How Best to Realign Major League Baseball: A Freakonomics Quorum

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Earlier this summer, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that Major League Baseball and the players’ association had recently discussed a form of realignment that would result in two leagues of 15 teams, rather than the current structure of 14 teams in the American League, and 16 in the National League. This sent the sports world into a tizzy as baseball geeks everywhere weighed in on how best to realign MLB. There are a lot of ideas out there: shorten the season so each team gets one day off a week (said to be a favored position of Commissioner Bud Selig), move the Houston Astros or Florida Marlins to the American League; create three divisions of five teams each; do away with the divisions entirely; add an extra wild-card team to expand the playoffs.

There’s also a discussion about finding ways to address the disparity in miles traveled. According to this neat interactive graphic put together by Paul Robbins at the New York Times, in 2009, the Dodgers traveled a league-high 59,742 miles, while the Nationals traveled less than half that, 26,266 miles.

Not to be left out, we decided it was a good time to convene a Freakonomics Quorum. We rounded up a handful of sports economists and asked them the following question:

What proposed realignment changes seem to make the most sense from a competitive and economic standpoint for Major League Baseball?

Thanks to everyone who participated. Ideas ranged from expanding the league to 32 teams, to finding ways of reducing the Yankees’ odds of winning the World Series. That said, a fair amount of consensus emerged over the notion that moving the Astros to the AL West makes quite a bit of sense, and that doing away with divisions altogether will probably never happen.

Andrew Zimbalist is a sports economist and professor of economics at Smith College.

There’s a joke economists like to tell. Two finance economists are walking down the street. They spot a $20 bill and as one leans down to pick it up, the other utters: “don’t bother, if it were real someone would have picked it up already.”

Sportswriters and commentators love to pontificate with fervor about how to make baseball better: eliminate the DH from the AL, add the DH to the NL, shorten the season, add more teams, end interleague play, do away with divisions— the list goes on, and on.

Then there’s the question of what to do about the fact that the NL has 16 teams and the AL has 14, and more unequal still, the NL Central has 6 teams, while the AL West has 4. Before I offer my two cents, or 20 dollars, let me emphasize what should be obvious: if there were an easy answer to these questions, MLB would have done it already. There are always trade-offs and there’s no perfect solution.

That said, why not move the Houston Astros from the NL Central to the AL West? That would make the leagues equal and create a strong, natural rivalry between the Astros and the Rangers.

To accommodate the scheduling, there will have to be at least one interleague series happening at all times –  two at a time would probably be best, yielding 13.3% of all games being interleague. (Interleague play can be appealing, particularly when geographical rivalries are engaged, but there’s no reason to reserve a chunk of the season for all interleague play, as is currently the case.)

For the postseason, add a second wild card team in each league. This will add excitement to the regular season and reduce the disadvantage of small market teams (e.g., the Rays) that are stuck in strong divisions with big market teams. Have the two wild card teams in each league face off in a best of three playoff, with home field advantage going to the team with the higher winning percentage. Then proceed under current rules.

In the spirit of fine tuning, it might make sense to have the Rays and Nationals change places in the AL East and NL East. It would save on team travel, create a natural rivalry between the Marlins and Rays (with the Braves lurking close by) and restore the Washington franchise to its historical home in the AL (while potentially engendering a new rivalry with the Orioles.)

If baseball continues with an imbalanced schedule (though it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make it less imbalanced), then the Houston fans will have to put up with a few more late night games (like the Rangers do already). Perhaps the West Coast games can start at 6:30 pm.

As I said, if there were a simple, straightforward solution, MLB would have done it already.

 

J.C. Bradbury is an associate professor at Kennesaw State University, and is the author of two books on baseball: The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed, and Hot Stove Economics: Understanding Baseball’s Second Season.

When the league moves teams around, it creates winners and losers: teams will get more favorable schedules at the expense of others getting less favorable ones. Owners buy teams with certain revenue expectations, and movement alters these revenue streams. When we fans start thinking about realignment, we often don’t consider that the potential losers and owners who feel harmed are going to fight the change.

One of the issues that chased Fay Vincent from the Commissioner’s office was a realignment plan that he felt was in the best interests of baseball; however, a few owners disagreed and fought him. Baseball would ultimately realign in a way that most owners liked in 1994, so I don’t think anyone is itching for major changes just yet. Here are my thoughts on two realignment scenarios that have been rumored.

One plan is to create two 15-team leagues. Moving one team from the NL Central to the AL West adds symmetry with three five-team divisions per league, and eases the creation of balanced schedules within divisions. Houston is the team rumored to be moved, which would create a natural intra-division rivalry with the Texas Rangers. So, this move seems geographically and politically feasible. The downside is that the odd number of teams in each league means interleague play must occur all-season, which probably isn’t a bad thing considering that the novelty has lost its luster. I wouldn’t be surprised if such a minor realignment happened.

A more radical proposal is to eliminate all divisions and have a certain number of top teams make the playoffs from each league.  A seeming unfairness of the current division-winner playoff structure is that inferior teams in weak divisions make the playoffs over superior teams in tough divisions. However, I think this structure has almost no chance of coming into existence. Owners in divisions with strong-drawing visiting teams—like the AL East—will be reluctant to give up this valuable asset. But more importantly, divisions create rivalries and generate fan excitement. A city that has endured years of bad teams can celebrate winning a division championship, but just making the playoffs isn’t all that exciting. Winning your division is similar to winning a conference championship in college sports… well, maybe it’s a little less important, but division crowns are more celebrated in MLB than in the NBA and NFL. And when teams have clinched playoff berths, attempting to win a division title gives end-of-season games meaning.

