Re-Alignment in MLB: Why the AL East Is a Poster Child, What Can Be Done
It's time for a change.
I am not talking about a new president (well, maybe), a new NCAA college football playoff system, or the unnecessary changes to the current NFL schedule, but rather, I am referring to the changes that must be made to AL East division in Major League Baseball.
Everyone who knows and understands baseball, the New York Yankees are the AL East, and as long as the divisions remain the same, the Yankee will always be on top.
Although every team starts off the season undefeated, the Orioles, Blue Jays, and soon-to-be again Rays, have a major disadvantage due to playing in the same division as the Red Sox and Yankees.
This simply isn't fair.
Therefore, as you proceed to read (at your own risk), I will propose a few changes that can be done to in order to level the playing field, so the "minor" league teams will one day have a chance to compete for a World Series title.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy.
Let's play ball.
"Hey Papi, I Like This AL Central Stuff...Yankees Who"?
Producing 11 of 15 wild-card teams, the AL East has dominated the American League playoff landscape since the inception of the AL Wild Card in 1995.
Either the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox have represented their division in the playoffs every season since 1995, and between the two of them, have hoisted the Commissioner's trophy as World Series champions seven times.
But the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles have not had the same fortune.
Not since Joe Carter's World Series ending walk-off home run in 1993 have the Blue Jays made the playoffs. Since the team that is currently playing at Camden Yards in Baltimore replaced manager Davey Johnson with Ray Miller in 1998, the Orioles have not won more than 80 games in a season and since the Rays will be unable to re-sign Carl Crawford after the 2010 season, the Rays reign on-top of the AL East will soon be coming to an end.
Fair or unfair, until the Yankees or Red Sox are re-located into a different division, the Blue Jays, Orioles, and starting next season, the Rays will struggle to make the playoffs.
Since the Orioles hired Buck Showalter as their new manager, there is a ray of hope in Baltimore, but the Orioles will never have the talent, the pitching, or the financial funds to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox.
Although it would not make a difference for the Orioles or Blue Jays, let's say they only needed to compete with the Yankees, instead of the other power house of the AL East. Let's say Boston was moved to the AL Central and was replaced in the AL East with the Detroit Tigers. Let's say MLB actually followed through with this. Let's say the AL East was demolished, and a new era of baseball was born.
Since the Minnesota Twins, whom are currently sitting atop of the AL Central with a record of 75-56, were in the AL East, their record would only be good enough for third place.
Therefore, the Tigers would not condone moving divisions, but the Blue Jays, Rays, and Orioles would breathe a sigh of relief with hopes of actually making the playoffs, and welcome their new division opponent.
Despite playing each other fewer times under the new re-alignment, the Yankees and Red Sox would be split up, giving the other AL East teams better opportunities to reach the postseason
The fans, who have grown accustomed to greatest rivalry in baseball, and the epic memories that Yankees-Red Sox games have produced, will no longer be able to see the Yankees and Sox battle it out twenty-plus times a season, but for the parity of the game, re-locating the Sox is the correct decision.
The Tigers, won't like it, but baseball will be better off.
No More Divisions
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Now that the New York Yankees returned to the pinnacle of baseball after winning their 27th World Series championship in franchise history, the discussion of leveling the playing field has risen from the depths of the baseball diamond, with hopes of giving the "little guys of baseball" a chance to compete for a playoff spot.
At the start of every season, Yankees and Red Sox fans alike take a hard look at the schedule, and circle games against the Jays and Orioles, with the understanding that these are not only divisional games, but are games that the power houses of baseball are expected to win.
I previously mentioned the idea to separate the Red Sox and Yankees. Although the rivalry that began when Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees, would be finished like Stephen Strasburg's 2011 season, I am in agreement if baseball decides to proceed with realigning the divisions.
But instead of re-locating certain teams, the simplest idea would be to get rid of divisions altogether and just have the four best teams in each league make the playoffs.
If this were to happen, be aware that not only the schedules would change as teams would not play most of their games against divisional opponents, but rivalries and pennant races would be lost.
With every new idea, people often tend to point out the negatives, instead of looking at what is in the best interest of the game.
This would be no different.
The Orioles, Jays, and Rays will get fewer beatings from the Red Sox and Yankees, but that comes with the price of needing to play the good teams from the Central and West more often.
They would not be complaining.
In the end, people need to take a close hard look at the current state of the AL East. The calendar hasn't even reached September and the AL wild card has already been decided.
The Yankees are Rays are both going to the playoffs - one team will win the East, and the other will capture the Wild Card.
For the Red Sox, this was a fluke year due to the massive amount of injuries, and there is no doubt, they will be back near the top of the division next season.
They will replace the Rays atop of the division, and the Sox will be battling it out with the Yankees.
There are flaws in every system. There are flaws when change is possible.
I know change can be a scary thing, but if it's only for the better, I say give it a shot.
Football Has One...Why Can't Baseball?
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According to FoxSports.com, the current collective-bargaining agreement, which produced nearly $450 million in revenue sharing last season, can only go so far with helping the "poorer" teams of MLB.
Teams such as the Yankees, and Red Sox simply have to much money for other teams to compete with.
Aren't you jealous?
But if the current CBA, which expires after the 2011 season, is re-structured with the addition of a salary cap, although the biggest free-agents on the market would rather play in New York than Kansas City, the off-season would be a fair competition on the financial level.
The Yankees would be unable to flaunt their money. They'd be unable to "buy" players, which included signing Mark Teixeira to a $180 million dollar deal or signing CC Sabathia to a seven-year, $161 million dollar contract, the largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history.
Although the players’ union, which remains the strongest in professional sports, may never allow this, a salary cap makes the most sense.
While the luxury tax in baseball has been providing teams like the Tampa Bay Rays money to improve their franchise, it's a rarity to witness a team like the Rays succeed without the aid of a salary cap. The Rays had been the laughing stock of the league for years, but over those years, they received money from high-salary teams like the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox via the luxury tax.
For years, the Rays finished last in the AL East and improved drastically through the draft, by selecting top prospects, such as Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, Josh Hamilton, and David Price, while the list goes on and on.
But even for the Rays, unable to re-sign Crawford to a long term deal, there run atop the AL East is going to end, and most likely, Crawford will be patrolling the outfield for the Yankees at the start of next season.
The biggest obstacle would be getting the players union to agree, but once that hurdle is jumped, there is no major planning involved in adding a salary cap.
MLB will select a salary cap number, and the teams will oblige.
Until a salary cap is part of the game, the Yankees will continue to dominate the free-agent market, and throw millions of dollars to the biggest names in baseball.
And until something changes, remember, they are only playing by the rules.
Please, do me a favor, and don't blame the Yankees. They are not doing anything wrong.