Friday, May 19, 2006

While Our Pants are Pulled up to our Nipples...

I'm against interleague play completely. I still like the sanctity of the only time AL teams play NL teams is in the All-Star Game and the World Series. This is what helps make these events "Classics" (Midsummer and Fall). However, it's hard to deny interleague play since attendance is still higher in these games.

The solution is simple, realign the entire leagues, so these rivalries that help get attendance up are played even more often that attendance is higher for the entire season as opposed to just this small sampling of games. Any two-team markets will sell out every single game between these teams even if it occurs 19 times per season. The math is simple. The Yankees and Mets, the White Sox and Cubs, the Giants and A's, the Dodgers and Angels all draw more than 25,000 fans per game. Even if they weren't competing for bragging rights or division titles, they would sell out every time they face as you are drawing from two fan bases. This would be true of Texas and Houston, Baltimore and DC, Pittsburgh and Philly.

So here is my realignment plan:
AL East
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
New York Mets
Washington Nationals

The Mets lose their rivalry with the Braves, but pick up a better one with Boston, not to mention 13 more games each season against the Yankees. I don't know the last time the Mets sold out 20 games in a season, but with the Yankees, Red Sox, and opening day, it would be done without them selling out any other games. This is a high payroll division as each team has the means and the market to compete. Baltimore and DC are a natural rivalry, and Baltimore has a long-standing history with the Yankees and Red Sox, not to mention their World Series history against the Mets. We could even bring back the old saying "Washington; First in War, First in Peace, Last in the American League." I also reccommend changing their name to the Senators.

AL Central
Colorado Rockies
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Milwakee Brewers
Minnesota Twins

This is a good division in that the Tigers are the biggest market team in the division. Sure there will be years where people are upset that one of these teams makes the playoffs while a better team is sitting home (like the Yankees, Red Sox, or Mets). However, it will mean that a mid or small market team will make the playoffs. More importantly, it means that five mid and small market teams do not have the ability to complain that they can't compete as they are competing against each other. These teams don't have much in terms of rivals right now since none of them are good for all that long. Competing against each other where the division stays competitive will create rivalries quickly. Of course the Royals will still lose.

AL West
Arizona Diamondbacks
Houston Astros
Las Vegas Devil Rays
San Antonio Marlins
Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers

Seattle sort of does not fit in with what you can call the "Cowboy Hat" Division, but you have the immediate rivals of the three Texas teams and probably Las Vegas and Arizona are good rivals with each other and the three Texas teams as well. Las Vegas' population is about 70% larger than Tampa's, and it's population growth is extraordinary. They have gone on record as saying they are willing to pay for a stadium for a major professional sports team. San Antonio, who desperately wants the Marlins, has a population over three times that of Miami. Baseball would be in two bigger markets with two new stadiums, and better rivalries.

NL East
Atlanta Braves
Philadelphia Phillies
Pittsburgh Pirates
Toronto Blue Jays

It's hard to pair the Blue Jays up with anybody, but they go to the division where they will compete against both teams (Phillies and Braves) that they defeated in the World Series. Philly and Pittsburgh would have no problem selling out, and Atlanta played those two teams in the playoffs three straight years in the early 1990s. While the Pirates pretend to be a small market team, this division really has 4 mid-market teams.

NL Central
Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox
Cincinnati Reds
Cleveland Indians
St. Louis Cardinals

This is a GREAT division. The hard part was moving the Indians and White Sox to the National League as they are the only two of the three original 16 teams that have to change divisions, but it's worth it (the other team, the A's, isn't as big of a deal since they've changed locations twice). Chicago and St. Louis are city rivals in the midwest like New York and Boston in the northeast (a little toned down, but the closest they have). People often make the trip to the opposing ballpark to see the games. The two Chicago teams with St. Louis is terrific, along with the Ohio matchup with the Indians and Reds. There is no question the Indians and White Sox are the teams that have to switch leagues to get these rivals together as you can't move the Cubs and Reds who have both been in the National League since its inception in 1876.

NL West
Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Dodgers
Oakland Athletics
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants

The California Division. The Dodgers and Giants rivalry goes back to 1884. Add in the Dodgers and Angels with the Giants and A's, and there are great rivalries all throughout this division. Every year is a bragging rights battle for the state of California, where the winner gets the very real payoff of playoffs.

While not every division is perfect, it's a lot better than it is now. This AL East, NL Central, and NL West are amazing. The AL West should be a fun division, and the AL Central and NL East have all similar market size teams, meaning competitive balance and divisional rivalries.

Okay, I better stop as these pants are making my chest itch.

1 comment:

Sully said...

See, I don't like this. I'm not opposed to radial reallignment, per se, but I don't see how you move the White Sox and Indians. That's just wrong.

I don't see how San Antonio is a bigger market than Miami, which manages to support four professional teams (well, maybe three and a half given what the Marlins draw, although they've won just as many championships as the Dolphins, Heat, and Panthers combined).

I don't see MLB ever putting a team in Vegas. Maybe the NBA, not MLB.

Pittsburgh and Philly don't sell out NOW - I don't see how being in the same division would change that.