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My Baseball Realignment Fantasies

Ok…it’s officially summer, there’s no news now that Anthony Weiner’s resigned and we won’t know whether Congress will cause the next Great Depression by not extending the debt ceiling for another 40 days or so. Time to talk baseball.

The sport is reportedly considering a realignment that ranges from minor to big-deal. A number of plans have been floated- all of them involve baseball going to a pair of 15-team leagues with a couple more wild-cards to make it a total of ten teams that get into the playoffs every year.

The simplest and most obvious suggestion is moving the Houston Astros from the National League Central Division to the American League West. The AL currently has 14 teams, the NL-16; a glaring and silly inconsistency that should have been corrected long ago. Putting Houston in the AL West creates a natural rivalry between Houston and the Texas Rangers.

But as long as we’re going to be thinking about realignment- why not go all the way? Blow up the whole thing!

Dear Commissioner:

I propose a version of a geographical realignment, the kind that former National’s GM, Jim Bowden’s been talking about. I don’t think he’s gotten this specific.  I’ve seen some pretty weird proposals but here’s the one that makes the most sense- go ahead, Selig, try to poke holes in it.

We start by blowing up the American and National Leagues. They’ve served their purpose for over a hundred years now and besides, with interleague play- the leagues are not what they used to be. The “junior” league, the American League, by the way, is only junior by about two years. They both basically started at the turn of the 20th century.

In order to really stoke up regional rivalries and save millions of dollars in travel- here’s the realignment for Major League Baseball’s new Eastern and Western Conferences.

The Eastern Conference’s Northern Division would be a powerhouse featuring some of the already existing greatest rivalries in the sport and creating a couple of new ones.

New York Yankees
New York Mets
Boston Red Sox
Philadelphia Phillies
Toronto Blue Jays

That’s right; both New York’s in the same division. It worked once with the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants- it’ll work again with the Yankees and the Mets. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry continues unabated and now the Bosox would be able to avenge Bill Buckner’s game 6 World Series error every time they take on the Mets.

So, New York Yankees, you think you can buy your way into every playoff? Meet the Philadelphia Phillies. Mets/Phillies? They already duke it out every year. The money division. The power division. The glory division. That’s the Eastern Conference’s Northern Division. The Toronto Blue Jays? Hey- they’re North and you need five teams per division and they already have an established history playing the Yanks and Red Sox.

The Eastern Conference’s Southern Division is obvious:

Washington Nationals
Baltimore Orioles
Atlanta Braves
Florida Marlins
Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Right away you’ve got the Washington-Baltimore regional rivalry and create a new Florida rivalry between the Marlins and Rays. The Braves already have NL East history with both the Nats and the Marlins. Tampa and Baltimore already battle in the AL East. Finally, the poor Orioles get out from under the shadow of the Yankees and Red Sox.

The third group in the Eastern Conference is the Central Division:

Cincinnati Reds
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Minnesota Twins
Pittsburgh Pirates

You’ve got the battle for Ohio and the existing rivalry between the Tigers and Twins. Then there’s Pittsburgh. It’s not possible to put the Phillies and Pirates in the same division but they’re not now and nobody cares.

Moving on to the Western Conference’s Midwest Division– it’s got the nicest symmetry of them all:

Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox
Milwaukee Brewers
St. Louis Cardinals
Kansas City Royals

How beautiful is that? The Cubs and White Sox battling for the hearts of Chicago. Milwaukee which is kind of a Chicago market anyway, throws a nice wrinkle into it. And then you have the Cards and the Royals battling for Missouri. Cubs, Cards and Brewers already fight it out in the NL Central so there’s familiarity.

And now off to the Western Division of the Western Conference. I know, it sounds redundant and you could call it the Southwest Division except you have to put Seattle in there so you can end up with an all-California Division:

Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
Texas Rangers
Houston Astros
Seattle Mariners

You have your new Texas rivalry. You’ve got Arizona and Colorado who already face off in the NL West and then the Seattle Mariners. You could swap them out for San Diego but then you’d break up the neatness of our final grouping- the Western Conference’s California Division:

Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Oakland A’s
Los Angeles Angels
San Diego Padres

You’ve got your classic Dodgers-Giants match-ups. You have your Bay area rivalry between the Giants and A’s, and a secondary battle for Los Angeles between the Dodgers and the Angels. If you swapped the Padres for the Mariners, you’d call it the Pacific Division and the other the Southwest division. But it all fits so well when you have five teams from California- they need to be in the same division.

So there you have it, my bored baseball friends. The ultimate geographic realignment of major league baseball; institutionalizing no less than 11 regional rivalries.

There would be two wild-cards from each conference putting ten teams into the playoffs.  The wildcards play each other in a quick 2 out of 3 game set that starts the day after the end of the regular season to minimize the downtime for the division winners.

Then you’re left with your 8 teams. You have to keep it a 5-game series for the round of 8 or else you’d be playing baseball in late November. Regular season records would actually mean something- home field advantage to the team with the most wins through the year.

Stop this stupid business of home field advantage to the league that wins the All-star game. Best record plays at home under all circumstances (except for the Wild Card teams- there has to be a perk for being a divison winner).

The DH rule will have to be permanently put in place for all of baseball because you’d have to go to one system or another. The player’s union would never allow elimination of the Designated Hitter and as much as that would suck for basic game strategy, it would be a necessary evil.

Thanks in advance for considering, Mr. Selig, and best of luck with your deliberations.

Kindest Regards,


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