The wild card berth, which was instituted in 1995, is a better way of giving teams in tough divisions more opportunity to play in the postseason, and Commissioner Bud Selig has discussed expanding wild card eligibility to include more teams. With three division champions and one wild card team in each league, there is the possibility of eight races for fans to follow. With two divisions there are only two marginal playoff races and no opportunity for intra-division rivalries. Eliminating divisions means that there will be fewer playoff races by reducing marginal opportunities for postseason play. This makes for a less exciting September, with fewer fans acquiring an interest in October baseball. Therefore, I think division-less leagues are not likely.

 

Dave Berri is a sports economist and an associate professor of applied economics at Southern Utah University. He is a past president of the North American Association of Sports Economists, and is the general manager of the sports economics blog Wages of Wins.

One issue with two 15 team leagues is that interleague play may have to be a part of the entire season. Although teams get the occasional day off in the regular season – generally on Monday or Thursday –  teams play most days. But if you have 15 teams in each league, at any one time one team in each league must be playing a team in the other league. And that means at the end of the season teams will be competing for the playoffs in one league while playing against a team from the other league.

A solution to this problem is to expand to 32 teams. And that does make sense – at least from the perspective of the fans. Currently Milwaukee – with a metropolitan population of about 1.5 million – is the smallest city to host a baseball team. Portland, Sacramento, Orlando, San Antonio, San Jose, Columbus, Charlotte, Indianapolis, and Nashville are all a) larger than Milwaukee and b) already host a professional team in one of the other three major sports leagues (i.e. NBA, NFL, and NHL). So it appears there are at least two markets where baseball could expand.

Of course there is a reason these markets are left vacant. Robert Baade and Victor Matheson have noted that since 1991, 26 of the 30 Major League Baseball teams have had a new stadium built or an existing stadium extensively renovated. The cost of this construction has been $9.39 billion. Of this, $5.5 billion has come from taxpayers. How can baseball extract this amount of money from taxpayers? By keeping viable markets open and thus giving existing teams the ability to threaten to move if better facilities are not provided.

Beyond the inability to expand, let me briefly comment on a proposal that I think is linked to the idea of realignment. There is also a movement to expand baseball’s playoffs to five teams in each league. So if 15 teams play in each league, 33% of the each league would be in the post-season if the playoffs are expanded.

My sense is that an expanded playoffs is really motivated by a) a desire to increase baseball’s revenue and b) the desire to reduce the chances of the Yankees to win the World Series. Of these two motivations, I would guess that (b) is a bigger issue for Bud Selig. Selig has been campaigning for improved competitive balance in baseball for years (although competitive balance across the past few decades is much better than what we saw in the early 20th century). I suspect this campaign is really about limiting the ability of the Yankees to win the World Series.

One key issue about baseball’s playoffs is that outcomes are quite hard to predict. The teams in the post-season are not very different and baseball performance from week-to-week can vary tremendously (even for the best players). By expanding the playoffs, the odds of the Yankees navigating all the way through to another title get even longer. And for Selig – the former owner of the relatively small market Milwaukee Brewers — it would probably be a good thing if the Yankees’ path to yet another World Championship was made more difficult.

 

Raymond Sauer is a professor of economics at Clemson University and the founder of the Sports Economist blog.

Realignment in Major League Baseball is long overdue. This is par for the course though: MLB honors its past more than other pro sports leagues, often in costly ways. It took until 2002, for instance for the AL and NL merger of 1903 to be fully integrated into a single league for operational purposes. That’s almost a century, and to this day, the degree of integration on the playing field between the now misnamed “American League” and “National League” remains minimal. The NBA and NFL, both products of more recent mergers, long ago dispensed with vestiges of their pre-merger past. Ten years on from operational fusing of the two leagues, it is indeed time for the game on the field to adapt.

That the current design of MLB’s competition has serious flaws is elementary to the concepts of fairness and indeed sport itself. Sport is meant to be played under a single set of rules, yet the DH rule in the AL fundamentally changes the game. That one division, the NL Central, is 50% larger than another, the AL West, stretches credulity. Both of these flaws exist because MLB cares a lot about, and even trades on, tradition. The NL game is played under the traditional rule in which pitchers bat just like any other fielder. Having the majority of games played within one’s own “league” caters to the higher demand for games between traditional rivals.

But we’ve had almost forty years of play with the DH, are well into the second decade of interleague play, and fan interest remains as strong as ever. Cross-town and in-state rivalries cater to regional interests in interleague play. The DH rule was a successful innovation for the AL, helping to increase scoring and attendance at AL games. These limited innovations broke with tradition, and they have been quite successful.

I view current proposals for “realignment” as the next step in unifying the league. Moving the Astros to the AL to balance team numbers and introducing more interleague, rival-type games makes perfect sense (I’m a lifelong Astros fan, and it hurts to contemplate leaving the NL, but so be it). It is no longer important to restrict games in most periods to intra- or interleague. Commentators have argued that a more fully unified league schedule would require uniform treatment of the DH rule, which also makes sense. Although I’m a traditionalist myself, I am more interested in returning to a uniform rule on the DH than in eliminating it from the game. MLB may be hidebound by its traditions more than other pro sports leagues, but the game evolves. The league has become more integrated off the field in recent years, and realignment will do the same on the field of play.

 

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COMMENTS: 46


  1. Steve S. says:

    I want to touch on the point of the DH, which was mentioned by Raymond Sauer. Has any economist looked into the the unintended consequences of the DH being instituted in 1973? I’m curious if there are any socially linked forces that extend outside the MLB – possibly the way that Crime and the Roe v. Wade decision were linked according to Freakonomics. Or perhaps conversely, is the institution of the DH an output of something that preceded it?

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  2. TheSportsBanter.com says:

    *I still can’t believe the owners of teams in the NL Central ok’d a division that has six teams in it. It is a huge disadvantage to be competing with five other teams instead of four (or three in the case of the AL West) to secure a playoff berth.

