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Baseball America Puts Forth A Rather Interesting MLB Expansion and Realignment Proposal

I’m not sure how much of what’s in Tracy Ringolsby’s latest for Baseball America is coming straight from under his cowboy hat, or how much of it really is indicative of what MLB is seriously contemplating, but if it’s the latter… wow. The game of baseball might see some seriously significant changes in the upcoming years. Good ones, perhaps. But definitely big ones.

Ringolsby’s piece begins with talk of expansion. Expansion to Montréal, specifically. Portland, he says, also looks like a strong candidate, with commissioner Rob Manfred having mentioned it multiple times as a potential site, as well as having stated that a team in the west would be part of any expansion plans. It doesn’t hurt that both cities have strong and serious ownership groups.

“There seems to be a building consensus that baseball will soon be headed to a 32-team configuration,” he writes. “It will lead to major realignment and adjustments in schedule, which will allow MLB to address the growing concerns of the union about travel demands and off days.”

The union got some concessions from the owners on days off in the most recent CBA, but what Ringolsby suggests is the league going a 156 game schedule — which he notes would fit perfectly within the footprint of the current schedule, giving each club one off-day per week — and ditching the traditional American League and National League in favour of four geographically aligned divisions each comprised of eight teams. Over the course of the season teams would play 12 games against each of their seven division rivals, and only three games each against the other 24 teams in the league — cutting down on travel costs, which he suggests would offset revenue lost with the shorter schedule.

The tiny number of inter-division games could potentially undercut a bunch of current rivalries — something Jays fans know all too well from the state of the club’s once-great rivalry with the Detroit Tigers — but I think there’s a lot to like about it, too. That Jays-Tigers rivalry would be back, for example, as the configuration Ringolsby suggests would see the Jays in a division with the Expos, Red Sox, Tigers, Twins, Yankees, Mets, and Cleveland. Would we care that we would’t see the White Sox or the Royals as much as we’re used to? Probably not. But the Twins might.

He also suggests that the playoffs would feature the four division winners playing the winners of four play-in games — making 12 playoff teams in total, as opposed to the 10 teams that currently play postseason baseball. There are a bunch of other details that Ringolsby touches on, which I won’t go into here, so as encourage you all to head over to BA and read his piece for yourselves.

So, what do we think about all this?

Personally, I don’t know about all this. Thing is, the league is going to go to 32 teams at some point anyway — there’s just too much money in it and too many cities that want in for that not to happen — so we might have to deal with it whether we like it or not. Or at least some form of it. I’m not sure how the Yankees and Red Sox, for example, would like losing seven games against each other per year (though for the Yankees the addition of eight against the Mets would offset that), so that might not fly. I assume this would mean the adoption of the DH league-wide, which would anger a lot of NL fans (and pitchers, too!). But obviously I like the addition of the Expos. I like bringing them and the Tigers back into the rivalry fold — and Cleveland doesn’t hurt either. A little more Detroit and Cleveland, and a little less New York and Boston sounds good to me. And only one series at the Trop for ever two seasons? Fuck yes! It would suck for west coast fans, of course, who’d only get a chance to invade Seattle every two years, but maybe that could be offset by alternating it with Portland (though it’s, like, twice the distance to travel from Vancouver). And I like that — assuming each division would be mandated two Wild Card spots — it would give us a kind of balanced schedule, too.

I don’t think it’s perfect, but I don’t really know what perfect is. And I guess the fact that my immediate thought isn’t “holy shit, what a goddamn disaster” probably speaks well to it. But maybe I’m missing something? Let me know if I am, or just what you think, in the comments!

  • wb

    Hmmm, I’ll have to think about it, too, but my first thought is that such a re-alignment could eventually open the door for a more global game. There could be an “East Asia division,” for example, that plays most of its games in the region, but then travels to North America for a certain segment of the year. Anyway, that would be a long way down the road, as it would mean expanding to many more teams.

  • fred2

    I think it’s definitely the former (straight out of the cowboy hat). You’d expect him to say ‘sources in MLB say’ if it was coming from anywhere near them. Instead he just says “One proposal would be to …”, which I think is a synonym for “hey, here’s something I just pulled out of my ass”.

    Which isn’t to say it’s the worst idea in the world, but you can imagine the uproar if the World Series dropped the principle that it’s between NL and AL and you could suddenly face the prospect of the Yankees and Red Sox meeting in the WS.

    I guess some people would like that idea, but count me as a hard pass.

  • DAKINS

    Not really in favour of killing off the AL and NL, even if they are really only conferences at this point anyway.

    How about taking the Jays out of the same division as the fucking Yankees and Red Sox? Give some other teams that boat anchor of a division to deal with every year?

    • Dexxter

      This doesn’t have to kill the AL/NL thing.

      Just put two divisions in each conference. Problem solved.

      More balanced schedules, less travel, twice as many play in games….. Based on 2.5 minutes of extensive research I say do it!!

      • DAKINS

        “and ditching the traditional American League and National League in favour of four geographically aligned divisions”

        That sounds like they are removing the titles of the two leagues. Plus the fact that teams from the AL and NL are mixed in with each other during the proposed realignment within the four division.

  • drunk man walking

    In what possible geographic alignment are the Twinkies in this group. Pittsburgh seems to make a lot more sense. The Twins should be in some Central Time zone division, with Milwaukee, and ChicagoX2, St Louis….etc

    • Barry

      I agree that the Twins fit oddly in this proposed division. It almost feels like a “nobody gives a shit about the Twins” proposal. I don’t think you could move Pittsburgh to this division, though, as that East division has some closer rivals, including one in the same state.

      It seems that whoever put this together found themselves with one too many Central time zone teams and said, “ah, fuck it, it’s just the Twins.”

  • Barry

    The wording in the original article is vague, but it appears that this proposal would continue with the nonsense of teams with different schedules playing for the same playoff spots. And that’s the bullshit that I would want a realignment/reformatting to stop. Without that, I’m not particularly tempted by any proposal.

    I do like the idea of having the Tigers and Jays back in the same division again, though.

    • I don’t think it actually addressed whether Wild Card spots would be open to all the next best non division winners or not. Maybe I missed it. But I thought it was angling more toward there being a true “division series” between the division winner and the winner of a play-in game between the next best teams in that division — meaning that teams are only competing for spots with other teams in their own division who all play the same schedule.

      • Barry

        It’s how I interpreted, or perhaps misinterpreted, the wording in the original article, which said the games would be between the “eight remaining teams with the best records.” Obviously, that is vague, and perhaps I’m reading something into that that isn’t there; I would have thought they’d have worded it differently if the proposal were that the second and third place teams play each other, since seeding teams within the division would be a change from what we currently have.

        But as I said, I could be misinterpreting.

  • Acropoli

    I’m very much in favour of this. Division rivals still play each other enough (and play each other too much right now) and I love having Detroit and Cleveland in there. The biggest win for for me is that the Jays would alternate the home site of games against teams outside their division every year. As a Jays fan living in Colorado I can only see the Jays in person once every six years. This would mean I could see them in person every other year. A very nice upgrade for me. I wouldn’t miss the American League/National League division at all. Not sure what this really adds to baseball anymore. And I think two more playoff teams would not be a bad thing. 12 seems about right.