Rumors began to swirl today when ESPN reported that Major League Baseball is considering realignment. This has been talked about in the past but nothing has come of it to date. Baseball has a long history of reformatting and realigning. The first world series was in 1903 as was a 9 game series, this changed to a seven game series in 1905 and has been that length ever since. Originally baseball had only the two leagues, American and National, in 1969 those leagues each split into two divisions and the NLCS and ALCS were born. In 1994 the current two league, six division format was adopted and the divisional series was added to the playoffs. Now that it’s 2011, another shift would seem to make sense.
The new format being talked about would realign the current 30 teams into two leagues of 15 teams each. The top five teams from each league would make the playoffs and interleague play would occur all season. Let’s break this down by these three major components.
Two leagues of 15 teams is a great idea. Currently there are two leagues, the American League has 14 teams and the National League has 16. A national league team would have to move to the American League. Teams being considered right now are the Houston Astros and the Florida Marlins. Maybe Bud Selig thinks baseball can get 12 people to show up to Marlins games instead of 10 if they can add a DH.
The top five teams from each league earning a spot in the playoffs ensures’ that the best teams make the postseason. As it stands right now a team that finishes .500 but wins their division would make the playoffs over a 90 win third place team in another division. The most recent example would be in 2007. The Cubs won the NL Central with an 85-77 record and the Mets finished the season with a record of 88-74. I am not a Mets fan, but they should have been in the playoffs in 2007, not the Cubs. Don’t worry Phillies fans, this also happened to us in 2006 when the Phils finished the regular season at 85-77 but missed out on the playoffs because the Cardinals record of 83-78 was good enough to win the NL Central. It’s the same thing in other sports, but at least the MLB is willing to look at fixing this issue.
Interleague play doesn’t make sense to me as it stands right now. The home team gets to play by their leagues rules and outside of the Mets vs. Yankees and White Sox vs. Cubs, there are no other natural rivalries. If there is going to be interleague play all season then one rule needs to be put into place, either a DH is allowed in both leagues or the position is eliminated. Two separate rules in the same sport makes absolutely no sense and personally drives me nuts. This needs to be fixed if the new format is going to work. Baseball can’t have an American league team not be able to use their DH for half of their road games because they’re playing in National League parks. National League teams can’t be expected to toss a bench player into the DH spot every time they are playing on the road in an American League ballpark. It’s one of those “duh” situations that just doesn’t make any sense and never has.
If baseball realigns and two 15 team leagues are created and they fix the DH rule it could be a great thing for the sport and an example for other sports (pay attention NFL). A realignment makes sense and should happen, hopefully baseball gets it right.