MLB Realignment: Leagues Needs to Expand, Not Contract Franchises
To reflect upon the latest trend of contraction that has been spread lately, specifically with the article yesterday which suggested that Major League Baseball eliminate two teams (Florida and Seattle), I figure there needs to be a better approach to the issue at hand about contraction. But the truth is, that's the last thing baseball needs now.
First off, teams like Seattle and Florida have or are about to get spanking new "retractable roof" stadiums that have been built specifically for baseball. Seattle has already experienced the loss of one franchise, namely the NBA Supersonics, and their fans were not happy about that.
The Florida Marlins' problem has been the on-again and off-again mentality of the front office to deal players when the going has gotten rough financially, causing the fans to lose interest in attending games at a humid, half-empty stadium far away from an urban area.
The Marlins are about to get a second chance when they move into a new stadium to get the fans back, but they know they'll have to keep them by playing well and making a splash signing, whether that's a player or the owner's craving for a big name manager like Ozzie Guillen or Bobby Valentine.
The Mariners have a nucleus that's beginning to form in the way of Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda (who has impressed thus far), second baseman Dustin Ackley and of course Ichiro Suzuki. The franchise might benefit from making a few big signings to get power so they can become the team they were in the early aughts.
What's best for Major League Baseball in the end?
Losing teams would hurt baseball because it would spell that the league isn't thriving. Heck, the NFL, before the lockout mess, has talked about possibly expanding to London and Los Angeles. Although it would likely be at the cost of a team, it doesn't involve getting rid of a franchise.
If baseball needed a boost and a jump start of sorts, it could use two new teams and a change in every division so that fans will get to see teams they normally don't see during the regular season.
My proposal for realignment in baseball would give the MLB the same model as the NFL: Four teams in four divisions in each league. This would be based on the scenario of baseball expanding to 32 teams and allowing teams to have a better chance in new divisions instead of the ones they are currently in.
AL Great Lakes - Chicago White Sox (Michigan); Cleveland Indians (Erie); Detroit Tigers (St. Clair/Huron); Toronto Blue Jays (Ontario)
AL Pacific - Los Angeles Angels; Oakland Athletics; Seattle Mariners; Portland or Vancouver expansion franchise
AL Northeast - Baltimore Orioles; Boston Red Sox; New York Yankees; Pittsburgh Pirates
AL Midwest - Colorado Rockies; Kansas City Royals; Minnesota Twins; New Mexico or Las Vegas expansion franchise
NL Gulf - Atlanta Braves; Houston Astros; Tampa Bay Rays Rays; Texas Rangers
NL Southwest - Arizona Diamondbacks; Los Angeles Dodgers; San Diego Padres; San Francisco Giants
NL Atlantic - Florida Marlins; New York Mets; Philadelphia Phillies; Washington Nationals
NL Central - Chicago Cubs; Cincinnati Reds; Milwaukee Brewers; St. Louis Cardinals
Analysis: Each division has its own unique name and it would give an identity to each as its own. The only holdover from the "current" system is the NL Central, mainly because all those teams are in central standard time. There's not much you can change about that.
The Pittsburgh Pirates and Colorado Rockies have switched leagues with the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers for the sake of the geography of the division names. This would give a team like the Rays to have a better chance in the NL and perhaps force the Pirates to spend money at long last against powerhouses like the Yankees and Red Sox.
Expansion Teams: I mentioned four expansion teams: Vancouver, Portland, New Mexico and Las Vegas. These are the only places I see baseball expanding to if they do anytime soon. Of the four, one seems to have a stadium in place (Vancouver with BC Place Stadium), the latter two would seem to need a retractable roof stadium with their hot weather conditions during the baseball season.
At the end of the day, MLB won't contract. Jobs would be lost, stadiums would be wasted and at the end no one benefits. You want a jump start? Realignment mixed in with expansion is the best way to go.
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