Archive for Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Commentary: Time right for baseball realignment

October 22, 2008


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. 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 on Oct. 10 and the World Series could begin on 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 and Mets. 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.

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.


jerraider 9 years, 7 months ago

Your suggestion in theory has some merit. Two reasons why it would never work would be that Houston and Texas would never, never, ever agree to play exclusively in a western division. Texas is already in the West, and its road games on the west coast are not over until after midnight many nights. To basically double those west coast games would be suicide to those franchises in my opinion. They would lose viewers and advertising. Now if KC and St. Louis would agree to go out there instead--but they wouldn't either for the same reasons (and obviously some others). It is a killer to a team's fan base.

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