MLB Realignment: Houston, We Have No Problem

Leonard SuttonContributor IJuly 1, 2011

The Rangers would develop an ongoing rivalry with the Astros if Houston moved to the AL West say some baseball purists..
The Rangers would develop an ongoing rivalry with the Astros if Houston moved to the AL West say some baseball purists..

Once again, the rumor mill is churning. The Major League Baseball rumor mill, that is. MLB realignment has reared its ugly head and won’t be ignored until someone appeases the beast.

According to ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney, the issue of realignment was raised during the labor talks between Major League Baseball and the players’ association. With the NFL and the NBA both currently in lockout mode, it seems like the season for labor talks is on our collective sports calendars again.

One version of the realignment proposal is the elimination of divisions within the American and National Leagues, with 15 teams in each league instead of the current status, which is 16 NL teams and 14 AL teams.

Proponents of realignment point out the discrepancy in the number of teams in two divisions as the sounding horn for change. The AL West currently has only four teams—the A’s, Angels, Mariners and Rangers—while the NL Central has six teams—the Astros, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Pirates and Reds.

The AL West teams each have a one-in-four (25 percent) chance of reaching the postseason via a division crown while the NL Central teams each only have a one-in-six (16.6 percent) chance at the same. At this point I’d like to note that the reason the NL Central has six teams is because the Brewers moved from the AL Central to the NL Central in 1998, a move that to this day seems totally unnecessary to me, and I have yet to hear a convincing argument for this move.

For the sake of clarification, all of the other four MLB divisions have five teams, which is a 20 percent chance of reaching the playoffs through a division title. Math gives me a headache.

According to the aforementioned Olney piece, “two highly ranked (MLB) executives” believe the Houston Astros would be the team most likely to relocate to the AL West to “foster a rivalry” between the Astros and the Texas Rangers. 

Why? If cultivating a rivalry drives the movement for realignment, why not move the New York Mets to the AL East so they can “rival” their crosstown counterparts, the Yankees, or the Dodgers to the AL West so they can build up a healthy opposition to the Angels?

Admittedly, as an Astros fan, I do not want Houston in the American League because of one solitary reason, and that is my personal disdain for the designated hitter rule. The DH is, in my opinion, the single most ridiculous rule in all professional sports. Simply put, if a baseball player pitches the ball, that same player should also hit the ball, and if a player hits the ball, that same player should also field the ball.

All the DH has done, again this is only my opinion, is allow certain pitchers—most notably to me Roger Clemens when he was still playing and not in court—to pitch way too aggressively at batters because they don’t have to deal with reciprocating actions while they occupy the batter’s box.

"The designated hitter rule is like letting someone else take Wilt Chamberlain's free throws." That’s what Rick Wise said about the DH way back in 1974. I agree with Mr. Wise.

As far as the realignment issue goes, if a team from the NL has to be moved to the AL West, I say let it be the Arizona Diamondbacks or the Colorado Rockies. Those teams are already in the west. Houston can then move to the NL West, since they are the team furthest west geographically, in the NL Central.

Look, if the baseball powers that be decide to move Houston to the AL and the DH is still around, I’ll get over it. I’ll adjust. I’ll have to, as the old adage goes “take it with a grain of salt,” but that one grain of salt will have to be about 12 to 15 pounds.