MLB Realignment: What This Means to Baseball and How Can It Work?
There has been talk among baseball executives about a potential realignment in Major League Baseball. This talk has made me think of a few questions: Why is this necessary, what would the realignment look like and how would this work for baseball?
With a change to the playoff system and news of the Houston Astros changing leagues and possibly team name, more talk is happening than we are all probably aware.
The reason this process will likely take a while to happen is the resistance baseball has for change and moving from tradition. However, after serious consideration, MLB will likely make a move.
The reasons for realignment outweigh the reasons against. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays are consistently among the top-three teams in the A.L. They are all in the same division which means only two can make the playoffs while other teams with a possible below .500 record can make the playoffs if they win their weak division.
I was never opposed to the old style MLB had with two leagues and no divisions. Although this is highly unlikely to happen again, the change in the postseason system and talk of realignment make this a possibility.
Every year, 30 teams play 162 games, and at the end of all those games only eight teams get a chance to play for a championship. This leaves teams like the Blue Jays, Angels, Indians and Dodgers playing almost an entire second half of meaningless baseball with no realistic chance of making the playoffs, even though they have an above .500 record.
The ball clubs know this, the media know this and fans know this. The result: Attendance falls in the second half of the season. Owners do not like this fact, and realignment with an expanded postseason schedule would result in more meaningful regular season games and a bigger audience due to more teams becoming postseason contenders.
The MLB directors should support this move because of the increased TV revenue alone. If more teams are on the hunt for a playoff spot, more fans will be involved, resulting in an increase in fan attention, an increase in ratings and more teams featured on network television.
This realignment also allows teams to cut down on travel costs if they are placed in East/West leagues. Although they are separated now, it doesn't make much sense for the Yankees and Mariners to keep flying across the country so many times a year when the Mariners don't even go to San Francisco and the Yankees don't play the Washington Nationals.
With any change, some parties benefit and some parties are damaged. In Major League Baseball, it is no different. Many small-market teams would benefit from an added playoff system. The teams would benefit because fans are more likely to attend games in August and September when they are considered more meaningful. This alone should be the sole reason for realignment. However, a team like the St. Louis Cardinals who play in a relatively weak division are division favorites every season.
However, the teams that would be damaged the most would most likely be a team moving from the AL to NL because they would have to adapt to new rules. Although a move from the NL to AL would be difficult, the contrary would eliminate the DH, a position that some teams have as their highest-paid player.
This will be an issue that slows down actual realignment. If a change is going to happen, it must make sense and be for the improvement of baseball, its fans and owners of the teams. My suggestions for realignment involve keeping the West Coast teams together and balancing out the mix of big market/small market teams. I have divided the MLB teams based on East/West affiliation with each league having 15 teams, much like the NHL.
|East 1||East 2||East 3||West 1||West 2||West 3|
|Philadelphia||NY Yankees||Boston||San Francisco||Texas||St. Louis|
|Tampa Bay||Atlanta||Detroit||Toronto||LA Dodgers||LA Angels|
|Cleveland||NY Mets||Chicago Cubs||Oakland||Kansas City||Arizona|
Rivalries are kept intact and close-to-home matchups will be more prevalent, which is something that draws many fans to the ballpark. These divisions are evenly mixed with small market and large market teams. Fan excitement will be rejuvenated with a change to the MLB system and the anticipation of seeing new teams and new faces.
The schedule would be simplified by having the standard 162 games with two four-game series and one three-game series against all teams in your respective league. This calculation results in 154 games. The final eight games will be against one team from the opposite league. The teams played from the opposite league will be based on the previous season's record, same as the NFL scheduling system. This 162-game schedule is fair and simple.
Divisions are not important in this new realignment, and the top-six teams from each league would be postseason teams. This would make the move back to the original non-division system a possibility and something that will be looked over by MLB.
The new postseason will increase the current number of teams from four to six teams from each league. The top-two teams in each league, no matter the division, would receive a bye in the first round. The first round of playoffs will include seeds three through six in a three-game series.The winners will advance to the next round and take on the one and two seeds. This four-team playoff will be just as the playoff system we currently have: a five-game series in round two and a seven game series for the final two rounds.
We are still a few years away from full realignment, but the fact that talk is happening makes way for rumors and speculation to take place.
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