Saturday, September 10, 2011

Realignment #2 - My favorite

A few weeks ago I wrote about realignment and listed just one idea.  I've been thinking about it for a while and I think I've come up with a great idea for realignment.  I think it's far better than all others I've encountered.  This is because it solves many of the problems with the current alignment and baseball schedule, and also it creates some new and much needed rivalries and is sure to increase attendance and revenue.  It's a win-win-win situation I believe.

First I'd like to list problems with the current alignment and schedule:

  • Each league has a different number of teams.  But this is because to have an odd number of teams in each league would require an interleague series every day of the season.
  • Divisions have different numbers of teams, either 4 (AL West), 6 (NL Central) or 5 (all other divisions).  An AL West team has a 50% greater statistical chance of winning the World Series than an NL Central team simply by being in a 4 team division.
  • Unbalanced numbers of teams in each division make it so that teams play each other different numbers of times than other teams.  Because of this, weird adjustments need to be made to make a total of 162 games.  Examples are:  often when the Giants and Cardinals play their 6 games against each other, they are split so that 4 games are played in one park and 2 in the other.
  • Intra-divisional play results in some teams playing 18 games against each other, some others 19 and even others 20.  Inter-division play results in 6, 7 or 9 games against other teams.  There is no uniformity, balance or symmetry.  The schedule playing field isn't really level. 
  • Because of an unbalanced number of teams in each division, when two divisions play each other in interleague play, every team in one division doesn't play all teams in the other.  Sometimes a team plays only 3 or 4 of the 5 teams, etc.  This also creates odd matchups.  The A's this year (AL West) played the NL East.  They played only 3 teams - Mets, Phillies and Marlins - but not the Braves or Nationals, but to make up space to total 162 they also played the D-Backs (NL West).  Go figure.
  • Interleague play was designed so that teams in the other league will get to see the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs etc.  Yet after 15 years of interleague, the Cubs finally visited Fenway for the first time.  The last time the NL West played the AL East, the Giants completely missed the Yankees, playing them neither at home nor on the road.
  • Interleague metro and intra-state "rivalry" games create an unlevel playing field among teams competing for the same division title.  As an example, the Mets and Marlins are both in the NL East.  For over a decade, the Marlins got to play six games against the hapless expansion Rays while the Mets had to play six games against a historic dynasty Yankee team.  That's a good two to three game swing in the standings just because of your schedule.  Hardly fair.
  • Also, far too many games are played in different time zones.  West coast fans are still at work when East coast night games start, and East coast fans are in bed when West coast night games start.  Airline travel is greater with the current schedule as there are fewer groupings of teams that make sense to economize.
  • There are more problems that I won't go into, but the totality of them warrants a re-thinking of alignment.  Which brings me to my proposed solution:

Here's my solution for all this nonsense.  It works out beautifully and symmetrically, using traditional baseball numbers, creates new rivalries and enhances existing geographic rivalries.

First, I'm going to start with the idea proposed earlier this year with the Houston Astros going to the American League West to even every division at five teams.  I'll put them in with Seattle, Oakland, Anaheim and Texas.  Other than that I'm going to keep the existing divisions in tact.  BUT...

What is going to be different is in how I organize the divisions into leagues.  Instead of two leagues with three divisions in each league, I'm going to invert this to result in three leagues of ten teams each with two divisions of five teams in each league.  I'm going to invert the names also.  The three leagues would be called Western League, Central League and Eastern League.  In each league there would be an American Division and a National division.  The beauty of this is that it concentrates games within regions rather than being spread out over the country.  And it is all perfectly symmetrical.

Here's a breakdown of the leagues and divisions:


American Div.   American Div.   American Div.

LA Angels       Cleveland       Baltimore
Oakland         Detroit         Boston
Seattle         Chi. White Sox  NY Yankees
Houston         Kansas City     Tampa Bay
Texas           Minnesota       Toronto

National Div.   National Div.   National Div.

