Announced Wednesday afternoon, the Houston Astros will leave the National League Central to join Major League Baseball’s American League West division, balancing the leagues at 15 teams each.
The Astros will join the AL West beginning as soon as 2013, as was a term agreed upon by MLB commissioner Bud Selig and new team owner Jim Crane.
This marks the first time since the Milwaukee Brewers left the American League to become members of the NL Central 13 years ago that a team has changed leagues.
“The greatest thing this sport has going for it is its history and its tradition, so you try to disturb that as little as you can,” MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said during a news conference. “But this is clearly for the long term.”
So what does this mean for baseball?
MLB is a unique organization because unlike the NBA, NHL and NFL, baseball is really two different games under one roof. The AL and NL operate under two totally different and distinct rulebooks.
There will be consequences that will ripple through the rest of the sport as a result of the leagues being balanced at an odd number of teams apiece. Things such as scheduling and interleague play will have to totally be revised and rethought.
The plus side for the sport however is that now things will at least be fair on paper. For years, baseball has been seen as the sport where fans doubt the genuine fairness of the leagues because they were imbalanced.
Statistically, it’s harder to win in a division with more teams and it’s easier to win in a division where there’s fewer. Since the NL Central had six clubs and the AL West had four, the transition of the Astros balances those divisions at five members each, the same as the rest of baseball.
That’s one problem fixed on the road to fairness and equality, but there’s still plenty of work to be done now.
Bud Selig cannot afford to half ass a recovery effort by merely moving one franchise. While the changes are being made, make them all and attempt to salvage a failing sport.
Baseball can do plenty more in an attempt to save the day. Here’s what MLB should do to make the game smarter, fairer and more attractive to the fans: