving the Brewers back to the AL ;p

      • kopy - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:14 AM

        This is my favorite plan too. I just hope the Brewers go for it. Selig moved them to the NL to give them a better path to the playoffs (since he favors his former team), maybe now he moves them back to the AL for the same reason? It seems weird to have both Texas teams in the same league, and it would be opportunistic to capitalize on the natural Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry.

  2. klwillis45 - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    Astros to the AL West.

    9 home & road in division (18*4)

    3 home & road betweeen same league, non-division (6*5*2)

    3 home & road between 1 division in the opposite league rotating yearly (6*5)

    (18*4) + (6*5*2) + (6*5) = 162

    • dan1111 - Jun 13, 2011 at 10:14 AM

      I like this. It highlights how this move could actually make the interleague play more fair, because everyone in the same division would have the same interleague opponents.

      However, I don’t think that will happen, because they won’t want to get rid of the “natural rivals” matchups.

    • isdtyrant - Jun 13, 2011 at 10:26 AM

      Or as I like to call it, the Bob Costas “Fair Ball” plan.

  3. akronbudz - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    I think even in the “top-five” scenario you would still see teams compete to the end to avoid the 4th & 5th spots and that one-game wild card scenario, as well as the third spot which would not have home-field advantage in a series.

  4. Chris Fiorentino - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    Why move a team when you can just make there be 2 divisions on each league instead of 3. You could have 8 in the NL East and 8 in the NL West…and 7 in the AL East and 7 in the AL West. This way, there is no unfairness within the leagues. I’d rather see this than a schedule with interleague play happening every night.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:36 AM

      NL East:

      NL West:

      AL East:
      Red Sox
      Blue Jays

      AL West:
      White Sox

      Yeah, it’s a lot of travel for some of those central teams, but the Reds, Braves, and Giants were in the same division for decades…and the same thing with the Royals, Twins, Angels, and A’s too. Let’s bring back the days where there were 4 divisions.

      • Ari Collins - Jun 13, 2011 at 10:17 AM

        I actually think that’s a pretty good idea. But it’s awfully tough to decide East or West for some of the Central teams, huh? You have one Chicago team in the East and one in the West!

      • Alex K - Jun 13, 2011 at 10:37 AM

        You could switch the Brewers and the Cubs and then both Chicago teams are in the west.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jun 13, 2011 at 12:48 PM

        Actually, Milwaukee is further west than Chicago…but the Tigers are not…that’s was where it was coming from. But to be honest, I just threw it together in about 2 minutes.

  5. nagrommit - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    This plan will at least give a good reason for the existence of interleague play. Can we also balance the schedule while we’re at it?

  6. Jay Seaver - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    The problem with eliminating divisions isn’t so much losing Yankees-Red Sox games, but that the number of cross-country road trips would go up. I don’t know how much folks in California like their teams playing ballgames that start before they get out of work, but the ones that start at 10pm are brutal for east coasters (seriously, think of the poor, elderly Rays fans!). They probably lower the value of the TV and radio deals, too, which is hitting the owners where it hurts. Divisions and the unbalanced schedule are here to stay for good reason.

  7. bjavie - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:32 AM

    Why? Is there something we are not being told about the state of the game? Is there something wrong? Is it broken? Are fans losing interest in baseball? I don’t think any of this is true.

    Ask Tiger what happens when you mess with what’s already working.

    Just my opinion, but let’s wait until it breaks to start “fixing” it.

  8. Old Gator - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    I would just rename the divisions. I’d call the NL West the NL South, the NL Central the NL North, and the NL East the NL West.

    There’s no reason for this. I just think the divisions have had their current names for too long, you know?

    • Ari Collins - Jun 13, 2011 at 10:19 AM

      Thanks, as always, for the long-distance view of the box we all live in.

  9. The Common Man/ - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    Expand to 32 teams, put one club in Portland and another in the NYC area. Two leagues, eight divisions. No wild cards.

