Pondering MLB Schedules and Competitive Balance

Matt SCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 27:  Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig explains the rules involved with suspending game five of the 2008 MLB World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays till 8:00 pm (EST) on October 28 at the earliest of the Philadelphia Phillies at a press conference on October 27, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Word got out the other day that Major League Baseball's "special committee for onfield matters" has discussed a "radical floating realignment" idea.

While I believe that competitive imbalance issues in baseball are widely overstated (more on that later), I understand the need for new, revolutionary ideas.

One idea struck me as I read the story: Why do we need divisions, anyway?

Why not just eliminate the division model altogether?

It would be much easier than figuring out which team is in which division year in and year out

It would be much easier to ensure that each team in each league plays the same schedule—or at least a much more similar schedule than what we see now. At the end of the season, the top four teams in each league would make the playoffs.

But eliminating divisions would eliminate much of the rivalry we see in baseball. Sure, the Yankees and Red Sox would remain a heated rivalry, but the smaller, regional rivalries would diminish.

I guess we need to know what exactly this "competitive imbalance" is that we hear so much about.

In the past 10 years, eight separate teams have won the World Series. Compare that with seven NFL Super Bowl champions and just five NBA champions.

That doesn't do it for you? Fourteen separate teams have made it to the World Series. Compare that with 14 Super Bowl teams and 12 NBA finalists.

Baseball isn't being dominated by a few teams any more than the other major sports are —maybe even a bit less.

The competitive imbalance claimed in baseball is based entirely on the AL East. Boston and New York are usually very good, and Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and Toronto just can't compete with them year in and year out with the unbalanced schedule.

This problem is compounded by the fact that comparatively few baseball teams make the postseason. In all the other sports, it's possible for the third team in a division to make the playoffs—this isn't so in baseball.

So I don't really know what my pondering has concluded—maybe that we do need divisions. I like the regional rivalries in the current divisions, and there really isn't much of a competitive balance problem in Major League Baseball.

But you say you still want to fix the alleged competitive balance problem?

Start by doing away with the unbalanced schedule—or at least work toward a more balanced schedule. I do like the principles of an unbalanced schedule, but it would be nice to see Toronto, Boston, and New York come another time to Detroit, and it would make the differences in schedule difficulty across divisions much less severe.

And while you're messing with the schedule, take interleague play away, too. Please.