Major League Baseball Realignment: How To Do It

Joel KochSenior Analyst IApril 21, 2010

MINNESOTA, MN - APRIL 12: Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to a game between the Boston Red Sox and  Minnesota Twinsduring the Twins home opener at Target Field on April 12, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien /Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Bud Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball, wants to see a more competitive balance in baseball. He wants to see teams that lose start winning all of the sudden.

How should this be done?

Well, first get rid of the penny pinching owners of "small-market" teams (let's face it, there is no small market in professional sports) and get real owners in there.

The more realistic answers are the following:

  • Realignment
  • Salary floor (no cap)
  • Franchise moves or new stadiums

Yes, we will hit each point, and they are listed in most important (and most in-depth) to least? Is least the right word? Meh, who cares. Moving on like the Mormons.


This is the one point that gets viewed the most. Let's face it, any division where the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox loom will dominate a division. You don't pony up the money and you'll have a touch time competing.

Then there are teams that aren't good at all that have to survive with good teams.

Some hope for another division creation to move teams into that division to even things out. Others want two more teams added (I fit in that category; 16 teams in each league would make life easier for all). Some have thrown out getting rid of divisions and having two leagues like the National Basketball Association.

There's no easy way to get around this...unless you think realistically and inside the box.

It's baseball, stupid.

Divisions have to stay. Baseball is America's past-time. If they go to two distinct leagues with meaningless divisions to come up with a huge playoff format, they're copying. They need to copy some things (like a new draft style to allow for the weak teams to get better by not being limited to outrageous bonus demands), but this isn't one.

It's baseball, stupid. We don't copy other leagues. They copy us. We're the big brother of professional sports. They want to be like us, not the other way around.

There is a simple way to go about realignment. No BS, Healthcare, or anything complicated. It's simple.

There are eight "original" teams in each league. Those 16 teams are: Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, and St. Louis Cardinals in the National League; Yankees, Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Oakland Athletics, and Minnesota Twins in the American League.

Fourteen of those 16 teams stay in their respective leagues. They're the originals. You can't change original, just ask the Superman reboot from the early 2000s. The only two changes are the Phillies, which they will not like, and the Orioles.

The problem with the Phillies is that they are so good, they beat up on their own division. A new league with a designated hitter, but with tougher opponents, would limit the kind of damage that team can do. Yes, it would make the division they're in that much tougher.

The competition would be insane, however. The attendance totals would be better as the weaker teams are gone and only the strong remain.

Oh, did I mention that it truly does create competitive balance? You'll see.

The best way to do realignment is to remake the teams in the divisions, but keep the three divisions in each league existent. There is a way to do this.

We'll start with the American League:

AL West: Athletics, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Seattle Mariners, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers

AL Central: White Sox, Twins, Tigers, Indians, Kansas City Royals

AL East: Yankees, Red Sox, New York Mets, Phillies

The A's have no choice. They have to stay in the AL, and they're a west coast team. Adding the Rockies to make this another five-team division, and thus turning the AL East into a four-team power house, would make for more competitive balance.

The Rockies, a strong team in their own right, can challenge the Angels more easily than the A's can. Add in a rebuilt Rangers club and a Mariners team on the right track, and this division will even out in the long run.

The AL Central really has no flaws, outside of the Royals. If anything, the Royals would move to the NL Central with the Milwaukee Brewers taking the AL Central slot, but that road has already been crossed and the Royals passed.

No reason to let them re-do their mistake.

The AL East is the true power-house division. Four teams. Four high payrolls. Only two survive, maybe even one. Those four will beat up on each other 20 teams each season.

By adding the Phillies and Mets, more rivalries can be created. Mets versus the Yankees. Phillies and Red Sox. Phillies and Yankees. Can you say sold out stadiums constantly?

This would be a huge revenue drawers for those clubs (not that the extra revenue would be needed), but by adding the Phillies and Mets, other smaller teams (Royals, Rangers, etc) could see better competition, which would draw more revenue for their clubs, something they need.

And it takes two monsters out of the NL, three weak teams out of the AL, and gives everyone a better chance of making the playoffs.