    • Alex K - Jun 13, 2011 at 10:39 AM

      And that is the best way to do it.

    • kellyb9 - Jun 13, 2011 at 10:54 AM

      I think if you had said reduce the number of teams, I might agree with you. There are simply too many teams that aren”t drawing a consistant attendance numbers for whatever reason.

  10. Jack Marshall - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    I hate it.

    1. The 15 club Uni-division just highlights what’s offensive about play-offs: a team that clearly proved itself inferior during the season has a chance to be champion.
    2. The last day “pennant races’ would be for 5th place, not first or second. Yawn and yuck.
    3. The “fairness” logic for this change is and has always been whacked….I always amazed at how many smart commentators but it. If every team plays the same schedule, then there is no justification for play-offs at all….we already have an accurate test of which team is better. If the teams play unbalanced schedules, though, there is at least a rationalization for multiple-team play-offs in each league…they all played different schedules, and we need a head to head competition.

    • jkcalhoun - Jun 13, 2011 at 12:53 PM

      To start with, I agree that fairness is best served with balanced schedules and no redundant league play-offs.

      But in a system with multiple rounds of play-offs in both leagues, I don’t think the proposed “uni-league” arrangement eliminates the modest drama the current set-up can offer.

      – Under the current set-up the last day “pennant races” for 1st place already result in little or no jeopardy, because the teams battling for 1st within a division are often also in contention for the wildcard. Sometimes the losers will be shoo-ins for the wildcard, and in those cases I’m already yawning.

      – Of course under the current set-up there are annual late-season battles for a divisional title in which the losers are eliminated, but these occur only in the weaker divisions. So the question is, how much a divisional title really mean, if the risk and reward for postseason berths are exactly the same, among teams with the 4th-8th best records in the league?

      For example, the 2006 Cardinals make the playoffs by the thinnest of margins either way, and I doubt their fans’ experience of the late-season “race” would have been much different if the proposed league-wide set-up had pertained.

      (The Cardinals won their “divisional crown” that year with the 5th best record in the NL, the 1997 Astros and 2007 Cubs with the 6th best, the 2005 Padres with the 7th best, and the 2008 Dodgers with the 8th best. At least with the uni-league plan no one could make the postseason without a finish in the upper 3rd in the league.)

      So, to put the question another way: which last-day “pennant races” for 1st place in a division, in the wildcard era, held a lot of drama for you that would have been lost or at least severely reduced under the proposed arrangement (ignoring, of course, that with balanced schedules teams’ records may have been different)?

      I’ll grant you last year’s NL West was one of the better ones during the era of the current set-up: the Padres had a chance to tie for the 2nd best record in the league on the final day but by losing were eliminated. Even so, if the proposed arrangement called for 4 postseason teams instead of 5, I don’t think the experience of the race would have been meaningfully different under it. As above, I don’t think it’s really about the name of the title the winners are given; I think what makes a pennant race interesting is the risk of elimination for the losers.

  11. tuftsb - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:53 AM

    I can see the updated Ralph Kiner related quote during negotiations – “we finished 15th with you, we can finish 15th without you”…

    I guess MLB decided that for now it will not expand to 32 teams and go either with the NFL system or 2 8 team divisions.

    The only change I want is for Tampa to move to Vegas and be in the AL West

  12. amhendrick - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:55 AM

    A single 15 team division pretty much guarantees the Yankees in the playoffs every year. They can finish behind the Red Sox and Rays and still be in the top 5.

  13. dan1111 - Jun 13, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    Interleague play seems here to stay, whether we like it or not. But what will this do to interleague play? Will it be the same number of games spread out more in the year, or will there be far more interleague games? If it is the former, I am ok with moving the Astros to balance the leagues, but not if it is the latter.

    Also, I like the current divisional format. I hope they don’t get rid of that. Then again, I’m a Red Sox fan, so I don’t mind all the Red Sox-Yankees games, and I don’t have to root for a pretty good Blue Jays team that fails to make the playoffs year after year. So I can see the point.

