As a baseball fan I would love to see baseball correct some of its issues like treatment of Negro League player with regard to the Hall of Fame, performance enhancement among athletes being condoned so some extent around the league, not in the commissioners office, and declining attendance around the league coupled with higher costs for the fans not realignment and a new scheduling format. If you need a reminder of these issues just take a look at how Mr. Selig reacts to the MLB Hall of Fame veterans committee, the resurgence of Bartolo Colon at age 39 due to a highly controversial procedure done by a doctor who has known ties to HGH, and in 2009 with low attendance around the league MLB produced record profits. Now back to the real issue at hand. It wasn't that long ago that one former ex-owner of one Milwaukee franchise became commissioner and decided teams were not playing divisional opponents enough so he did away with a balanced schedule. I agreed that at the time it was the right move to make, however, now I understand that this has made baseball stale and boring. Sure who doesn't love a Yankees-Red Sox or Giants-Dodgers matchup? We all do. The problem is who remembers the last meaningful game between the Blue Jays and Orioles or the Pirates and Astros? The answer…NOBODY. That said nothing is going to make me think that this whole realignment thing will be easy, it won't. History has shown that of all the professional sports and its athletes baseball and its players have the worst track record for embracing and accepting change. From the DH to the end of NL/AL only umpires to coaches and helmets nothing is as smooth as it was intended to be. All of this said if you are going to make a change do it right. Make it radical and make it work! Move the Milwaukee Brewers back to AL Central, the Detroit Tigers back to the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays to NL East, the Philadelphia Phillies to NL Central, the Houston Astros to NL West, and the Arizona Diamondbacks to the AL West. If memory serves me correctly the league talked about moving the then Devil Rays to the NL East and Diamondbacks to the AL West back around the 2001 season. If I remember it had something to do with those two franchises being young enough that they couldn't argue or fight a move. I am assuming now that any and all teams involved would have to agree to a move but this makes more logical sense than moving Houston to the AL West alone. These six moves balance the divisions like Major League Baseball is attempting to do without eliminating most of the premium matchups and has a greater potential to create many more. The league also has the ability to legally compensate, either by reducing the percentage of revenue the franchise is to pay the league (out of the operating income from the franchise) for a set number of years, draft pick compensations, or a combination of both. For that stated reason Major League Baseball would have a hard time arguing that it would be impossible to sell the owners on this type of realignment. To be clear, it is my opinion as a responsible (twenty something year old) fan that if this is not an option then I would favor an even more radical realignment plan that would be based solely on geography instead of, again, just moving the Astros to the AL West. Furthermore, if you are going to plan seventy eight or so interleague games each year you might as well just not call them interleague games and have the divisions aligned correctly to add those matchups anyway. This is how the divisions would, and should shake up if realignment occurs in any capacity. It is not based on geography since that idea doesn’t seem like it would sustain any better than the current alignment is.
The regular season is reduced to 158 games in this scenario; Commissioner Selig has said over and over again that he favors a shorter regular season, with expanded playoffs and this is the perfect way to do it. Four games may not seem like a lot to chop from a season but if a player played ten years they would effectively lose a quarter of a season over that time. The 158 game season gives you the ability to play a set schedule each year where like in the NFL fans and players alike could predict when (which season) teams would play each other and where. Of the 158 games played 18 would be interleague games. If you play more games between leagues in the regular season you will have less excitement around those games It is like that in basketball and hockey. If nothing else you could argue that if the Lakers and Celtics didn't play twice a season, every season then those games would have more fanfare. The same applies to the Canadian hockey teams who are not in the same conference but still play a few times a year. It would be more beneficial to play less often for the attention the series or games would receive. Add to that the DH rule. It would never work with 70 plus interleague games since you couldn't expect the National League to add the DH and considering that the National League and one Japanese league are the only professional leagues in the world that lacks a DH you couldn't expect the American League to adopt a defunct National League style rule where the pitcher bats. Now for those of you who believe the DH gives the AL a huge advantage in AL ballparks know it doesn’t have to be that way. Major League Baseball can allow the NL teams to make one free roster move prior to each interleague series at an AL ballpark by not costing the team an option on a player sent down and the same would apply to the player called up to DH. Every team in baseball has a top prospect or two that they would like to get some free playing time for. The only stipulation is the players involved would have to have options left, they just wouldn’t have to use them. In addition 18 games allows each team to play six three-game series of which one would be the natural rivalry and played every year rotating the venue each year between the two teams involved. Six games each year among many of these rivalries is great but could you imagine how exciting they would be if it was only three games instead? Next the other five interleague series would be decided on a rotating basis like in the NFL where in a given year the AL East could be matched up with the NL Central or NL West depending on the year and it would be scheduled so each team played nine home games and nine road games. This means that every six years a team would play each team at least two series with at least one being at each location since they too rotate.
Examples of these natural rivalries would be:
Of those matchup's only four of them are not considered true rivalries based on history or lack of history in interleague play. It wasn't that long ago that series like Cleveland-Pittsburgh or Boston-Atlanta were expected as part of interleague play EVERY year.
The remaining 140 games on the schedule would be against the other 14 teams in the same league balanced as it used to be for a total of ten games each. These ten games would be played in two three-game series (one at each venue) and one four game series that, just like the interleague games between rivals, will rotate each year so that every two seasons a team would play ten home games and ten away games against each team in the same league. As long as each team plays seven four game series at home and seven on the road with the split three game series it will total the 140 games for a league schedule added to the 18 interleague games for the total of 158 games for the season, it would also ensure that 79 are home games and 79 are road games for each club. This scheduling format also sets it so every team plays 48 series over the season for an average of eight per month. Currently teams average a few more on an annual basis.
Obviously all things considered interleague play would have to happen all season long to avoid teams having too many off days in a row as a result of not having an opponent. I would still think that it would benefit Major League Baseball to have the majority of interleague play happening at once, as is the current format but it wouldn't do a disservice to the game to be required, by scheduling limitations, to have one interleague series at all times. If you look at the current schedule their is always a National League series being played that seems to get lost in the shuffle of current interleague play.
As for the playoffs the idea of five teams from each league making the playoffs is nothing new. It would be appropriate for all division winners to get a bye thru the best of five Wild Card Round to the so named Divisional Round, which would become a best of seven and remain seeded as it currently is which would not allow for division rivals to play prior to the Championship round as is currently the rule. This change in playoff format just mean that for a Wild Card to win the World Series they will need to win 15 games instead of 12 (or 11 with the old format) and it seems like a good idea to make it a more difficult road to a World Series Championship if you aren't a division winner, something that is not the case now since home field advantage is less important now than it ever was. It would only be fitting that a division win would be much more valuable than a Wild Card berth due to the number of wins you would be away from a championship at the start of the playoffs.
Come on MLB surprise all of us skeptical fans with something that really works for the game, not just for profit margins!