Realignment and De-Deivisioning Talk

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Now this is what I like to hear: talk that MLB will move to two 15-team leagues with no divisions. Buster Olney, one of my favorite baseball writers if for no other reason than the amazing The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty, does the reporting.

The key considerations are

From a competitive standpoint, it’s the kind of thing that needs to happen. It’s not fair that the teams in the National League Central are at worse odds of reaching the postseason than the teams in all other divisions. The Cardinals, or Brewers, or Cubs must finish with a better record than five other squads in order to win the division and secure a playoff berth. The division winner in the American League West, meanwhile, only has to beat out three teams. The odds can change yearly based on talent level and the Wild Card race — at the moment it’s an advantage to have the Astros and Pirates on the schedule frequently — but simple math says a team in the Central will face a disadvantage most seasons. And, hey, the Bucs are showing signs of life.

Two club executives suggested to Olney that the Astros, currently at the bottom of the NL Central, would likely be moved to the AL West to create a potential rivalry in Texas with the Arlington-based Rangers.

There’s also been a discussion of getting rid of divisions altogether, and simply awarding playoff spots to the top five records in each league. The NHL has a well-received setup that is fairly similar.

This makes sense to me, as I said here.

It will make playoff qualification much more fair.

Unfortunately, according to Olney it’s only a 50-50 proposition. Why, oh why, is baseball always, say, ten to twenty years behind the curve? Historical consciousness doesn’t have to mean inability to recognize the demands of the future.

I think you go all the way and eliminate divisions entirely so as not to reward suboptimal play by giving teams with worse records in easier divisions playoff spots that should go to teams that have better records. For example, someone is probably going to get screwed in the AL East, where the third-place team will probably have a better record than the winner of one of the two other divisions.

Worries that the regular season is rendered irrelevant by adding additional rounds of playoff play are really, really insipid in light of how the divisional playoff structure can exclude teams with better records because they play in very strong divisions. It might not happen every year, but the very fact it is even theoretically possible demonstrates the insipidity of the current structure of play.

Also, as I’ve said before, interleague play screws things up for divisional races, since teams’ schedules aren’t all equally difficult (or easy) due to “natural” rivalries, thus defeating the purpose of divisional races.

If you didn’t click the link, what I said about it was this:

If divisional races have meaning, then pairing off teams for “natural/geographical” rivalries, while sort of cool in a post-modern/simulacrum/hyperreal kind of way, means that teams in the same divisions don’t play the same quality of opposition. That is, the Mets always draw the Yankees, but the Braves don’t necessarily have that headache.

This factor alone makes the divisional races kind of a farce.

If you must have interleague play–and to me that’s a big if, but I guess everyone with the money favors it–then you also must eliminate divisions if you wish to produce a regular season (audition) for post-season play.









Written by jjvedamuthu

June 11, 2011 at 13:07

2 Responses

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  1. […] I think they should move a team from the NL to the AL–a team which came into existence in 1968 or […]

  2. […]  links to my previous posts on the matter are here, here, and […]

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