With the purchase of the Houston Astros, and their subsequent move to the American League, I began to ponder the possibility of Major League Baseball functioning as a three-division league as opposed to the current two-league-six-division format.
One of the biggest questions would be in regards to the designated hitter rule, the simplest, most fair way to decide that rule would be to put it to a vote at the winter meetings with the fans submitting an online tie-breaking vote. Either DH or no DH.
With the Astros moving to the American League, it makes interleague play a moot point as there will be an interleague match-up everyday of the season. Once you break it down and look at it in a geographical sense it really becomes quite simple.
Here is how the divisions would break down:
The league could still run a 162 game schedule with minor tweaks here and there. Every team would play the 20 teams in the two other divisions in a three game series annually, switching home field advantage every year. Each team would then play their most geographically logical rival 12 times per season, their traditional rival 12 times per season, a third division rival 12 times (this team would rotate throughout the division every year).
For example, the Mets would play the Phillies and Yankees 12 times each every year, then they would play a third division rival 12 times. Lastly, they will play their other 6 division foes 11 times annually, rotating between five on the road and five at home each season.
For a more in depth look: the Mets would play the Angels, Dodgers, Giants, A’s, Padres, Cubs, White Sox, Cardinals, Royals, and Pirates on the road in 2012. Conversely, they would play the Reds, Indians, Brewers, Twins, Tigers, Rockies, Mariners, Rangers, Diamondbacks, and Astros at home.
The Mets would play the Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox 12 times each this season. They would play the Braves, Orioles, and Blue Jays 6 times each at home. They would play the Rays, Marlins, and Nationals 6 times each on the road.
So: 30 games against non-division opponents at home +30 games against non-division opponents on the road +51 division games at home +51 division games on the road = 162 total games.
In order for the regular season to continue to be as exciting as it was this past season, we will add two more wild card teams to the mix. So, we will have a six team playoff with the three division winners and a wild card team from each division. The two teams with the best record would get a first round bye.
The team with the best overall record would be awarded home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, no more All-Star game winner gets home field, it is a boring concept (we’ll touch on changes to the All-Star game in a bit) and unfair to the teams that have truly earned their home field advantage by winning their division (ahem, Rangers).
This first round would be a best of five series, the second round would be a best of seven, and the World Series would be a seven game series.
So, if we apply the current concept to last season’s final records we would have had the Phillies and the Rangers getting first round byes. The worst remaining team, Arizona, would play the best remaining team Milwaukee. The last matchup would be between the Tigers on the road against the Yankees.
If the playoffs played out as they did this past season, Milwaukee would go on to play Texas and the Tigers would play the Phillies. If the Phillies got past the Tigers they would keep home field for the World Series, if not, the team with the best record would get home field for the series.
I mentioned changes to the All Star game earlier, it is quite a simple scenario, the NHL uses the North American Stars vs. the World Stars in their game, MLB could use the same format. With the influx of Latin American and Asian athletes it could make the All-Star game a true spectacle. You could have the two sides battling in the home run derby and the All Star game.