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Archive for Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It’s time for baseball to realign

June 21, 2011

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— The highlight of the TV weekend was watching the Cubs and Yankees at Wrigley Field, partying like it was 1938.

The low moment? Probably watching the Rangers’ Arthur Rhodes, meekly wielding his version of the “Boomstick.”

I love interleague play. I was at the ballpark that night in June 1997, when the Giants and Rangers played history’s first interleague game, and the appeal of matching the two leagues hasn’t wavered.

As anyone with the DirecTV MLB Extra Innings package could see last weekend, interleague play adds an extra layer of drama to an otherwise routine day on the baseball schedule.

Seattle’s Felix Hernandez pitching against the mighty Philadelphia Phillies. The rowdy crowds watching the Athletics sweep the rival Giants.

Playing across leagues and conferences certainly hasn’t hurt pro football or basketball.

And in baseball’s case, if it brings a natural rival such as the Houston Astros to Arlington, then all the better.

Yet, baseball’s loud army of hidebound traditionalists continue to complain. They are bored with interleague play, they say. They abhor what it does to the designated hitter.

The diehards’ hackles were raised even higher, however, by the recent Buster Olney story on ESPN.com that major league baseball has been discussing realignment.

At issue, Olney reported, is the uneven number of teams in the two leagues — 16 for the National, 14 in the American.

A simple fix, some colleagues have suggested. Just move the Astros from the six-team NL Central to the four-team AL West.

Except . . . proposed new Astros owner Jim Crane has been quoted as saying he has no interest in moving the team to the American League. Crane grew up in St. Louis and reportedly considers himself a traditionalist.

But since when did Crane, a previous three-time loser at trying to buy into the MLB fraternity, earn the right to dictate anything to the other 29 owners?

Think Crane will get Ray Davis’ and Bob Simpson’s vote, after the way he helped to jack up the price of the Rangers last summer?

The issue of realignment, though, should not be confined to our neighboring Astros. A radical realignment could benefit teams currently shackled by time-zone and economic disparities.

The Rangers this season will play 30 games in the Pacific time zone. Twenty of those will likely end sometime near midnight, Central time.

This is lunacy. No other team in baseball plays as many games in as many unnatural hours as the Rangers.

If the leagues were totally realigned, the Rangers and Astros could become division rivals for the first time. All five of baseball’s California franchises could play in one division. The big-money Phillies and Mets could join the Yankees and Red Sox.

The Rangers and Astros could be paired with the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, with the Mariners as the fifth team. That wouldn’t solve all of the Rangers’ West Coast time problems, but it’s a start.

According to MLB.com, attendance at this season’s first round of interleague games was the highest it’s been since 2004, an increase of 11 percent.

Would the Giants-Athletics rivalry lose any of its sheen if they competed in the same division? Not likely. Same for the Dodgers and Angels, the Mets and Yankees, and the Cubs and White Sox.

Comments

LeBo 2 years, 10 months ago

Move the Royals to the AL West. Then move the Brewers to AL Central. Problem solved.

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Liberty_One 2 years, 10 months ago

You kind of forgot to address that whole DH issue. The leagues play by different rules which have a major impact in the style of play. Realignment needs to come with a settling of the DH question--get rid of it or adopt it across both leagues, but let's quit with the split.

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