Proposed Changes for MLB Commissioner Bud Selig

Posted: October 28, 2008 by Rick Hogaboam in Sports
Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s time to realign baseball

The game isn’t broken but there is a lot of room for improvement.

Mark Whicker
Mark Whicker
Columnist
The Orange County Register
mwhicker@ocregister.com

 

 

There should never be a baseball game in March or November.

There should never be a five-game series in postseason play.

Too many undeserving teams make it to the postseason, which is why we have so many sweeps and dull best-of-5 series.

The league formats are archaic and already have been disbanded in most ways, including umpiring and administration.

If it’s fine for the Angels and Dodgers to play six times a year, why not 18?

For all these reasons, it’s time to realign baseball.

Although it isn’t broken, it can be improved. Attendance can rise. Local TV ratings can jump, with more games in prime time.

And there is little question that playoff baseball would be better played if it were done in two best-of-7 game series. Boston is forecasting a low of 34 degrees Wednesday, which would be Game 1 of the World Series.

So let’s start by paring down six divisions to three:

WEST: Dodgers, Angels, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Houston.

CENTRAL: Cubs, White Sox, Detroit, Kansas City, St. Louis, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh.

EAST: Yankees, Mets, Boston, Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Toronto, Florida, Tampa Bay, Atlanta.

The three winners get to the playoffs and the team with the best record gets the home field throughout.

There is one wild card. It will be seeded fourth and will not have home advantage in any series.

With two rounds, the semifinals could begin Oct. 10 and the World Series could begin Oct.21 and end no later than Oct.29. Next year’s World Series is scheduled to end Nov. 4. Keep in mind that the new ballpark in Minneapolis, scheduled to open in 2010, will have no roof.

That means the regular season would not have to begin until April 6 or so. Or it could start a few days earlier and allow a more leisurely regular season, with added off-days to anticipate makeup games.

Baseball had 10-team leagues from 1961 until it split into four six-team divisions in 1969. It’s true that fewer teams would be in contention, but that wouldn’t necessarily dampen the attendance.

The Rockies were nowhere near true contention this year and drew 2.6 million, their best figure since 2002. Detroit was 74-88 and drew an all-time record 3.2 million. Toronto was never in danger of winning anything and drew 2.399 million, tops since 1998.

But a new scheduling plan would almost certainly boost attendance everywhere.

With a 10-team division, it’s simple to arrange 18 meetings with every other club. It comes out to 162 games. That’s nine Dodgers visits to Anaheim. That’s 18 Cubs-White Sox games.

And new relationships would spring up. If you’re Florida, you get nine visits by the Yankees andMets. Maybe Florida-Tampa Bay would get intense, or Cleveland-Cincinnati, or Baltimore-Washington, with those ballparks just 40 miles apart.

Better yet, all 162 games in the East would happen in the Eastern Time zone, which means the advertisers would get a prime-time bang every night.

For the Angels, just 18 of their road games would be played outside the Pacific or Mountain zones. No more of those 4 p.m. weekday road starts, from the East, that get swallowed up in the commute.

The only two teams that would be disadvantaged are Houston and Texas, since they would be the only Central-based teams in the West Division. But none of their road games would begin later than 9 p.m. The Astros and Rangers would also have 18 games against each other. In Houston’s case, the Dodgers rivalry from the old NL West would be revived.

Now, you’re a Boston fan living in Orange County and you’re reading this and you’re already screaming because you think you’ll never see your beloved Red Sox in person.

Well, you’re right. That’s why Major League Baseball provides Web casts and a satellite-TV package.

No one in Boston, Detroit, Baltimore or Cleveland saw Willie Mays play or Sandy Koufax pitch in the regular season. No one in San Francisco or L.A. saw Carl Yastrzemski or Jim Palmer.

When the postseason comes, there should be a layer of mystery, with teams that don’t know each other’s secrets.

This setup would eliminate the unfairness that lurks inside the current schedule, with the erratic interleague games. The Dodgers had to play the Angels, the winningest team in baseball, six times. Arizona did not play the Angels once. If Arizona had beaten the Dodgers by one game in the NL West, that issue might have come up.

So this realignment lengthens the offseason, takes some of the happenstance out of the playoffs, eliminates the cross-country travel that subtly fatigues the players (no matter how luxurious their 747s are), and drums up more box-office and TV revenue.

And the brilliance of this plan is so breathtaking that its author doesn’t mind if Bud Selig says he designed it himself.

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Comments
  1. Steve Cornell says:

    I think the title of Whicker’s subtitle is a half-truth. The game of baseball itself isn’t broken- but MLB is. Unfortunately, I don’t really have any answers other than to go back in time. I’m not so sure I like the realignment plan- it’s such a strange concept to those of us who have grown up in the format prior to the last change. I would go to schedule with no more than 148 games, with 14 teams in the n.l., 14 in a.l. Get rid of the central so once again we have east/west, with the one round system of playoffs (7 games). Times have changed, and most people I’ve spoken with who are not big fans of the game believe that the season is just too darned long! Who cares about MLB when the NFL is in full swing and College football rules in the south?
    What I believe to be the biggest issue MLB is facing right now is how screwed up their television contract is. For one thing, a number of years ago, those of us who do not have cable/satellite could not see any games until two months into the season. Thankfully, that has been trimmed back-but I believe it lost a lot of potential fans, especially in the inner cities that they are “so concerned about” (supposedly). Another aspect of their tv deal that does not appear to have had much thought put into it is the TBS coverage of the ALCS. Like I said, w/out anything but network tv, millions of us missed what sounds to have been one of the most exciting series in recent years. After that mistake, I am at the point where I really don’t care anymore (but like the dog whose owner continues to beat it, I come back). No wonder the NFL is now America’s sweetheart when it comes to sports. At crunch time, when the games really matter and interest is at its highest, you can watch the game for free. One last shot in at their TV deal: how many other fans will they lose now that many Americans are facing some hard economic times. I don’t know about you, but if faced with food or television, I’d prefer to eat. Sour grapes, anyone?

  2. I think you need to add a 2 teams to make it 32 teams. Add 2 playoff spots so there is 12 of 32 who can make the playoffs and instead of restrict a players earnings realign teams based on payroll spent.
    example of divsions:
    Yanks, Red Soxs, Mets, Phils in one division and Teams like the Pirates, Nationals, Indians, Reds in another. This would ensure teams with lower payrolls can be represented in the playoffs. (for all the divisions check out the plan at the link below) As you spend more you change divisions. This would keep the schedule fresh and teams like the Pirates and Royals would have a chance to play in October.

    check out the plan at:

    http://thefairball.com/mlb-realignment-plan/

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