Over the weekend, the big story in baseball wasn't the Tigers moving into first place or the Red Sox scoring like 100 runs in a weekend -- may be an estimate. It was this rumor reported by ESPN's Buster Olney.
The MLB is considering a re-alignment plan that would move the Houston Astros to the American League and completely do away with divisions. Each league would then have 15 teams with five making the playoffs. (A key component of any plan seems to be Selig's desire to get an extra two teams into the playoffs.) Olney reports that this plan has less than a 50-50 shot of actually happening, however.
So, let's talk about it.
Baseball won't be any less entertaining if the divisions are eliminated, with the top five teams in each league qualifying for the postseason tournament.
In fact, it's that latter possibility that particularly intrigues me. I think it'll be a lot of fun, seeing the standings presented that way, with the top five teams -- the first division, just like in the old days -- highlighted, and the second division teams fighting their way toward the first division.
Baseball's history is filled with messy things. It's part of the game's charm, in my view. 16 teams in one league and 14 in the other is just one of those quirks that I, among may other baseball fans, love about this game. There are good reasons, both for tradition and logistics, to leave things the way they are.
Of the two opinions, I'm a lot closer to Neyer's. Not just the part I quoted, but also the thought that this will probably never happen.
Yellon's major dislikes with the system are that a team like the Tigers or Indians has no shot at making the playoffs. (Insert record scrape sound here). Actually, under this system the Tigers would have been the playoffs not only in 2006, but in 2007 as well. And had they won the final game of 2009 they would have been in the playoffs that year too. Obviously in those years the teams played uneven schedules, so it wouldn't have worked out exactly the same. The 2010 Twins would have been third place in the AL. The 2005 White Sox would have won the AL. The fact is, teams that are good enough make the playoffs no matter the format.
Yellon's other complaint is that teams will play their rivals less and interleague will run yearround. I'm sure that will bother ESPN when the Yankees and Red Sox don't play 81 times a year. But the rest of us will be fine. Take it from a Tigers fan. The Blue Jays used to be a rival, and Detroit barely sees them after the AL East was sundered to make room for a three-division league. Now, Detroit can consider former AL West foe Minnesota a rival instead. Fixing the MLB alignment shouldn't be about what's best for a couple of cities on the east coast, it should be about the entire league.
Me, I say why not go back to the way the MLB used to be with divisionless leagues? As far as interleague, I say as long as it's going to exist it should be fair. Besides, if the selling point of interleague is seeing the other league's stars in person, why limit it to four or five teams a year?
So, you can figure out by now I'd be perfectly fine with something resembling this re-alignment plan. Obviously you'd have to look into all the details closer. But as a basic plan goes, this one seems acceptable. It sure beats five AL teams out of 14 making the playoffs.
However, as Neyer pointed out, this plan will probably never happen. It's too radical. But Neyer's hope is that the MLB will still find something better than it has today.
What do you think of the plan? Is it likely to happen? Do you have a better idea? Let's talk about it.