Arizona         Chicago Cubs    Atlanta
Colorado        Milwaukee       Philadelphia
San Diego       St. Louis       Washington
Los Angeles     Pittsburgh      New York Mets
San Francisco   Cincinnati      Florida

Now for the math.  In each division, each team would play the other four teams in that division a total of 18 times.  This is a traditional number dating back to 10- and 12-team leagues after expansion in 1961-62 and 1969.  So, 18 games x four other teams = 72 intra-division games.  Now, each team in a division will play each team in the other division in that league a total of 12 times.  Another traditional number of games played against teams in the other division that came along with the 12-team leagues.  So, 12 games x five other teams = 60 intra-division games.  This totals 132 games, and when subtracted from 162 leaves 30 games.  There would still be "interleague" play.  Each division would play one of the other four divisions not in their league per year, rotating each year for four years.  With 30 games to play against 5 teams in the other league's division, each team will play the other team six times, three home and three road!  So every team will play every other team home and away every four years, guaranteed!

In short, 18 games against teams in your own division, 12 games against teams in the other division in your league, and 6 games against the teams in an interleague division on a four year rotation.  Total: 162.

Now to spell out some great advantages.  Since each league is constructed regionally instead of spread out across the country, divisions in that league contain natural rivalries.  All five metro area rivalries (NY, LA, Chicago, San Fran and DC/Baltimore) and all four intra-state rivalries (TX, FL, OH and MO) will have those teams playing at least 12 games against each other per year, with Texas and Houston playing 18 since they're now in the same division.  Imagine the Cubs and Sox playing 12 games against each other every year, or the Yankees and Mets, or the Giants and A's, or the Reds and Indians.  Not only is this a great advantage, but other regional rivalries will be created as well.  Just imagine the Phillies and Red Sox playing 12 games every year.  Or the Yankees and Braves.  Or the Mets and Red Sox.  Or the Cards and White Sox.  Not only will the Brewers play 18 games against the Cubs every year, they'll also play 12 games against the White Sox.  The A's and Dodgers, Giants and Angels.

Also, since leagues are arranged regionally, long flights to the opposite coast will only happen once every two years during the "interleague" play against those divisions.

Now a question is raised about the All-Star game.  With three leagues, how will that be arranged?  Well, the traditional league format could be kept in tact by choosing players from the three American divisions combined to play against players from the three National divisions combined.  The game will retain an "American vs. National" flavor.  And post-season play could be similar.  Each division would advance its winner to the playoffs with a wild-card with the best second place record of the three American divisions and another from the three National divisions.  National division teams could play off against each other and so could American division teams.  The World Series then could be a matchup of an American division team and a National division team, with each year rotating for home field advantage.

Overall I think this realignment idea would improve baseball to a good degree.  I think I'll push for it to become more popular.  Maybe write the commish?  I'd love to get any feedback on this idea, so if you have any, please comment.


  1. do the astros improve the AL West? since that is not a criteria - i like it too. Of course, we could go completely non-traditional and have a lottery for assigning random teams to divisions each year - wouldn't that make baseball's air traffic controllers revolt.

    hope life is treating you well.

  2. 1. Three leagues will result in one of them not being represented in the World Series.

    2. Who uses the DH in the 3-league scenario?

    The best idea (IMO) is to go back to 15-team leagues, and scrap inter-league play. Then play teams in your own division 18 times, and teams in the other 2 divisions 9 times. That works out to 162 games.

  3. Jim,

    You picked up on the two things I left out on purpose. There are multiple options as I see them for post-season play. One would be to have the division winners in each of the three leagues play each other in a league championship, plus a series between two wildcards. The four winners would then playoff, similar to now, and the winners play in the WS. Another option would to keep the exact current format with American division and National division teams playing each other (plus WC) to get to an American vs. National WS.

    I think the DH can be normalized, either keeping it for all teams, or scrapping it altogether. Or, American teams can keep it and use the current home rules format for interleague, although that's not my favorite plan.

    I like your idea of scrapping interleage with the league alignments as they exist, and I like the same number of games vs. each of the other teams, but having 15 teams means that one team will always have a day off, weekends included. I've thought about this situation and one idea I had was to use a day-night double header deal where you played a day game against the team getting out of town and the nightcap against the team coming into town. Interesting dilemma baseball has with the numbers.

  4. I know this is a baseball blog, but the NHL is doing realignment next hockey season. Oh how changes happen so much faster in other sports. No more East and West Conferences and a balance schedule. A lot less late night West coast games for the Red Wings.