MLB Realignment: A.L. East, Meet A.L. North
The topic of Major League Baseball realignment is in the headlines again.
“The Yankees and the Red Sox, the two behemoths of the American League East, have so cornered the market on playoff spots that something must be done, some suggest.
Competitive balance can be addressed only so much through economics, so addressing it structurally by rearranging baseball's six divisions somehow is necessary, some say.”
A brief history of MLB divisions-leagues realignment looks like this:
1962: The New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s (who changed their nickname to the Astros in 1965) were added to the NL, thus creating 20 teams overall and a 10-team spilt between leagues.
1969: East and West divisions were implemented when two teams were added to each league—San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos to the NL, and the Seattle Pilots (Milwaukee Brewers) and Kansas City Royals to the AL.
Creating 24 teams overall and a 12-team league spilt.
1977: Expansion included the Toronto Blue Jays, AL East, and the Seattle Mariners, AL West.
26 teams overall and a 12-to-14-league difference.
1993: The Colorado Rockies, NL West, and Florida Marlins, NL East, were added. This led to Selig creating the three-division format.
28 teams overall and an even 14-team split.
1998: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, AL East, and Arizona Diamondbacks, NL West, were created through expansion. The Detroit Tigers moved from the AL East to the AL Central and the Milwaukee Brewers switched from the AL Central to the NL Central.
Today, there are 16 teams in the NL, and 14 in the AL—a six-team division in the NL Central and a four-team division in the AL West.
Geographically, the divisions aren’t ridiculous, unlike the NFL, which has the Indianapolis Colts playing in the AFC South.
However, baseball enthusiasts for realignment will argue that a few things could get better.
First, it might help smaller market teams to increase revenue by allowing opposing fans the opportunity to travel with their team.
Second, it might balance division powers, especially if each division has five teams.
How other owners haven’t taken issue about the AL West having better playoff odds is baffling.
Third, it may create better regional rivalries, which used to be a big part of baseball when the AL consisted of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Washington Senators while the NL had the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Boston Braves.
Finally, it would be something new and exciting, especially if it was drastic.
Let me be clear. I’m not calling for a complete overhaul of the system because, in reality, it’s almost impossible to do.
I also know that no system is perfect.
However, if the impossible was possible and money, owners, and fan outrage wasn’t an issue, here is how I’d realign baseball:
Step one: Needing a template to start, the traditional American and National Leagues will stay, as well as the three-division format.
Step two: Each league needs an even split of 15 teams, and each division needs an equal amount of teams—five.
Step three: Keep traditional rivals together.
Meaning, Yankees-Red Sox, Giants-Dodgers, Cubs-Cardinals and Mets-Phillies—which has stepped up the passion in the past few years—will stay.
Step four: Create new regional rivals.
Meaning, Rangers-Astros, Orioles-Nationals, Rays-Marlins, and Dodgers-Angels need to start hating each other.
Step five: Do away with division names.
How come there are East, Central and West divisions in every league? Do divisions really need to match?
Wouldn’t it make sense to have midwestern franchise play in a Midwest division? Or southern franchises play in the South?
It’s understandable why the Marlins and Rays are, currently, in the East. But geographically, they’re warm climate teams. So are, the Braves, Astros and Rangers.
Put those fives teams together and the new NL South is born.
The Texas rivalry is one that needs to be put together and the south triangle—Atlanta, Miami and Tampa—could, maybe, bring excitement to the Southern baseball.
Another factor helping the NL South is the Braves and Astros hold its Spring Training near Orlando, which helps build a nice regional fan base when they visit Tampa, located an hour and a half west.
Other new divisions created are.
NL Midwest: Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Rockies and Diamondbacks
Denver is 850 miles west of St. Louis and 1,000 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
Arizona needed to be put someplace. This division is the best fit because most of the retirees, who live in the state, are fans of the Cubs, Cardinals or Reds.
AL North: Mariners, Twins, Brewers, White Sox and Royals
Because each team doesn’t have a sky-high budget, the Royals belong with this group of franchises. Also, the cities and fan bases mesh together well—at least, I think.
If you’re going make an argument against Seattle, remember, The Emerald City is located closer to Alaska than any other MLB team. Can you really argue against that?
Divisions that stay similar are:
AL East: Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Nationals, Indians
All in the same division, we’re keeping traditional rivalries and creating new ones.
Baltimore fans, of course, will not be happy about staying in the same division as New York and Boston. But, there’s a bright side.
The Nationals and Indians are currently rebuilding—this may not be the case with Washington in a few seasons—and the chance to at least be competitive for third is there each season, especially with Tampa Bay gone to the South.
Plus, owners cannot complain too much when the Yanks and Sox fill their stadiums 10-plus times a season, which is what the Indians want, right?
NL East: Mets, Phillies, Blue Jays, Pirates and Tigers
This division probably changes the most and looks awkward because teams from all over create an intriguing setup.
Pairing Toronto and Detroit could build a North-South rivalry, while the New York, Philly, and Pittsburgh fans could trash talk back and forth every season.
AL West: Giants, Dodgers, Athletics, Angels, Padres
Also know as the California Division or the Save Travel Miles Division, the new AL West could really strike up interest because the state and the people in it really like themselves.
For MLB, its works well because each season, at least one California team will make the playoffs. So, even if the Dodgers or Angels aren’t playing, bandwagon jumping wont be hard.
It’s pretty clear that switching the dynamics of baseball isn’t easy.
However, baseball fans are always looking for ways to grow and expand the game in a positive way.
This is my solution. What’s yours?
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