Wednesday, October 22, 2008

An Interesting Realignment Proposal

One upside to days off in the middle of the playoffs is that it allows people the time to sit back and think a bit. I had missed this over the weekend, but on Saturday Mark Whicker of the OC Register got to thinking about realignment:

There should never be a baseball game in March or November. There should never be a five-game series in postseason play. Too many undeserving teams make it to the postseason, which is why we have so many sweeps and dull best-of-5 series.

The league formats are archaic and already have been disbanded in most ways, including umpiring and administration. If it's fine for the Angels and Dodgers to play six times a year, why not 18?

For all these reasons, it's time to realign baseball.

Let's leave all of those assumptions aside for a moment as they're all worthy of independent argument. I'm more interested in his realignment proposal:

So let's start by paring down six divisions to three:

WEST: Dodgers, Angels, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Houston.

CENTRAL: Cubs, White Sox, Detroit, Kansas City, St. Louis, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh.

EAST: Yankees, Mets, Boston, Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Toronto, Florida, Tampa Bay, Atlanta.

The three winners get to the playoffs and the team with the best record gets the home field throughout. There is one wild card. It will be seeded fourth and will not have home advantage in any series . . . With a 10-team division, it's simple to arrange 18 meetings with every other club. It comes out to 162 games. That's nine Dodgers visits to Anaheim. That's 18 Cubs-White Sox games.

Such a setup raises all kinds of interesting logistical questions, and Whicker addresses many of them in his column.

Say what you want about it -- and I'm certainly not saying it's a good idea -- but that's certainly fun, no?


matt said...

I'm an old fuddy dud (at 260 and my get reaction is "You can't get rid of the leagues!" Hell, I don't even like interleague play.

I have to admit though, this would make for some exciting baseball. My only fear is that the results would be similar to those of hockey--it used to be that any time the Flyers played the Devils or the Rangers it was an event. Now with unbalanced scheduling the Flyers play each of those teams six times a year and those games, while still intense, have lost some of their specialness.

For example, I think it will always be fun to see the Phillies play the Mets, Red Sox, and Yankees, but how empty will the stadium be for the team's 18th game against Toronto.

matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon said...

As an Orioles fan living in DC, I would LOVE a really meaningful O's game at Nats Park. Of course, that presupposes that both teams become competitive in my lifetime.

bigcatasroma said...

Why isn't that a good idea???

Dre said...

One of the worst proposals I've ever had read.

mooseinohio said...

Good luck trying to get that past a) baseball purists who still bemoan the DH, dislike the WC and can't stand interleague play b) the networks that would lose programming c) the union as fewer team in the playoff means fewer players making playoff money and d) MLB that needs teams that travel well (Cubs, Red Sox, Yanks) to help fill ballparks around the league which wouldn't happen if you only play teams in your own division.

Ken Dynamo said...

whicker may as well propose dogs and cats living together.

fun idea, couldnt be implemented until selig is gone at the very least. still, with 30 teams i have a hard time believing 8 teams is too many to make the second season. realign and destroy the leagues but at the very least make it 6 teams with 2 teams getting byes. 4 is just too few.

tHeMARksMiTh said...

I think I'd rather see all teams play each other the same amount of games. Every team plays each of the others while the remaining 17 games are doled out among the teams.

Dan Whitney said...

I couldn't picture a baseball season in which a team played ONLY NINE TEAMS the whole damn year. That sounds absolutely absurd. And to have four out of thirty teams making the post-season, well, that's just downright unamerican.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Dan -- at the risk of revealing that my sarcasm detector is broken -- need I point out that playing seven other teams all year worked pretty well between 1900 and 1961?

OK, I am now about 89% convinced that I am missing the sarcasm. If so, please feel free to mock me.

Daniel said...

I like the concept, especially as a West Coaster who hates not being able to see the Angels play on the East Coast when the games start at 4 pm.

My big problem (and this is a pretty big problem) is that there are interesting games outside of division play. I would never get to see the Angels play the Red Sox or Yankees (or even the Rays, who have some pretty exciting players). This would take care of all the balancing issues, but I just wouldn't get to see enough different types of baseball.

mkd said...

I've always been a closet re-alignmentist. Purists say it can't be done, but I disagree. Give it a few years to sink in and people will realize that the game itself hasn't changed, only the meta-structure. It's been done before and it can be done again. My pet plan:

Season: 154 games

Pacific: SEA, POR, SF, OAK, LAD, LAA, SD, AZ
Midwest: CO, TX, HOU, SA, KC, STL, MIN, MIL
Atlantic: NYY, NYM, BOS, PHI, BAL, DC, TB, FLA

(84) in-Division games: 6 home/6 away vs each Division Rival
(70) out-Division games: distributed so Division Rivals play the same opponents the same number of times.

(4) Division Champs + (4) Wild Cards (Wild Cards = four best records, non-Division Champs, regardless of division)
3 best-of-seven series with seeding based solely on record. Best record always has home field advantage.


All-Star Game
Meaningless Exhibition for fun and profit.

Go Portland Green Sox! Beat those damned San Antonio, um, Bowie Knives! (yeah, that's the ticket...)

Craig Calcaterra said...

MKD -- give me, say, a two-year heads up on that plan because I want to pre-write all of those "oh no! too much expansion!" pieces that will be all the rage when that comes to pass.

mooseinohio said...

@ mkd - Overall I like the plan though I disagree with the DH part (grew up a Red Sox and AL fan) and the union would never accept the loss of a position, especially given the $$$ guys David Ortiz or Edgar Martinez and Vlad will soon be getting to only hit the ball.