    *I think the best way to realign would be making two leagues of 15.

    *Scheduling would be relatively simple (keeping 162-game season):
    -Each team would play every team in the opposite league four times per season (15 x 4 = 60 games)
    -Each team would play every team in its own league seven times (14 x 7 = 98 games)
    -Based on prior year’s standings, the top five, middle five, and bottom five teams in each league would play each other one extra time each. Example: if a team finished seventh in the AL in 2011, they would play the 6th, 8th, 9th, and 10th place teams once more during the 2012 season (4 x 1 = 4 games)

    *Major benefit: scheduling would be much more fair than the current system.

    *Potential issues: interleague games would be played every day of the season since there would be 15 teams in each league (not sure this is actually a big deal); if teams in the NL would now have to play 60 interleague games, rosters would almost certainly have to expand to allow them to carry an extra hitter (would the owners agree to this?)

    At the very least, it is worth discussing.

    More details here: http://thesportsbanter.blogspot.com/2011/07/some-independence-day-baseball-thoughts.html

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    • Joshua Northey says:

      You are missing the part where you replace the revenue from the 12 Yankee/Red Sox games you just eliminated, and similar for other rivalries.

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    • John Gruttadaurio says:

      SportsBanter:

      I like your thinking, but have to disagree with one point, and it will make things easier. Under today’s format, an AL teams plays absent the DL 1/2 of their interleague games, which of course is 9. Conversely, NL teams play 153 games without the DL. Yet, by and large, every team in MLB keeps their rosters at 13 hitters and 12 pitchers, except for special situations, interim moves due to injury prior to a team needed a fifth starter, etc…

      As such, I’m not seeing a particular need to expand NL rosters, or anybody’s.

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  3. Gary says:

    With respect to travel, the geographic footprint of the NHL is even worse. While the players play fewer games, I suspect hockey’s physical punishment is much closer to football on the spectrum than baseball. The NHL’s Vancouver Canucks brought in sleep consultants help the team cope with their travel schedule, the most challenging in the League.

    “Fatigue Science then runs the data through its software to advise the Canucks on the best approach to travel, practice, eating habits and even determining who should room with who in the hotel.”

    I’ve read elsewhere (but I can’t seem to find the article) that the NHL also works with the Canucks to accommodate as many scheduling requests as possible to reduce the effect of their travel schedule on their performance.

    There’s a good article on NHL.com here: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=564986

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  4. Snortwood says:

    I agree with moving the Astros to the AL West, and while you’re at it go ahead and swap the O’s and the Rays too, engendering more natural geographical (DC-Baltimore; Atlanta-Tampa Bay) rivalries.

    My suggestion is MLB shorten the season by (1) scheduling a split doubleheader every Saturday from Memorial Day through the All-Star Sunday for what should be 7 weekends. That will reduce the length of the season by one week. Because split doubleheaders requires the agreement of the players, negotiate something back to the players such as (2) expand the rosters for those 7 weeks (or maybe just the weekends?) to 26 players, and give all pre-arbitration players on the roster credit for double the service time during those 7 weeks.

    Shortening the season by one week would enable another (brief!) round of playoffs without routinely forcing some more northern city (Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, Philly, NY, Boston) without a domed stadium to have to host games in November, when baseball is out of season.

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  5. John W says:

    It’s too long to post here, but about a month ago, I outlined a plan which would be radical, but it would solve most of the problems with the existing MLB structure. I summarized it again today for the benefit of anyone here who wants to give it a read.

    http://jfwiii.net/2011/08/01/mlb-realignment-on-freakonomics/

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  6. Vincent says:

    As a Washington Nationals fan, I say no, no, no to Mr. Zimbalist’s suggestion they switch leagues and divisions with Tampa Bay. Having both Washington and Baltimore in the AL was what doomed the Senators in the first place, more so the second expansion version (now the Rangers) than the initial franchise (now the Twins). In fact, had MLB operated 50 years ago the way it does now — with unified planning rather than individual “league matters” — Washington probably would have been put as an NL expansion partner to New York, with Houston joining Los Angeles in the AL. You need both leagues at opposite ends of the B-W Parkway.

    Also, as a Nats fan, let Baltimore worry about the two evil empires (original NY and the new version from New England). We have enough Yanks and Bosox fans polluting D.C.; we don’t need any more, thank you.

    Oh, and TheSportsBanter’s plan won’t work, because you’ll be swamped with two-game series, a traveling and logistical nightmare. The best approach is 72 intradivision games (18 x 4), 60 games vs. other divisions of your league (6 x 10) and 30 interleague games (6 games vs. traditional rival, 12 games, 3 x 4, vs. remaining teams of “mirror” division, and 12 games, 3 x 4, vs. one of the other two divisions, rotating pairings over a 10-year period).

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    • sometimes says:

      >>>Also, as a Nats fan, let Baltimore worry about the two evil empires (original NY and the new version from New England). <<<

      Angelos is quite capable of sabotaging the team without the twin empires.

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  7. George says:

    I propose getting rid of the two leagues and replacing them with three ten team divisions. The leagues could be kept as historical artifacts for all star game selections. The divisions:
    MLB East – Atlanta, Boston, Florida, NY Mets, NY Yankees, Philadelphia, Tampa, Toronto, Washington
    MLB Central – Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, St. Louis
    MLB West – Arizona, Colorado, Houston, LA Dodgers, LA Angels, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Texas

    Each team would play 11 or 12 games against each team in its division. They would play a three game series against the other 20 teams, one year at home, next away. So every team would play in every city at least every other year,

    Each of the division winners makes the playoffs. The five teams with the next best records would also make it – regardless of division. So a strong division that racks up lots of wins against weaker divisions could send as many as six teams to the playoffs.