Lets face it. The Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays will never upstage the heavy hitters. The Tampa Bay Rays are really good, but for how long? Getting out of the East is good for all three teams and gives them better chances to make the playoffs.

Sure, the loss of revenue from ticket sales when the Red Sox and Yankees visited will hurt, but making the playoffs more frequently or fielding winning teams and not trying to out-do those two will sell tickets too.

It really does work out, and it puts a lot of teams in better situations.

For the National League, the changes are a little less noteworthy:

NL West: Dodgers, Giants, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros

NL Central: Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, Pirates

NL East: Rays, Braves, Blue Jays, Orioles, Washington Nationals, Florida Marlins

The Astros need to get out of the Central, without a doubt. Sure, if they had a choice, they would go to the east where their complete and total suck would fit right in. Oh well. The Diamondbacks and Padres are rebuilding. The Dodgers and Giants go up and down. The Astros would do well.

In the Central, everything is constant. No more extra team, but these five are located very close together (no more outlying Houston) and still make for fun games when they meet up.

The East is again in question.

The Nationals are in full rebuilding mode. The Marlins are always rebuilding. The Braves are finally getting a solid footing.

No more beat ups from the Phillies, or the Mets (not that they have done that for a while).

Enter the Blue Jays and Orioles. They're right about even in building and talent as the Braves and Marlins, and slightly ahead of the finally functional Nationals (Jim Bowden is still the dumbest person him already, FOX).

Throw in the Rays to at least give these teams a challenge, and those East standings could be very interesting. That is competitive balance.

Lets give grades to each of these six teams on a scale of -5 to +5 with 0 being average:

Rays +3, Braves +1, Blue Jays -1, Marlins 0, Orioles 0, Nationals -3.

That equals 0, or average. Competitive balance. Not kidding. That division would be interesting year in and year out.

Salary Floor

Yes, a salary floor but no cap. A salary cap is a stupid concept. Sure, it prevents teams from piling up a massive amount of contracts, but how to get the Player's Union to agree?

Free agents won't be able to sign with some teams because of the cap being hit, and players will lose money because of teams making the excuse that they're too close to the cap. No happening.

And it would give "fans" a chance to gripe more about owners skimping on money, because instead of paying an extra $10 million a year for a pitcher that would drastically improve the rotation, they chose $1 million to a No. 5 type pitcher because of the cap.


Salary floor? Smart.

There has to be some kind of bottom out, something that can keep a team competitive without hitting their profits (as much as it pains me, no sarcastic remark here).

Something in the $30 to $40 million range would be a good floor to have as some teams spend within that range (like the Pirates and Marlins).

Deciding a good number would take some time as to figure out with luxury tax income, MLB money income to all teams, individual income and all that jazz can affect the bottom line. But, some number should be reached.

It is only fair to all teams. You can spend as much as you want, but you have to spend so much money.

And trust me, this would get union approval. A salary floor, guaranteeing that teams will spend slightly more money to stay above it means slightly more income for players.

They like that.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and the salary floor should have a few.

First and foremost, if a team has three or four young stars that they have locked up, but they just haven't hit the real money years yet (like Evan Longoria's contract), you can't penalize the team for that.

That sort of stuff, where the team is making a genuine effort to lock up its young stars, you cannot penalize a team. That shows their desire to stay competitive and to pay for talent.

That's what the floor creates, and if a team is doing that, they're just balancing out the increases so as to not get bogged down by a lot of big raises at once, that would be fine.

Any other exception would be based off of that.

As for a cap, the only cap that should exist is a luxury cap. You go over that amount (which I think it sits around $150 million in today's game), you have to pay extra. Outside of that, dumb.

On the Move

This one can get dicey. Some teams are finally opening new stadiums. Others will very soon (like the Marlins).

Some are stuck. That has to change.

The A's need a new stadium, and if something can't be worked out soon, that franchise needs to move. Where? Don't know, but they have to.

The A's cannot legitimately put a winning team on the field when they can't sell tickets to a football stadium. It just can't happen anymore, not in today's economy. They need a stadium or need to move.

Baseball needs to step up finally and help that franchise.

Same goes for the Rays. They need a new stadium badly, or they too need to move.

Not really much to add here. Flat out, new stadiums or move.


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