14 June 2011

Revisiting MLB Reallignment and Expansion: Part I

One division leagues were good enough for Brook and the '66 O's
This past weekend Buster Olney reported that there has been some talk about reallignment MLB into two leagues without divisions.  There is also the possibility that with the uneven number of teams in each league that either there will be interleague games everyday or that two teams will be added to MLB.  The traditionalist in me is somewhat conflicted in that this is a radical change (which is bad), but corrects for the radical change implemented in 1969.  Before then, there were ten team leagues.  The new model would pit 15 teams (or 16) against each other and the top five records would move on to postseason play.  I actually like this idea and most Oriole fans should like it as well.

A major reason why Orioles fans should like this is that it ceases to make the Orioles look like a team that cannot make the postseason.  As it stands, the team has to win the division or a wild card by facing off against teams with better revenue (Boston, New York) or better front offices (Boston, Tampa, Toronto(?)).  It is likely that two of the best teams in baseball are likely to emerge from the AL East.  By scrapping the divisions and bringing back a balanced schedule, the Orioles stand a greater chance of playing meaningful baseball in September.

The next best reason is that it is a fair way to determine who are the best teams.  As it stands right now, you could have teams with losing records or barely winning records make the playoffs.  These teams, in a playoff format, can string wins together and win out.  This might be great for underdog story lines (yes, I am thinking of the Cardinals a few years back), but it is more likely to prevent us from seeing great baseball in October.  The five best teams in baseball should be rewarded.  The league should not subject itself to a poor design merely due to history.  They need to do what logically makes sense.  If you want the best teams in the playoffs to figure out who the best team is, then put the best teams in the playoffs.  It is rather simple.

The third reason I think this is a great idea is that it will be another force to push players from concentrating in a single city with large revenue streams.  For instance, if you are a star player and are being courted by New York, Boston, and Baltimore, you will lean toward Boston and New York because they are organizations that are likely to be in the playoffs.  A player who is in the playoffs is likely to earn more money during the contract due to performance payouts and the player is likely to gain that playoff aura which will earn him more money when he becomes a free agent again (think Carlos Beltran).  For players who are career minded, playoff appearances look good in the current climate with respect to Hall of Fame considerations.  All of these reasons push the players away from the Orioles and require the team to appeal to a player's desire of money against two titans of revenue.  This helps even the playing field as well.

I do not really have any reason to scrap interleague play other than to say that it is also a source of unfairness.  It does not appear to increase revenue.  Whatever fan attracting revenue it had is lost or is so swamped out with meaningless games that a Mets-Yankees rivalry means awfully little.  I also think that scrapping interleague play will bring more interest to the All Star game as well as to the World Series.  With that in mind . . . I am all for MLB expansion.  People will often complain about there not being enough talent to go around, but they really need to go back and rewatch baseball just prior to the first of the two 1990s expansions.  Talent level slightly dipped after that expansion and the second, but has plateau out again. 

With that in mind, here is my radical reallignment idea:

I divided the leagues to try to make the leagues even with respect to team value which resulted in five teams switching leagues.  All five teams are transferred to take advantage of potential rivalries due to geographic proximity.

American League (7838 MM)
New York Yankees (1700)
Boston Red Sox (912)
Texas Rangers (561)
Minnesota Twins (490)
Houston Astros (474) - develop in state rivalry
Seattle Mariners (449)
Washington Nationals (417) - develop Baltimore rivalry
Baltimore Orioles (411)
Detroit Tigers (385)
Florida Marlins (360) - develop rivalry with Tampa
Cleveland Indians (353)
Kansas City Royals (351)
Toronto Blue Jays (337)
Tampa Bay Rays (331)
Oakland A's (304)

National League (7843 MM)
Los Angeles Dodgers (800)
Chicago Cubs (773)
New York Mets (747)
Philadelphia Phillies (609)
San Francisco Giants (563)
Los Angeles Angels (554) - shift value to NL, create cross town rival with Dodgers
Chicago White Sox (526) -  shift value to NL, create cross town rival with White Sox
St. Louis Cardinals (518)
Atlanta Braves (482)
Colorado Rockies (414)
San Diego Padres (406)
Arizona Diamondbacks (396)
Milwaukee Brewers (376)
Cincinatti Reds (375)
Pittsburgh Pirates (304)

As these leagues stand, this puts 15 teams in each.  In my next post, I will look at the top five cities that should be considered for MLB expansion.


The Oriole Way said...

Personally, I am not a big fan of adding an extra playoff team. I think the long regular season should remain the focus, and adding additional playoff teams, especially in this format, is likely to water down the games in August and September even more all so two teams with 87 wins can play two or three games in October. Does anyone really care about the NBA or NHL regular season? It doesn't matter who finishes 3rd or 6th or 8th, so long as you are in the top 8. I don't know why we want to bring that structure to MLB.

I don't like interleague play because of the unbalancing of the schedule. Three or four game series are virtually required in baseball, meaning there are 54 match-ups in a season. Half of those will be at home, meaning that there is no possible structure by which any MLB team can play all the other teams both at home and on the road in a given season. Splitting into two leagues makes that possible.

My proposal would be to split the two leagues into two divisions, add two teams, and play a modified unbalanced schedule. For each of the 7 other teams in your division, you play two home and two road series. For 3 teams you play one 4 game series at home (13 total games x 3), and for 3 other teams you play a 4 games series on the road (13 total games x 3). The 7th team gets all three game series (12 total games). That's 90 division games.

For the 8 non-division teams, you play one set of 3 home and road matchups. Then, half the teams you play an additional 3 times on the road and the other half an additional 3 times at home. 8 x 9 = 72 total games.

Now, each division winner gets a playoff berth guaranteed. The two wild card slots are the two teams with the next best records.

Exactly how you split the divisions depends where the new teams get added (San Antonio and Portland would have very different implications than Charlotte and Hoboken), but as it stands now, there are 14 teams in the Eastern Time Zone and 16 teams in the Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones. No matter how you do it, at least two of the Chicago clubs, Milwaukee or St. Louis are going west. If you add Portland and San Antonio, I would put PDX in the AL West, sending the White Sox back east, and San Antonio in the NL West, sending the Rockies (or DBacks) to the AL West and the Cubs to the NL East.

Magic of Orioles baseball said...

I highly doubt expansion is being considered. But it's always fun to dream I suppose.

Jon Shepherd said...

Expansion is being considered, it just is not likely to occur. Expansion occurs when owners need money. Maybe with the current economy and with the debt loads teams have, it might be a live issue...I doubt it. But, yes, it is being discussed.

Magic of Orioles baseball said...

Do you have "sources" saying it is being discussed. I have not seen any reports of it being on the table. If you could provide a link, it would greatly be appreciated.

Jon Shepherd said...


I don't think this is that big of a secret. I have not read it anywhere, but I imagine Olney reported it. I imagine the people I talk to know those discussing it.

The way I understood it is that expansion is an option on the table and they are summarizing all of their options. It would be short-sighted of them not to consider all options.

Magic of Orioles baseball said...

I think like anything else, it's on the "table." Can't find anything to believe me to think it is being seriously considered. Have fun with it, but it's not happening. And by the way, couldn't find anything from Olney - not saying it's not there though.

Jon Shepherd said...

What I do here at Camden Depot often includes thought exercises. One of those would be, what happens is there is expansion? I apologize if someone you were confused that I was outright saying that expansion was coming. I am full well of the opinion that expansion only occurs when ownership needs money and they get that from franchise fees. And, owners are doing fine...except two.