    Added benefits – geographic proximity may increase attendance as fans travel to see their teams road games. Inter-league play is actually meaningful and fair.

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    • Ray says:

      The lack of balance in the schedule for this plan would mean that the divisions with the most doormats would send more teams to the play-offs. A division with five play-off worthy teams would bleed too many losses for the top teams intradivision.

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  8. Josh says:

    An alternative:

    1. Eliminate divisions. Two fifteen team leagues.
    2. Bottom seven teams in each league get relegated to a single 14 team “junior” league. I’m a Cubs fan so this hurts.
    3. I’d personally like to see teams play only within their league, eliminating intraleague, which would mean each plays the others 22 times in a 154 game season. If you want intraleague, make it 18 times and leave 3/4 games against each team in the other league.
    4. No playoffs; top finisher in each league goes to World Series.
    5. Bottom two teams in each league play in the Relegation Series, the loser being sent down and the champion and runner up of the Junior league moving up.

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  9. Josh says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  10. Alex says:

    The one thing I can’t accept is the 3-game wildcard playoff. First to 2 wins is an absurdly low amount for baseball (considering outcomes in baseball are more random than any other professional sport). As a comparison, a 3 game playoff in baseball will determine the “truly” better team less often than a 1 game playoff in basketball or football.

    In other words, the added wild card game would be just another chance for a worse team to win a series. In many ways the conspiratorial Dave Berri has it right. But the prejudice is not only against the Yankees, but against any team that is actually, you know, good.

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    • Steve S. says:

      Agreed, a three game wildcard playoff is ridiculous. To take it a step further: the current 5-7-7 playoff system, in the words of Billy Beane, “are a crap shoot”. Whats the point of having a 162 game season if it can be thrown away with hypothetical two game skid in October?

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  11. sometimes says:

    Another Alternative!

    * 2 Leagues, 2 divisions per league

    * No more interleague play

    * More moderate imbalanced schedule:
    In 14 team AL, play your divisional rivals 14 times, other division 11 times (1 divisional rival gets 15 games instead of 14)
    In 16 team NL, play your divisional rivals 13 times, other division 9 times (1 divisional rival gets 12 games instead of 13)

    * 2 wild cards per league

    I think this is a pretty simple proposal which makes it possible for 3 teams in one division to make the playoffs (adding hope for the Jays and Rays). The problem of having a six team NL Central and a 4 team AL West is eliminated. This also has an element of an unbalanced schedule, but not to a ridiculous degree like it is now, some teams only play 8 games against teams in the same league while 18 against divisional foes, even though they may be competing for the wild card against the other team.

    As long as there exist the non sensical “look at the attendance figures!” argument, than there will always be sentiment for it. Plus it keeps the playoff system the way it is, so there is no additional round for the owners to divy up. Maybe MLB should add 2 more rounds, twice the profit!

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  12. Lee says:

    The suggestion by sometimes is something I’ve been a proponent of ever since this nonsense about eliminating divisions came up in the first place. Two divisions in each league is hands down the simplest, least disruptive way to create more balance within leagues without destroying the overall structure of the leagues.

    The resulting imbalance by keeping 16 teams in the NL and 14 teams in the AL could be fixed over time. As Dave Berri suggested, two teams could be added, expanding the league to 32 teams. Another option would be to eliminate two struggling franchises by merging them with other small market teams, shrinking the league to 28 teams.

    Keeping the current playoff format with 8 teams is ideal. A 10 team playoff field (really anything that isn’t a power of 2) would be a disaster for baseball. As Alex pointed out, a best of 3 series is an awful idea. Added to this, baseball players, especially pitchers, rely on rhythm in ways that other athletes do not. Forcing certain teams to play while others have a “bye”—even if only for a couple days—results in a significant problem: is extra rest is an advantage or a disadvantage?

    Two leagues, four division champions, four wildcards. You still get eight teams in the playoffs, but a better representation of the best eight teams.

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  13. David Clayton says:

    I know he’s not a professional economist, but you really should have asked Tom Boswell.

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  14. Andrew says:

    I’m very surprised that so many ‘sports economists’ seem to think just plopping the Astros in the AL West solves the re-alignment problem.

    Call me crazy, but I think that the ‘natural rivalries’ (CWS vs. CHC, NYY vs. NYM, KC vs. STL, LAA vs. LAD, TB vs. FL, OAK vs. SF, BAL vs. WAS, TEX vs. HOU and even CLE vs. CIN) that come up during interleague play are way more fun for fans than the in-league rivalries that play out all season.

    It seems forced to all of a sudden declare that HOU vs. TEX is now a season-long rivalry. While I’m originally from Boston, I have lived in DC for 10+ years and love having the Nationals square off against the much-hated Orioles a couple times a season. But I wouldn’t want it to become like BOS vs. NYY, where you honestly get sick of seeing the other team. I would imagine that people in Texas have a similar feeling… fun a few times a year, but not something to be forced upon you.

    My thought for re-alignment is this:

    HOU moves from NL Central to NL West.
    ARI moves from NL West to AL West.

    This would address several issues; both leagues have 3 divisions of 5 teams, balancing the leagues; both Texas teams are now in Western divisions, but maintain their league affiliation, keeping the interleague rivalry intact.

    As for why ARI is the NL team to move to the AL, here’s my thinking:

    1) The LAD, current issues aside, are an institution in the NL and will never leave. It also keeps the LAD vs. LAA interleague rivalry intact.

    2) SF is another NL institution, and the SF vs. OAK interleague rivalry also stays intact.

    3) COL cannot move to the AL, because it would make games there even more laughable, as the AL has more potent offense with the DH rule.

    4) Similarly, SD cannot move to the AL, though for exact opposite reason. Petco is where homers go to die.

