Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Expansion and Re-Alignment
Hey ya'll! One day of spring training down, 41 to go. There are a lot of great stories, and I really am going to try not to pick too many favorites. I encourage you to read the stories in the Star-Tribune, the Pioneer Press and the Twins Official website. I know that they aren't very statistically based and sometimes they turn out a bit corndog-ish, but I do enjoy the get-to-know-'em/human interest stories. I always think it is so important to take a step back and remember that these ball players are human, like you and I. They are fallible. Baseball, as we are so often told, is a game of failure. If a batter gets out just 60% of the time, he is likely a star. But away from the ball park, they are fathers, husbands, sons, and many more things. So, as spring training begins, let's take just a minute and remember that, before we all get caught up in the numbers and stats and positional decisions to make. We've got six weeks to do that.
So today, I am going to do something a little bit different. I am going to propose a plan for baseball as a whole. Something to help keep costs down. Something to make the standings at the end of the season make sense. Something to encourage rivalries. Something so that all of the teams within a division play the same opponents.
What do we know? Contraction is not going to happen. There is too much money in a team for baseball. I actually am someone who thinks that contraction could be good. First, the level of play in the league should get better and secondly, those Florida teams just don't generate much interest during the regular season. But again, they are not going to eliminate teams. Another realization is that the length of the season will not drop back to 154 games. Too much money to be made by the owners. I am going to propose a format for a 160 game season. Inter-league is likely here to stay, so we might as well embrace it.
I just said that I think that contraction makes sense, and I still believe that. However, in order for this system to make sense, I am going to have to add two teams. I think that there should be one team added in the Northwest. The only obvious choice there would be Portland, Oregon, although maybe a city like Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada might make some sense too. There also needs to be an Eastern Midwestern city added. My suggestion would be either Indianapolis, Indiana, or Memphis, Tennessee. Actually, San Antonio, Texas, could make a lot of sense too. Reasoning for these choices are simply geographical and when you take a look at a map and the below divisional breakouts, it will make sense.
In my plan, there would be four divisions of four teams in each league. 32 teams in total, two more than there are today. BUT, the leagues would be equal. Scheduling could make sense. Geography is very important, in my mind. Let's be honest; in some cases, economic status is as much geographical as it is anything else. To encourage competitive balance, why not put those teams together as much as geographically possible. Here are the breakdowns of my divisions:
Northwest League - Seattle Mariners, Portland Name-to-be-Determined, Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants.
Southwest League - Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks
West Midwest League - Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Minnesota Twins
East Midwest League - Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers
West Northeast - Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays
East Northeast - Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies
West Southwest - Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves, Memphis Name-to-be-Determined
East Southwest - Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Florida Marlins
So, what do you think? (Besides that I need some creativity in the Division names) Just take a second look at those divisions and think through the natural rivalries. Some already are rivalries, some could easily become rivalries. Given a decade, there could be some remarkable storylines and situations. Some of those true "natural rivalries" that we see so frequently in inter-league games would become true rivalries. Division rankings and playoff spots would be up for grabs. Cities would enjoy this. New rivalries would emerge. Also, teams could save some money on travel as they wouldn't travel as far as frequently. In some cases, they could actually stay home.
Now you ask how I will put it all together into a schedule. Of course, making it all smooth and clean is a job for a computer, but here is the theory behind it. Each team will play:
Each team in its division 16 times (four four game series) = 48 games
Each of the other 12 teams in the league six times (3 game series in each location) = 72 games
Teams in two of the other league's divisions three times (one 3 game series) = 24 games
Teams in the other two divisions of the other league two times (one 2 game series) = 16 games
Total = 160 games. Teams in each division will play each other the most, as it should be. But they will play each other an equal amount. They will also play the other teams in either league an equal number of times. Truly a fair schedule. In reality, you could have a schedule four years in advance.
Three rounds. Really the same format as now. Only the four division winners would make it. The top record in each division would play the division champ in the other conference with the lower record. That way, the two division winners in the same conference could not play until the Championship Series. Best record would determine home-field advantage until the World Series, which should be alternated by league from year to year (as the All-Star game should be an exhibition!).
Any other thoughts about this schedule? Send me an e-mail, or let's talk about it in the Comments here.