As for 154 games - that's an easy bridge to cross as the number of games has been somewhat fluid so dropping down a few wouldn't really alter the history. In fact it may be a nice way to get a clean slate on records or accomplishments post the 'steroids era' as we are 'apparently' witnessing a cleaning game today with the testing policy. So instead of adding asteriks to records we just reduce the schedule thereby making comparison to the PEDs era moot.

Lastly could we mandate that schedule has to have a minimum number weekend day games or double headers so folks with young kids can take their children to a Saturday afternoon baseball game (you know like in the old days). Playing game 1 at 1pm and game 2 at 7:30pm allows the owners to get two gates and make their money - maybe even more as more folks may attend two Saturday games than a Sat night and Tuesday night.

Kritical Man said...

I think the idea of a team only playing 9 other teams the entire season is just not realistic at this point. And anything that will result in less games = less money. I don't believe that this would increase attendance whatsoever. The reason interleague is well attended is because these matchups don't happen often. If Dodgers and Angels played each other 18 times, it wouldn't have the same effect.

But I am 110% in favor of balancing the schedule. How about:

Houston moves to AL West, creating six 5-team divisions.

Regular season: each team plays division rivals 18 times (72 games). Each team plays non-division, same-league rivals two 3-game sets (home/away) (60 games). Leaves you a nice round 30 for interleague which could be two 3-game sets (home/away) w/ that years other league division. Scrap the "natural rival" crap.

This way, at least all the teams in a division will play the exact same number of games against the exact same teams. Season length doesn't change, wildcard doesn't go away, interleague doesn't go away... so everyone (read: Selig, who also doesn't seem to be going away) is happy.

well, except maybe the Astros?

I've posted on my round-robin postseason idea before, so guess I won't rehash it here. (Though I'd love to hear Craig's take on it!)

mkd said...

Craig: 5 years from the date of Bud Selig's retirement. Mark.

Moose: I am a die-hard (and presently dieing-hard) Mariner fan, and as such believe that Edgar Martinez basically walks on water. How I reconcile this with the objective belief that the DH ought to go is a mystery even to me. But as Whitman said: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. Edgar for HOF!" (Yes, Whitman was a strong supporter of Edgar's HOF candidacy)

I also like the pallet cleansing nature of a 154 game season when it comes to records. It would be a pretty simple way to delineate eras without actually bringing steroids into the conversation. Plus it solves the whole World Series in November business. I'm pretty sure the players are all for it, too.

Weekend games should always be in the afternoon. I'm pretty sure the Ms already do this. Most Sat/Sun games start at 1:35 pm. Let me check the 2009 schedule...Holy shit! We have to go MIN-OAK-LAA-DET-TB-LAA-CWS in April. Balls. See you in 2010 everyone...

Craig Calcaterra said...

KM: please rehash the round robin, because I'm sort of blanking on it right now.

MKD: I'm not sure if you're actually in the Pacific NW or not, but if you are, know that weekend day games can be really freaking hot and miserable in many baseball towns. They still hold Sundays because of tradition and getaway day considerations, but if I'm anyplace that isn't Seattle, California, Colorado, or in a dome, I'd prefer night games if I have a ticket.

Kritical Man said...

Thanks Craig! Postseason idea - Round-robin determines pennant winners:

4 teams from each league chosen just as they are now (3 Div. winners and 1 wildcard). Each team plays the other 3 teams 4 games each, 2 home and 2 away. Team with best record from these 12 games wins the pennant. Ties are broken based on overall season record, and if still a tie, then by head to head record.

Then the world series is played as it currently is.

Craig Calcaterra said...

OK, I'm down with the round robin. Most folks probably wouldn't be because people in this country hate events that aren't decisive, as any given 4 game series in that scenario would be.

Still (a) more baseball; (b)the rewarding of pitching depth; and (c) the creation of something new that would force commentators to come up with new cliches (and that would take at least 3-4 season), all sounds good to me.

mkd said...

Oh yeah, summer in the Mid-West. Ug. Don't know how you guys stand it.

And re: "oh no! too much expansion!" Might I suggest bucking the CW and coming out strongly in favor of a franchise in Portland. It's a little known secret that national commentators who back quixotic expansion campaigns receive delicious Oregon Microbrews for every post.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Done and done.


/I'll take my first installment in Widmer, please ...

mkd said...

Comments don't count!

It's gotta be on the main page or you get nuthin'

mooseinohio said...

Personally I don't mind the occasional hot day game - we don't seem to have a problem doing others things in the heat - for example golf, hiking, yard work, going to September Ohio State games, lots of folks attend NASCAR events in the south during the day, and lots of festivals and state fairs are held in the heat of summer. So I struggle a little bit with that argument and having some day games wouldn't be a problem - I suspect for every person lost for heat reason you'd get one of two to replace them for time reasons.

Kritical Man said...

I thought the main reason that so many games were on Sat. evening these days is strictly because of Fox's blackout rules?

(If your team isn't the fox sat. game, the game won't be televised). Nothing to do with weather - though that's certainly a legit reason to have evening games. In fact, I assume that's the main reason most of the minor league teams in the central valley (CA) have all of their games in the evening - even Sundays - since it regularly tops 100 degrees.

Dan Whitney said...

Craig, no, I really do think it would be crazy to play the same nine teams over and over again. Then again, my father was in middle school when when the league formatting changed and so I have no basis on which to disparage playing only a few teams.

I think it's the matter of playing 9 out of 29 moreso than just the number 9. I would feel wierd about having two thirds of the league available to me only via cable, and then a seven game series in the playoffs.

Paul Thomas said...

What an astoundingly bad proposal. COLLEGE teams play cross-conference more often than these teams would.

I'd like to move to an NFL format-- 32 teams, 4 divisions per league, 2 WC teams per league, first round byes to the best 2 division winners. Don't ask me where to put the other 2 teams though.

Or, alternatively, the playoff round robin is also a good idea.