    5)Finally, ARI, despite a WS Championship, is one of the two youngest teams in the MLB, so there are fewer long-standing ‘traditionalists’ that would fight the switch.

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    • Bagger says:

      Best alignment idea. Keeps both AL and NL represented in Texas and Florida which are long term growth markets.

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    • travis says:

      agreed that this suggestion appears to make the most sense… primarily because of #5– less tradition to wreck.

      though i’m not convinced realignment is all that necessary. quirkiness due to traditionalism is one of the few things that make baseball somewhat interesting.

      on that note, expanding the DH across both leagues is a far more misguided “fix.” forget purism, the DH dilutes the importance of strategy, the other thing that makes baseball somewhat interesting (in NL games anyway).

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  15. The Voice of Reason says:

    The MLB says that they like tradition, so I would think that moving to a divisionless 2-league system would be the ultimate return to tradition, back when it was just 2 leagues of 8 teams each. As time went on, they went to more of a divided system, with it ultimately resulting in the 6 division system that we have now. And another return to tradition that I would see would be 154 games. It would allow the season to end earlier, or allow for more off days. It seems strange to practically play the game every day during the season, but then have days off at a time during the playoffs allowing teams to switch to a 3-man rotation.

    And I don’t want to see NL Central teams complaining. I would rather play in a division with 10 small to mid-market teams than in a division with the Yankees, Red Sox, and now the Rays are good now too.

    And I think that anybody who suggests that the 5 team play-off system benefits the Yankees has a few screw loose. That kind of a system would require a play-in game or series from the #4 and #5 seeds, essentially giving the #1 seed an easy series. While the Yankees are not always a #1 seed, they’re certainly a #1 seed more than they are a #4 or #5 seed. If you really want to hurt the Yankees, make 8 teams get in. But then if you do that you don’t even really need to bother with the regular season, and it will be no better than the NBA or NHL

    I’m surprised that everybody is ignoring the elephant in the room though. We don’t need a salary cap, we don’t need expanded play-offs, we just need to get rid of the small market teams, and add more teams in the North East. Why do we have 2 teams in Florida? Why do we have 2 teams in Missouri? Why are there only 3 teams in the most profitable area in the country, and they’re able to hog all of that fanbase? Come on, get creative, move a team to North Jersey, Brooklyn, Upstate New York, Connecticut, etc. Heck, why not add a new team to the Bronx, and make them share Yankee stadium with the Yankees, new do it with the Jets/Giants.

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  16. Ismael R. says:

    I’m conflicted between moving the Astros to the nl west and moving them to the al. See, i’m an astros fan, but i live in dallas. So now I have to choose between what’s reasonable and seeing my favorite team consistently. Still, i think andrew’s plan is by far the best suggested.

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  17. chris bracco says:

    instead of having 162 games have 22 series, best of 7 (154) decide playoff spots, have the wild card still be decided by overall wins so that games played after a series has been decided are still competitive. this would divide games into 3 categories games 1-2 and 5-7, in which the series has already been decided(least desirable). Games 3-5 (average), and games 6-7 (most desirable). Games would maximize their potential for revenue from the three different sources ( attendance, regional ratings, national ratings) game 1-2 concentrate on attendance (tv blackout) increasing scarcity for regional and nationally televised games. games 3-5 concentrate on regional viewers with additional attendance revenue, generating scarcity for nationally televised games, 6-7 concentrate on national ratings with additional revenue from attendance and regional revenues.

    statistically 75% of series would go to a game 6 (Saturday night nationally broadcasted game) and 37.5% would go to a game 7(Sunday night nationally broadcasted game) mlb fans generally have about 3 teams that they root for (for various reasons), their home team (favorite) and 2 less important teams that they kinda like ( for me the braves are my home and favorite team and my other two are the red sox and Chicago cubs because they have such a rich tradition and they play in great historic ballparks) if 28 teams play each week then on average 20 or 22 teams will have a game 6 ( probably 2 out of my favorite 3) and 10 maybe 12 teams will have a game 7 ( 1 out of my 3). 96% of all weekends i would have at least one team i like be playing in a game 6 and 75% would have at least 1 team playing in a game 7, this regularity would create a ritual of watching baseball every saturday night, and then probably watching a game on sunday night. A large portion of each NFL’s games viewership comes from people who dont even root for that team but enjoy the sport of football and like to see the drama of an important game) having a game 7 transforms a single game from being 1/162 (meaningless) to 1/22 (could decide the season)

    having playoff spots decided by series wins instead of game wins would bring out drama and passion in the mlb and increase revenue, especially national revenue which like the NFL would be split between all the teams, giving small market teams some added revenue and making the league more competitive and fair. It would do all this while preserving the history of a long season ( which creates affordable ticket prices and a great source for statistics) and wouldn’t destroy the ability to compare today’s player to players in the past

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  18. Aaron says:

    AL
    East
    Bos
    Ny
    Ny
    Pitt
    Phil

    SE
    Atl
    Fl
    Bal
    Wash
    TB

    Mideast
    Chi
    Chi
    Clev
    Cin
    Tor

    Nl
    Midwest
    Det
    Minn
    Mil
    Stl
    KC

    SW
    Ariz
    Col
    Tex
    Hou
    SD

    Pac
    Oak
    SF
    La
    La
    Sea

    Reg season from april 1-aug 31. 65% div games 20% intraleague, 15% interleague
    Playoffs: top 8 from each league put in pool and seeded 1-16, can play a team within ur div or league at anypoint
    DH in both leagues, salary minimums

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  19. bucknut says:

    I say get rid of the AL / NL and form 5 6-time divisions based on geography. Teams within each division play each other 18 times (9 home-away) for a total of 90 games. Two options for the inter-division games. Play 3 teams in each divsion 6 times (3 home-away) or play every team in the other divisions 3 times without a visit to the other’s ballpark. Either way gets you to 72 games for a grand total of 162. 10 teams make the post-season: 5 division winners and 5 wildcards

