Realignment in Baseball?

June 13th, 2011

Buster Olney, over at ESPN, broke the story the other day that MLB and the MLBPA have been talking about potential realignments of he divisions and leagues.  Needless to say this sparked the internet with lots of interesting and bizarre ideas.

Jim Bowden, also of ESPN, came up with a proposal which realigned teams based on a more geographical basis.  He put the New York teams with Boston, Philly and Toronto as well as all the California teams together.  Atlanta, Baltimore, Florida (Miami), Tampa Bay and Washington makes some geographic sense: it’s spread out but contiguous.  His breakdown between the Central and Midwest Divisions seems arbitrary at best.  That leaves the Western Division ranging from Seattle to Arizona to Houston, which is a lot of distance.   Not to mention you now have two 15 team leagues which means having a more basketball or hockey style of scheduling than the current AL/NL separation.

There are crazy amounts of ideas being thrown around in the comments of both of those posts with different ideas.  One that I like was posted on the Bowden article by someone named Joltingflash77. [I would link to it if i could]  He also created two leagues of three divisions, but kept the cities with two teams in separate leagues, except for the Oakland/SF teams which are sort of the same city but not really which he put in the same AL division.  The really neat thing he did was creating the ‘Great Lakes’ Division – “Chicago White Sox (Michigan); Cleveland Indians (Erie); Detroit Tigers (St. Clair/Huron); Toronto Blue Jays (Ontario); Minnesota Twins (Superior) ” – Way cool theme!  He reinforced with me the feeling that I already had that cities that have two teams should keep them in separate leagues.  Even though the Lakers and Clippers seem to be just fine with it, I don’t really like it.

With teams like Seattle and Colorado and the Florida teams relatively far from everyone else, there really isn’t any good realignment based on geography that would cut down on travel evenly.   Just look at the NBA or NHL, they have the East/West dividing line East of the Mississippi River (NBA) or East of the Ohio River (NHL) but both make some sense in terms of even numbers of teams between the two conferences.  In that regard, I’m more in favor the MLB sticking with the current format that the NFL also uses where the two Leagues/Conferences are coast to coast.

There are also some good ideas over at, where the best ones (Try #15) don’t involve two 15 team leagues, but rather two new teams to balance out the NL and AL.

The other question that seems to be popping up is the playoff structure.  I’m not too picky about how many teams make the playoffs, as long as it’s the geometric progression of 2. (4,8,16)  Both the NBA and NHL send 16 which leads to four rounds.  MLB currently sends 8, leading to three rounds.  Either work for me.  The NFL sends 12, with 4 teams getting first round byes.  That can work in the NFL where the playoffs are single games not series.  A bye in a series system would leave a team idle for a week or two, which again, works in the NFL where teams play once per week but  isn’t good for anyone in a sport where teams play 6 games per week.

In short my thoughts: 1) Leave things as they are.  2) If you need to make a change to balance everything out, add two expansion teams.  3) Don’t add a playoff bye system.  4) Don’t put same city teams in the same league.  5) Don’t use geography as the defining factor unless you can come up with an interesting rational for it (like the lakes example from above).

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