Realignment and Redisigning of the MLB Schedule

I you were listening to MLB Radio on XM or Sirius, or even reading various bloggers, analysts, and reporters, you had to hear some of the talk about realignment of the divisions or a modification of the current system in place. Ideas ranged from the crazy “new divisions each year made up of the best teams in one division, the next best teams in the middle, and the bottom ones together” to “moving teams to geographical based divisions – meaning the Cubs and White Sox would be in the same division, the Mets and Yankees, ect..”. All had some good points and bad points, and they all had 1 consistent message – the current system isn’t cutting it because the playoff teams do not represent the best teams for that season.

I’ll use 2008 as an example because it will get Yankee fans onside with my way of thinking – not that it’s a priority of mine, but they have leverage. In 2008 the Chicago White Sox made the playoffs with a .546 winning percentage while playing in what most consider a weaker division than the AL East. The Yankees, who had a .549 winning percentage were forced to sit home because the division leaders are automatically in the playoffs – that, my friends, is wrong by all counts. If the best 4 teams in the AL are all from the same division, so be it, they should all make the playoffs.

That same season both Houston (.534) and St-Louis (.531) had higher winning percentages than Los Angeles (.511), yet, neither made the playoffs. In 2007 it was the Mets who were robbed of a playoff appearance despite a better winning percentage than the Cubs, ect.. ect.. There are countless examples of these injustices in most seasons.

The point is that the best teams are not in the playoffs. Some of the best are, along with a few lucky ones. As far as I know, baseball fans generally want a fair and square game to be played and have the winner reap the benefits, so let’s see what we can come up with without going too far overboard.

Here’s what I came up with:

  • Although some ideas want to change the number of games played I say no need, a new system can have just as many games and still be equitable.
  • Some ideas want to make the entire league play with DH, others want to do away with it – I don’t care either way, it doesn’t affect the alignment issues.
  • For the AL (14 teams + 1 transferred over from the NL = 15), I propose that they play 154 games split up equitably amongst all AL opponents and do away with divisions altogether. It will become the American League – plain and simple. No East, Central, or West. No hiding from the Yankees or Red Sox, or whoever the next powerhouse is. This would mean that every team plays against one another 11 times within the American League. The other 8 games would be split in 2 series of 4 games against opponents chosen in an off season lottery, with the insurance that no team can be selected twice by the same team within 3 years.
  • For the NL (15 teams) the system would be identical.
  • A lottery could be set up to decide on which NL team would be transferred to the AL – with each team nominating itself for the transfer should it want to do it. Each team can opt out. If no volunteering team is brought forward, all teams would go into the lottery and 1 team would be chosen.

What would this system mean? Well, it would mean that scheduling would be 90% more equitable in terms of travel time and opponents chosen. Each year the American League and National League’s top 4 teams make the playoffs – plain and simple. No more division winners, no more wild cards. In the World Series, the best 2 teams meet, having never played the other league’s style all season long if the DH is still used in one and not the other. No inter league play. No putting all East coast teams against one another or making it an East versus West thing. What I want to see is 15 teams per side, who all have comparable schedules and opponents – less those 8 games – and who all get an equal chance to compete and make the playoffs. I want to see the best teams win every single year. That’s it!

If Bud Selig ever gets this as an example I will be very surprised and I would never hear about it, but I see little reason that this scenario won’t work. Baseball isn’t like Hockey or Basketball where you get into a city and are out of time after 1 game. It’s a game where you stick in town for 3,4 sometimes 5 days. So scheduling is possible in the scenario set out above, no question. With the Blue Jays getting better and better I’m not pushing this as a way to get the Jays out of the AL East dilemma. What I want is to have the 4 best teams make the playoffs, even if it means that the Rays, Jays, Yankees and Red Sox make the playoffs. Otherwise, why are we playing 162 games per team?

Pass this on if you like it as an idea or add to it in the comments. I’m really curious about the thoughts others have on this format proposal.

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Tags: MLB

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