    Atlantic Boston, NY Yankees, NY Mets, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington
    Pacific Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, LA Angels, LA Dodgers, San Diego
    Great Lakes Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee
    South Atlanta, Florida, Tampa Bay, Houston, Texas, Arizona
    Rivers Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City, Minnesota, Colorado

    As of the date of this comment, the River Division is the weakest with a 0.463 winning percentage followed closely by the Pacific (0.473) but every other division is above 0.500

    Just sayin

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  20. Mike Miller says:

    Take a look at my proposal and let me know what you think. Personally, I think it’s the best one out there without moving a team from the NL to the AL. http://coldbeerandsports.blogspot.com/2011/06/baseball-realignment.html

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  21. RS says:

    The commentary here is stupid. Moving the Astros does not make perfect sense. And any person who says “I am an Astros fan but I agree we should move them team” is not an Astros fan. This team has spent its ENTIRE existence in the NL. It’s rivalries are glorious. The NL plays a different kind of baseball that every Astros fan has grown up watching – pinch hitters, double-switches, pitches who bat. Moving us to the AL is worse than moving the team out of Houston.

    Oh and thanks for making us have to watch every single division road game on Pacific time, much appreciated.

    You know who can move ? [Insert your stupid team here] can move from the NL. That’s who. It makes perfect sense to me, because I don’t give a crap about [Insert your stupid team here], or its rivalries, or its fanbase, or its traditions. Oh, you don’t like the idea because it’s your stupid team? Then welcome to how real Astros fans feel. We should just close down the club and go without baseball if we’re going to be tossed out of the NL.

    Also we are not natural rivals of the Rangers. We only started playing them recently, and we don’t really care about them one way or another. If that’s your argument that is it politically and geographically feasible, then move the Reds to AL so they can play their “natural rival” the Indians. See? Doesn’t make any sense. And I am sure the Reds would be pissed. Or move the Marlins to the AL and they can play the Rays. Whoop-dee-doo.

    And if the divisional structure is the impediment – get rid of it. The Astros have spent FIFTY years in the NL. The Diamondbacks and the Marlins are about 15 years old. Last in, first out.

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  22. Kaiser says:

    Either move the brewers back to the al central and move kc to the al west or move the phillies to the al east the blue jays to the al central and kc to the west with Pittsburgh taking the phillies spot in the nl east.

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  23. Kaiser says:

    Or simply move the pirates to the al central and kc to the al west. Either way one of the Pennsylvania teams needs to go to the al or move the brewers back to the al.

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  24. FWBrodie says:

    Say you have 14 of the 15 teams playing each other every day, that means you have a 15 day rotation between required days off (give or take a few series related limitations). Given a day off every 15 days, teams could play 162 games in 174 days. Last year the Mariners played 162 games in 178 days. That doesn’t even factor in that every team could potentially be playing during normal interleague play which would lower that number further. I’m sure there are several complications unforeseen by me do to the series format, but it doesn’t seem like anything would need to change in terms of # of interleague games or length of schedule. The old Mondays and Thursdays being common days off is the only required change I see.

    Even if you had to have one interleague series happening at all times, that only amounts to 1 of every 15 games (6.7%) being interleague. That adds up to 11 games out of 162.

    Can someone explain to me what I’m missing with this path of logic? Is the series factor much larger than I think it is?

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  25. Peter Gaposchkin says:

    We should have five teams in each division. Move the Pittsburgh Pirates to the AL Central division and the Kansas City Royals to the AL West division. This would give Pennsylvania one team in each league (at present Pennsylvania is the only team with more than one team in one league and none in the other). Each team would play 13 games with each team within its division (52 intra division games), 8 games with each team in other divisions within its league (80 inter division games), and 2 games with each team in the other league (30 inter league games), so each team would still play 162 games.
    I do not think we should increase the number of MLB teams, and it might be expedient to decrease the number of teams to 28, 14 teams in each league. We could merge the two Florida teams so the contracts of all players and coaches on Florida teams would be taken by the Tampa Bay team, which would play home games in the Florida city with the most attendance. Similarly, the Dodgers could be merged with the Angels, so that all contracts of Dodger players and coaches would be absorbed by the Angels. There would be 14 teams in each league, with two divisions, seven teams in each division. The first round of the playoffs would be between the second place team in one division and the first place team in the other division. This wold solve some of the problems of teams that have low attendance. It is better to merge Los Angeles teams than Bay Area teams because Northern and Southern California would have two teams each rather than only one team in Northern California and three in Southern California.
    Peter Gaposchkin

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  26. Bruce Winston says:

    . There has been a lot of talk about realignment in MLB and I would like to give you my proposal. First of all I am a devout Cardinal fan and hate the DH. I know we differ on this subject, I just feel that the National League is a better brand of baseball. While I don’t really enjoy watching pitchers bat or try to run bases, I feel that the decisions that the manager have to make in close games, whether to pinch hit or leave pitcher in would be lost, I also don’t really enjoy four hour games either. That being said, I would like to see the DH done away with, but I don’t think that is going to happen. I would certainly hate to see the DH used all the time. OK enough on that subject, here’s my proposal:

    American League National League

    West Central East West Central East
    LA Kansas City New York LA St Louis New York
    Oakland Chicago Baltimore SF Chicago Washington
    Texas Minnesota Tampa Bay Houston Milwaukee Florida
    Seattle Detroit Boston Colorado Pittsburgh Philly
    Arizona Cleveland Toronto San Diego Cincy Atlanta

    Each team would play 16 games within their division 16 X 4 = 64
    Each team would play 8 games with other league teams 8 x 10 = 80
    Each team would play 3 games with teams in other league
    by division which would change each year ie E vs. E one year
    then E vs W next year, etc 3 X 5 = 15
    Each team would play 3 games each year against their natural
    Geographic rival as I have listed them in the divisions: St Louis
    Vs. KC LA vs. LA etc this would alternate home sites each year, and
    the year West was playing West, etc their would be home and home 3 X 1 = 3
    Total 162

    Most of the teams have a natural geo rival except Atlanta and Toronto if Toronto would move to say Carolina it would be nearly perfect.

