What Would Divisional Realignment Look Like?

Yesterday, MLB Trade Rumors posted about these statements from Bud Selig,

Commissioner Bud Selig told Chris Russo on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio that he’s confident in the Mets, not considering contraction and open to realignment and expanding the playoffs. Here are the details and other highlights:

The Mets asked for and obtained a loan from MLB, but they have not asked for a second loan, despite reports to the contrary.
Though Selig did not tell Mets owner Fred Wilpon to hire new GM Sandy Alderson, he encouraged the Mets to hire his longtime friend. “He’s very competent,” Selig said of Alderson. “Very, very, very smart.”
MLB has “not discussed contraction at all.”
However, Selig is open to changing the structure of baseball’s leagues and divisions. “Realignment is something that in the future I really want to look at particularly before I leave.” It’s not currently a priority for Selig, who likes some geographical realignment.
MLB is “working on” adding two teams to the playoffs and we could see changes as soon as 2012.

I think realignment is something worth talking about. First, we have to decide why we would want to realign the divisions. Here are five reasons I can think of:

1. Competitive balance in terms of market size
2. Encourage Rivalries
3. Cut down on travel times/costs
4. Creating a different playoff structure
5. Adding or subtracting MLB teams

I feel like #3 and #1 are what we should really focus on. #5 isn’t happening, and its tough to speculate what #4 would require. Selig is saying that he wants to add two teams to the playoff, but who knows how he would plan on doing that. I think the biggest problem that baseball has is creating a world where small market teams can, as a unit, compete against big market ones. Sure, your occasional Rays team can happen, but baseball suffers when teams like Baltimore and Toronto enter season after season with practically no hope of making the playoffs because they occupy a division with the Red Sox and Yankees. Here are two proposed solutions:

Now, I don’t actually think that either of these plans would ever work. They’re just my way of having fun. The first plan respects the AL and NL teams while the second plan combines them together by geographic proximity. I tried to make a more realistic travel time mock-up, but the divisions are pretty much already organized that way.

Personally, I kind of like the Travel Time divisions. They double as being rivalry machines, with all the two-team cities pairing up against each other except for Los Angeles (there was no better way). Its also pretty well balanced in terms of market size, as the Acela division absorbs the true heavyweights of payroll on baseball. It’ll never happen, since it basically involves blowing up the AL and NL and starting over, but I think I would do it.

I’m not going to do another mock-up for it, but there are small fixes that could potentially happen. You could switch Baltimore and Washington between divisions, adding a potentially high-payroll contender to the AL East and giving Baltimore a little bit more of a break. You could send the Brewers and possibly one more team back to the American League Central, leaving 14 in the NL and 16 in the AL. Or you could go back to 2 divisions, which would look something like this:

This makes sense if Selig wants to put 6 teams in the playoffs. The top 3 teams in each division would make the playoffs, with the first place team probably getting a Bye. Travel time goes way up, but it gives teams like Baltimore and Toronto a little more hope.

But that’s enough of my talking. How would all of you guys realign the divisions, if you were Selig?

About EJ Fagan

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

8 thoughts on “What Would Divisional Realignment Look Like?

  1. I’d do 2 divisions with 4 playoff spots, with the best two non-division winners as the wildcards. As for your other plans, the geography one is fine, but the market one would create less incentive for small market teams to be extremely efficient. If they did not have to compete with the big dogs until the postseason, there is much less incentive for them to build a top team, and you might have subpar teams getting into the postseason.

  2. I actually like the way NBA and NHL do it, 2 conferences. Although I don’t think it should be East and West but AL and NL. This could spread out the high payroll teams throughout both. The top 6 teams from both divisions advance or something maybe?

    The biggest issue I have with the current set up in baseball is the wild card. How is it fair that the team with the best record advances when those in the AL East play a lot of games against other very good teams whereas teams in the Central play against teams that would be 4th place teams in the East. I really think their needs to be some weighting mechanism or have teams play each other in the AL proportionally. Unfortunately that would destroy rivalries.

  3. To hell with travel time and costs. Keep the divisions, balance the schedules in the AL and NL where the only differences are found in inter league play. My idea will never happen, but it seems more fair than what we have now. Actually, the AL and NL just being one division would be more fair.

  4. Here’s a completely untenable solution that will cause so m,any problems fans will be glad to go back to the way things are now:

    Leave the divisions as they are, and let each team schedule who it wants.

    If the Yankees and Red Sox want to sell out every game and play each other 162 times, fine. They’ll each go 81-81, and no one else will care. If the Pirates want to try to make a few bucks by scheduling the Yankees 20 times and losing most of those games, that’s cool, too, if they can get the Yankees to go along.

    If the Braves want to guarantee a winning season by only playing the Royals, the Mariners, and the Nationals, let them do it.

    Pure chaos. It’s the American way.

  5. For anyone who hasn’t read one of my posts yet: I am a lifelong Texas Rangers fan. And I really like the idea of any realignment scheme that puts Texas in the same division as Houston and gets our team out of the disaster of playing 50+ of our games on the Left Coast every year (having to stay up until 12 or 1 Central to see a game end is a nightmare).

    I live closer to Houston than D-FW and would love to see my Rangers play an hour away 10+ times a year. Plus, Houston will be one of the worst teams in baseball for the next 5 years at least, so I would love getting to pummel a bad team most of the time (like you guys did to poor Tampa for so long).

  6. There is no way they would go through all of the trouble of re-alignment and leave Tampa in the same Division as New York and Boston. Honestly I think the only way they would want to do it is if they split up the Yankees and Sox altogether so that the WC could conceivably come from any division, instead of just the other power house in the East.

  7. I would leave the divisions the same, but drastically change the playoff format. If you want to have 6 teams make the playoffs, I don’t think it’s right to give 2 teams a bye. That is far too much of a layoff for any team. So, still wanting 6 teams from the AL & NL, here is what I would do:

    3 division winners qualify along with 3 wild cards. The 3 wild cards are the next 3 best records, regardless of division. To make it fair, I would balance the schedules across the AL/NL (only exception being interleague). With the 3 division winners and wild cards, I would play a round 1 round robin. Each team plays each other once. It would take 10 days with 3 games the first day, travel day, 3 games the next day alternating AL/NL so there are a guaranteed 3 games every day. The division winners would get 3 of the 5 games at home, the wild cards would host 2 games. Once the round robin is finished, the top 2 teams would then meet for a traditional 7 game series.

    I think this format brings a lot to the table:
    More strategy for managers to align pitchers up against the right opponent.

    A distinct advantage to win the division and get 3 home games.

    The best 6 teams are going to get into the playoffs regardless of which division they are in

    Guaranteed baseball for 10 days instead of the days were all 4 series could be over by sweeps and we have to wait 5 days for another game.

    A schedule as short as possible for a 6 team playoffs, only adding 2 additional days to the overall schedule.

    What do you guys think? Any major holes in this plan? I’m sure old-schoolers would hate it, but I think it would identify the best 2 teams – the ones that are best against the cream of the crop.

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