  14. dohpey28 - Jun 13, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    I don’t see why if they aren’t going to realign everything, meaning both leagues, they just don’t make the NL 4 divisions with NO wild cards.

    East – NY Mets, Philadephlia, Pittsburgh, Washington
    Central – Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, St Louis
    South – Arizona, Atlanta, Florida, Houston
    West – Colorado, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco

    I know the ideas is to get more playoff teams for some reason, but I’d rather see winning the division actually mean something again.

    • umrguy42 - Jun 13, 2011 at 10:42 AM

      I like your thinking, but two problems –

      1. The South teams really get screwed over on the travel. I can’t think of an alignment that really fixes that, but it’s really bad – you’re darn near coast-to-coast.

      2. What about the AL?

      • dohpey28 - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:01 AM

        Arizona would be hardest hit, but they’d only have to make the Atl/Fla trip twice a year with decent scheduling, maybe even hitting Houston on the way there or back for a nice long in division road trip.

        As for the AL, well I think its stuck in place with the 3 divisions and a wild card. I don’t think 15 teams in each league makes any sense schedule wise.

  15. sparty0n - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    Baseball needs to make changes so that everyone has the same mathematical chance of winning their respective divisions.

    With the ecomony being what it is, why not look at a re-alignment throughout baseball, pitting teams close together in the same divisions, then play more divisional games?
    For example, why is Pittsburgh not in the same division as Washington, Philly and the Mets?
    This would give Philly (as an example) fans another close city to travel to to watch their team
    The same could be said if Washington shared a divisions with Baltimore and Boston – makes more sense than Tampa Bay, does it not

    By making divisions of teams in close(r) proximity, better long term rivalries could be made (see Boston/NY, Cubs/St Louis as examples)

    We can live with unbalaced numbers in the leagues, as long as each team has a even chance of winning their respective divisions.

    The best thing to do is to get rid of the DH so the AL/NL thing does matter!

  16. Jonny 5 - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    Enough! Leave it. First let’s worry about the biggest problem facing fairness in baseball. Blown calls, and the far too uppity umps.

    • yankeesfanlen - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:24 AM

      Jonny, I find this boring too. You’re gonna be in the NL East, I in the AL East, I voted send Astros to AL West, and that ends up winning the poll, so that means if we do anything, make it mimimal.

      • Jonny 5 - Jun 13, 2011 at 12:25 PM

        I’m pretty sure that whatever Bud does do, will be bad. So I voted to leave it be. he will “F” it all up. Surely.

  17. Tim Trout - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    NL East

    NL North

    NL South

    NL West

    Red Sox

    AL East
    Blue Jays

    AL Central
    White Sox

    AL West

    4 Division Winners and 1 Wild Card, if MLB wants an expanded postseason. Keep playing teams in your division as the majority of your schedule and it’s a win-win for ESPN. Red Sox-Yankees every Sunday night.

  18. panealvino - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    I agree with ralphb14 and others in that thread that the Brew Crew should go back to the AL … it still seems strange for me to remember they’re an NL team now. The Brewers could move to the AL East, or they could stay in the central and the Royals could move. Either way, that makes a lot more sense than moving the Astros or the Marlins.

  19. Innocent Bystander - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    I say leave as is…but I do like it for one reason. I hate interleague play. Currently teams play 6 series. Owners see great attendance, but think it’s because of interleague play. But really it’s because 4 of the 6 series are on weekends, all in nice weather months. By having interleague play year round, there will be mid-week series in April (for example) with really crappy attendance. By the end of the year they will see that it all averages out to be the same and maybe we can do away with interleague play all together.

  20. winkeroni - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    I think they should move the Brewers back to the AL unless some other team wants to play in the AL. Just have the best team from each league play after the 162 game season.