    OK bear with me I’m not done. There would be 270 interleague games under this scenario, and since league would now have an uneven amount of teams there would have to be interleague play all year with at least two teams. Ok there are roughly 26 weeks in a season, let’s say there were two three games interleague games per week, so 6 x 26 = 156, this would leave 114 games. During the two weeks prior to the all-star game you could easily get these games played where you would have every game an interleague game each night.

    This formula would make everyone in each division play the same teams, with the exception of the three games against their geographic rival.

    I would definitely eliminate the winner of the all star game having the home field advantage in the WS; the team with the best record should have home field advantage like football.
    I would expand playoffs to include two wild card teams and they would play one game to decide who went on.

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  27. Bud's The Problem says:

    Why can’t Bud move his FORMER AL team Milwaukee Brewers to the AL West & leave Houston alone?

    After all, other locations have teams in each league: Dodgers (NL)/Angels (AL); Giants (NL)/A’s (AL); Mets (NL)/Yankees (AL); Marlins (NL)/Rays (AL).

    Get it, Bud? YOUR move to the NL created this problem & you’re looking for somebody else to fix it!

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  28. Robert H. says:

    What is wrong with 16 NL franchises and 14 AL franchises? I say nothing. MLB existed from 1977 to 1992 with 12 NL and 14 AL teams. I do not think revenue or popularity suffered. Who says you have to have 15 teams in each league. Is someone having an “Adrian Monk moment?”

    What is wrong with 5 NL West teams, 5 NL East teams, and 6 NL Central teams? Again I say nothing. Looks like a good attempt to align per geographic location and time zone. No it is not perfect but you make your best effort with what you have, right?

    Finally, why not have the Arizona Diamondbacks flip to the AL and the Texas Rangers flip to the NL? I think this makes more sense geographically. If you make this move you could then have the four AL teams and 4 NL teams engage in interleague play. The other 22 teams could continue schedule without it. The fans out west could enjoy baseball in their time zone or Rocky Mountain time, one zone away. Natural rivalries would develop. Finally travel miles for these teams would reduce.

    With respect to adding an additional wild card team in both leagues then what is the 162 game regular season worth?

    What do you think?

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  29. Sonny says:

    They should expand to 32 teams. There is a lack of talent in the pitching department but not in hitting and bad pitching would make it more exciting. Also there are tons of great players in double A and Triple A that become wasted talent

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  30. Bob says:

    I would create four four team divions as follows:
    NL/East
    New York Mets
    Philadelphia
    Washington
    Miami

    NL/Midwest
    Pittsburgh
    Cincinnati
    Chicago Cubs
    Milwaukee

    NL/South
    St.Louis
    Houston
    Atlanta
    New Team (e.g. Nashville)

    NL/West
    San Francisco
    Los Angeles Dodgers
    San Diego
    Arizona

    AL/East
    Boston
    New York Yankees
    Baltimore
    Tampa Bay

    AL/Midwest
    Toronto
    Cleveland
    Detroit
    Chicago White Sox

    AL/Central
    Dallas
    Kansas City
    Colorado
    Minnesota

    AL/West
    Seattle
    Oakland
    Los Angeles Angels
    New Team (e.g. Portland)

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  31. Bob says:

    I would eliminate the wild card teams since the Cardinals, who were a wild card team last year and this year, won the World Series last year and might win it this year dispite the fact that the did not win a division in either year. Instead I would have a three round playoff series of seven games each division series, league series and world series which is a fairer way to select a champion.

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    • Hector Abad says:

      they wont eliminate wildcard

      1. Wildcard leaves teams that are not going to win their division something to play for

      2. wildcard teams sometimes start their season with injuries or make a big trade mid-season to make a run at the playoffs ( The cardinals are an excellent example of that. Last year pujols was injured for about a month)

      3. wildcard teams make the MLB more $$$ … It’s all about the $$$

      4. If you take out the wildcard, you have 3 divisions and your first round would be two 7 game series with 2 teams waiting about 2 weeks to play in the Championship Series, that is too much time and would hurt the teams with the better records

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  32. Hector Abad says:

    What MLB needs to do is add two teams, for a total of 32 teams … Make 4 divisions of 4 teams, just like in the NFL … Make every series 3 games… Division teams play each other 4 series two at home and two on the road … You play every team in your league a home and an away series … Even though I don’t particularly like inter-league, you can have inter-league and play home and away series against a division on the opposing league … Without inter-league you have a grand total of 108 games, you can still start the season at the begining of April and end it sooner and you still have time to space the series out better and have time to make up rain delays because having a team play 13 games in 10 days in September while they are in a playoff race is ridiculous… If you want the inter-league it is still 144 games, 18 less than the current schedule, but I think that the MLB season drags too much so 108 is a better number for me… You can have four division winners and two wildcard teams and make the playoffs like football, the two best division winner records don’t play in the wildcard round, and the two wildcard teams play a 5 or 3 game series against the two division winners with the lesser records, then you have the division round 5 game series against the top two teams, then the league championship series of 7 games, and the W.S of 7 games

    Now we can start the season the first weekend of April

    All-Star weekend can be All-Star weekend again in the middle of June or for July 4th
    (Or if you want to make it as accurate as possible you can leave it for the weekend after the season ends and start the playoffs the Monday after the All-Star game that way the Divisional round will start the weekend after the All-Star game… This way the All-Stars are the best players of the CURRENT year, and make the All-Star game Saturday)

