Wednesday, MLB released the 2012 schedule for all teams. Despite rumors of realignment and other changes to baseball proposed for next season, the schedule looks pretty much the same as it has since 1998, when baseball expanded to 30 teams.
However, there is one interesting change for next season: the inclusion of the name "Miami" on the schedule. For 2012, the Florida Marlins will be moving into a new stadium near downtown Miami and as a result, will be renamed "Miami Marlins".
As you almost certainly know, that was a holographic news report purportedly in the year 2015, showing the Cubs winning the World Series over a team from Miami that had a logo resembling an alligator. The movie was released in 1989, two years before MLB granted a Miami franchise and four years before it started play. There have been a number of false stories posted on the internet regarding that scenario's predictive value, helpfully collected by Snopes, but with the change in name for the Marlins from "Florida" to "Miami", could it come true four years from now? Even without the an alligator logo)?
There is, unfortunately, one small problem before we have a Cubs/Miami World Series. The Marlins are a National League team and would have to move to the American League before we could have such a matchup. (For the sensibilities of Cubs fans -- like me -- everywhere, we'll leave out of this discussion the one postseason meeting between the two teams.)
In recent months, realignment of the leagues to 15 teams each has been discussed, with the resulting evenly-balanced leagues then having three divisions of five teams each. Most of the time, the Astros and Diamondbacks have been mentioned as possible candidates to switch leagues. For various reasons, those two clubs have balked at being moved out of the NL.
So, what if the Marlins were the team to be moved? Follow me through this plausible realignment scenario.
First, we move the Marlins to the AL East. Both Florida teams struggle now, but what if they had an in-division rivalry? That would probably help both clubs' attendance more than the occasional interleague meeting. Further, the Rays are a good team and the Marlins seem on the cusp of contention; could they help break the Yankees/Red Sox hegemony?
Second, we move the Blue Jays out of the AL East to the AL Central. Toronto is only a three-hour drive from Detroit and less than six hours from Cleveland; you could make some good new rivalries and help the Jays' attendance with division games with the Tigers.
Third, we move the Royals from the AL Central to the AL West. At first glance, this seems like a bad deal for KC, because they'd have more West Coast starts; but in reality, since you'd replace KC games against the Twins with games against the Rangers, you'd really only have about a dozen more Left Coast games for the Royals. To counter this, MLB could require those games to start at 6 p.m. PT -- not terribly early, and a reasonable 8 p.m. start in Kansas City. Further, Kansas City is closer to Dallas than it is to any city currently in the AL Central except Minneapolis.
We still have too many teams in the NL Central, though; part of the point of all this AL shifting was to get six teams with five divisions each. No problem -- now we move the Pirates from the NL Central into the NL East. That gives them a divisional cross-state rivalry with the Phillies. Right now, that seems skewed toward Philadelphia, but those things don't last forever, and besides, this would help the Pirates' attendance. Tons of Phillies fans would travel west to PNC Park.
Your MLB alignment, then, would look like this:
AL East AL Central AL West Marlins Blue Jays Angels Orioles Indians Athletics Rays Tigers Mariners Red Sox Twins Rangers Yankees White Sox Royals NL East NL Central NL West Braves Astros Diamondbacks Mets Brewers Dodgers Nationals Cardinals Giants Phillies Cubs Padres Pirates Reds Rockies
It works geographically. It creates several new divisional rivalries that make sense. It would, of course, result in more interleague play -- any 15/15 scenario does -- but with all this divisional and league shifting, would that really make that much difference? Once you get this setup in place, it might be possible, as MLB claims to want, to add additional wild card teams and playoff rounds. You can even keep the 162-game schedule, neatly added up as follows:
18 games against each team in your own division = 72 games
6 games against each team in the other divisions in your league = 60 games
6 games against each team in one division in the other league = 30 games
And it could help the 1989 "Back To The Future Part II" 2015 World Series between the Cubs and Miami take place. Even if the Marlins don't change their name to Gators, Cubs fans everywhere wait, patiently, for Bud Selig & Co. to make the shift that might, just four years from now, end their championship drought.
As future personage Jean-Luc Picard might say: "Make it so."