It was announced today that a condition of the sale of the Houston Astros will require them to move to the American League for the 2013 season. MLB has some other changes it plans on setting into motion in 2013 as well. Many people have some strong opinions about the issue, but either way, there are both positives and negatives from this move.
Balance of Power
Right now the NL Central division contains six teams while the AL West contains only four. An NL Central team has a slightly more difficult path to win the division compared to a traditional five-team division, and conversely, it's argued that a four-team division is too favorable for the AL West.
By moving Houston to the AL West, every division will be balanced with five teams, which at least sounds like a good idea.
As it stands, the Astros play only one series a year with the Texas Rangers. There's not a big dynamic here like in the New York vs. New York interleague series, but state bragging rights always make things interesting.
Since the Astros and Rangers will both be in the AL West, they'll wind up playing each other significantly more often throughout the season. You have to figure that these games attract a good crowd, which can only be positive for both teams.
Verdict: Good, at least for the state of Texas.
The Houston Astros are a National League team. They always have been, and always should be. To suddenly thrust them into another league and totally change the dynamic of their organization seems unfair.
Fans are often fiercely loyal to their teams respective league, and I just can't see this change boding well in Houston in the years to come.
Verdict: Not good for lifelong Houston fans
More Interleague Play
For many, myself included, this one will just illicit a giant groan. With 15 teams in each league, it necessitates that there always be at least one interleague game going on.
Interleague play is not necessarily a bad thing. But as long as the American and National leagues have different rules (I'm looking at you, designated hitter), interleague play will never garner full support.
How the league handles this will really tell the tale. If they ditch the month worth of interleague series for one interleague series at a time, spread across the whole season, it may make the change more tolerable.
Verdict: I lean toward negative, but it depends on your perspective.
Among Major League Baseball's plans is to expand the playoffs to 10 teams and have a wild-card round. This wild-card round would most likely be just a one-game playoff for the right to play in the divisional series.
MLB claims this is an idea favored by the players, but I just don't see the usefulness of it. The baseball season is 162 games long for a reason: Over a sample of games that large, the teams that are truly better have an opportunity to separate themselves.
Why would you make the first-place wild-card team play one game, against a team that they've proved to be better than and risk their entire season?
Verdict: Good for the team that manages to grab that fifth playoff spot, probably bad for everyone else.
There may be some great things here, but if I had to guess, there's going to be a lot of backlash in having Houston move to the AL and expanding interleague play even further. Change is often a good thing, but the changes need to make sense. I guess we'll just have to wait until 2013 to see what the future holds.