  21. JB (the original) - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Here we go:
    Move a team to the AL West to make it 15 each (maybe Col since they don’t have the “history” that Hou does in the league). Still 3 div winners and next best record for the playoffs. Here’s where mine is a bit different: 66 games against your 4 division opponents (down from the current 72 in a 5 team div), 1 home and away series against each of the other AL teams (10 teams= 60 games); Since we all no interleague isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and Bud will want to maintain the “natural rivals” bit, and to minimize travel/time zone issues for TV, 1 home and away series against each of the 5 teams in the opposite league’s same division (AL Cent plays NL Cent)-30 games; leaving 6 games to either: play 1 series each against the other league’s “outside” divisions, for tweak the number of games elsewhere to fine tune the balance to something everyone agrees on.

    Now, I know this expands the number of interleague games, but it allows the natural rivalry aspect to stay in place, all the teams in each division would have virtually the same schedule, outside of those last 6 games); it keeps the majority of your games played in your time zone; and it’s a method that lends itself to easy tweaking (before implementing). Is that too many IL games? OK, take away a series (or two) from your IL rival division (say you finished 2nd last year, take away one of the series against the 4th place team from last year and add an extra series to your in division games). So in that way you can sort of induce a bit parity NFL-style (if you felt that needed to be done)

    • JB (the original) - Jun 13, 2011 at 12:04 PM

      Forgot to say, if we’re going to have interleague going forward (which I think everyone agrees which will be the case as long as Bud is in charge), let’s do it in a way which will develop rivalrys in time, instead of the seemingly hodgepodge way of doing it now (“damn those Dodger’s swept us, we’ll get them back in 6 years when we see them again-if it ends up being a home series”. Repeatable home and home series against same (or similarily) time zoned teams make it something to look forward to each year, and even travel for. That way it’s a more natural rivalry, not a novelty.

  22. dasher521 - Jun 13, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    I’d like to see the Brewers go back to the American for the purposes of record keeping and continuity. I DO NOT want to see any additional layers of playoffs. I don’t need to see what should be the premier event played in cold, winter conditions. Interleague does not produce the interest that it had initially. Eliminate that and the World Series will have a little more mystinque.

    Baseball doesn’t have to be basketball, hockey or football. Too many teams make the playoffs.

  23. tgifinley88 - Jun 13, 2011 at 1:21 PM

  24. gasteelers211 - Jun 13, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    As a Braves fan, I vote to send the Phillies to the AL… just sayin…

  25. spudchukar - Jun 13, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    I have commented numerous times about sending the Astros to the AL West, and taking Occam’s advise, it still seems the simplest answer. Texans are quick to point out that the supposed rivalry between Houston and Dallas does not currently exist, but in time it just might. Plus, it would probably aid scheduling for California teams, hitting both cities on the same trip.

    Craig’s concern about the lack of late season races would be lessened with the addition of expanded play-offs. This is almost certain to happen in some format. So I say let’s try and make the most of it. With 5 teams in each division advancing to the play-offs, the division winner gets a bye, thereby rewarding division winners with a significant advantage, plus they get the winner of a 3-game first round match-up between 4 and 5, hopefully with little rest between the start-up of round 2. The second-place team, is rewarded with home-field advantage over the third place finishers in a best of 7 series. Winners would play for the division crown, with the home field determined by the season’s best record.

    The one question that still confounds me is how to determine home field for the 3-game 4/5 matchup. All three games in #4 seems a little unfair and creates a situation where it is likely that a play-off team gets no home games. The ideal 1-1-1, with first and third games in #4 would be fine, except for the travel and delays, too impractical. The other alternative is the first game at #5 and then the following 2 at #4. Most likely this will become the answer, but it isn’t much of a penalty to #5, and one could argue, like is the case in basketball’s 2-3-2, that it is not advantage enough.

    All change has certain detractors. But if inter-league play is going to be kept at the current level, play-offs expanded, and balanced leagues a priority, then the above scenario is an answer that may be the most liveable.

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