    The season would wind down at the beginning of August(108) or Beginning of September (144)

    The Wildcard round will start from 2 days after the season ends
    (Or the Monday after the season ends)

    The Division round can start 2 days after the Wildcard series are scheduled to end
    (Winning the series faster gives you the chance to rest your starting pitchers, but also makes the sense of urgency stay with you because you want to have your best pitcher ready to start Game 1 of the next series also gives the 2 best records in each League a week to rest injuries and rest starters, because you work hard all year to get the best record in the league)

    The League Championship series starts 2 days after the Division series is scheduled to end
    (Same reason as Division series)

    World Series starts 5 days after the LCS
    (This gives both teams time to get #1 Pitcher ready for Game 1 because #1 Vs. #1 is what baseball is all about)

    All this, and even with inter-league, the World Series will still end while the current system is in the division series
    (By the way, in the northeast it is too cold for baseball in October anyway so we need to shorten the season and start the playoffs earlier)

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  33. NL Fan says:

    Bob says:
    October 15, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I would create four four team divions as follows:
    NL/East
    New York Mets
    Philadelphia
    Washington
    Miami

    NL/South
    St.Louis
    Houston
    Atlanta
    New Team (e.g. Nashville)

    Bob, why would you put Miami in with the NE teams instead of grouping them with Atlanta? Then you could put the new team or St. Louis in with the NE.

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  34. Donald Sartain says:

    REORGANIZE MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL:

    #1 End DH Rule. In practice that rule elevates the Pitcher above all the other Positions on the Field. Thus it is no longer a ‘team’ sport. As well, Pitchers prefer to bat overwhelmingly, and the fans enjoy seeing the managers preform switches during the game.

    #2 Combine American & National Leagues into one. The new ‘American National League’ (combine – overlay – redesign the logos into one).

    #3 The American National League Champion every year would compete in a Real World Series against the Champions from an Asian National League, Latin National League, European National League, etc.. (FIFA Soccer is making Big Money with their Club-World-Cup Playoffs and international friendly matches every year).

    #4 Our All-Star game would rotate from city to city through all the major league towns in order (not as to who has the newest stadium), starting with the cities where it has been absent longest, i.e. New York Mets and so on, and alternating North to South. The players leading in Stats in every category, after adding the previous season’s 2nd half to the new season’s 1st half will be the All-Stars, those receiving the highest marks, those representing the Northern Cities and those of the Southern Cities, based on latitude of the Stadiums. (throwback to the Civil War, when baseball was a momentary release for troops & citizens of the North & South). The highest finishing team of the previous season, of the north and of the south, will provide the manager and coaching staff. (Eventually there may be a World All-Star Game)

    #5 The sub division of the ‘American National League’(ANL) will be Divisions based and kept strictly on the longitude of the various Stadiums. No more than six teams in a division. Adding divisions as expansion occurs, and keeping teams in divisions east to west, and with team moves. Teams will play those within their division slightly more than all others. A Compensation formula will exist from the League for teams that have longer travel within their divisions, such as Colorado would have over the Northeast Division teams.

    Pacific Div. = SF Giants, SE Mariners, OA Athletics, LA Dodgers, LA Angles, SD Padres.

    Western Div. = AZ DiamonBs, CO Rockies, TE Rangers, HO Astros, KC Royals, MN Twins.

    Central Div. = SL Cardinals, ML Brewers, CH Cubs, CH White Sox, CI Reds, AT Braves.

    Eastern Div. = DE Tigers, TB Rays, CL Indians, MA Marlins, PI Pirates, TO BlueJays.

    Northeast Div. = WA Nationals, BA Orioles, PH Phillies, NY Yankees, NY Mets, BO Red Sox.

    #6 With five division there are three wildcard slots, etc..

    #7 Would also like to see: go to non-splintering bat (for public & player safety) of metal or other substance that would be of equal weight of the ash/maple woods and of the same resonance, thus producing the same distance/force hit with a same swing.

    #8 Salary Caps and effective parity between teams!

    #9 Due for Expansion: Montreal – Vancouver – Portland – Las Vegas

    (no Latin Am. cities, for reason previously noted in #3)

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  35. danny cady says:

    in a 4 league scenario adding 2 teams each league with 8 teams in 2 conference grouping North and South in the East conference and the Central and Pacific league’s in the west conference,

    Eastern Conference

    Northern League

    1.Boston Red Sox
    2.New York Yankees
    3.Philadelphia Phillies
    4.Toronto Blue Jays
    5.Detroit Tigers
    6.Cleveland Indians
    7.Pittsburgh Pirates
    8.Chicago White Sox

    Southern League

    1.New York Mets
    2.Baltimore Orioles
    3.Washington Nationals
    4.Cincinnati Reds
    5.Charlotte*
    6.Atlanta Braves
    7.Tampa Rays
    8.Miami Marlins

    Western Conference

    Central League

    1.Minnesota Twins
    2.Milwaukee Brewers
    3.Chicago Cubs
    4.Saint Louis Cardinals
    5.Kansas City Royals
    6.Colorado Rockies
    7.Texas Rangers
    8.Houston Astros

    Pacific League

    1.Vancouver*
    2. Seattle Mariners
    3.Oakland A’s
    4.San Francisco Giants
    5.Los Angeles Dodgers
    6.Los Angeles Angeles
    7.San Diego Padres
    8.Arizona Dimondbacks

    This lineup would drastically cut down on travel cost with all season games played in conference and a majority of games to be played in League and a 60-40 cross league schedule

    With 2 expansion teams 1 in the South East and another in the Pacific Coast of Canada !

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