Musings about Baseball and Other Stuff
So just a few weeks after I post my idea about how to balance the interleague schedule, comes this bombshell which would render the whole point moot. Baseball America, a well-respected publication in its 37th year of operation, has reported that there’s a “building consensus” that expansion by two teams will happen in the near future. (The most likely expansion cities are Montreal and Portland.)
Expansion itself is not that surprising. It’s been 20 seasons since the league has expanded, the longest stretch since 1962. There’s plenty of talent out there from all over the world. Portland is the 26th largest city in the U.S. and is home to an NBA franchise; they could certainly support a big league baseball team. Montreal? They couldn’t hold on to the Expos, but then again, the Expos suffered from inept management and played in a terrible facility. I suppose we could give them another shot with a new downtown stadium.
Exactly where the new teams would be, though, is a small detail compared to the proposal of what a 32-team MLB would ultimately look like. The idea centers on creating four divisions of eight teams each, based on geography:
EAST – Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington.
NORTH – Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Montreal, both New Yorks, Toronto.
MIDWEST – Both Chicagos, Colorado, Houston, Kansas City, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Texas.
WEST – Anaheim, Arizona, Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle.
The first – and most jarring – thing you notice here is that there is no National League and no American League. This has a few different implications. One is the Designated Hitter.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan of the DH. But I’ve grown to accept it, mainly because it affects only half the league. But one assumes that the proposed new format would mean the DL would be implemented league-wide, something the players’ union has been after for decades. There’s no need to go into the whole well-worn argument here, but it makes me a little sad to think of certain aspects of the game, strategic and otherwise, that will be lost to the dust-heap of history once the pitcher’s spot in the batting order is gone for good.
Then there’s the playoff format: The four division winners would move to the postseason. The next eight teams with the best records, from any divisions, would pair off in four one-game wild card playoffs for the right to face the division winners in what we now call the LDS. Seeding would be based on regular-season records, meaning any two teams – even two teams from the same division – could potentially square off in the World Series. Weird. Since 1901, the AL has played the NL in the World Series. That would no longer be the case. It’s a lot for this traditionalist to wrap his head around.
My first instinct was to argue that we could still have four eight-team divisions while keeping the leagues intact:
AL EAST - Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Tampa Bay, Toronto.
AL WEST - Anaheim, Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, Texas.
NL EAST - Atlanta, Cincinnati, Miami, Montreal, New York, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington.
NL WEST - Arizona, Chicago, Colorado, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis.
However, the new proposal is designed to reduce the number of miles traveled over the course of the season. My alignment would probably create more miles, not fewer, especially in the NL West. I suppose this could be alleviated by shifting some teams from one league to the other. But I also suppose there’s a point at which you have to give up and just go with the flow.
Not to mention that this is all just talk at this point. The article cites a “building consensus,” without naming names or giving any specifics about what the term means here. It points out that this plan is “one proposal,” but mentions no other proposals. There's also no indication of exactly when any of this might go down.
So we don’t know what the future holds. Like I said, I’m mostly a traditionalist. But I also realize that change is inevitable, and not all change is bad. Baseball will go on, in one form or another, and it will still be the greatest game on Earth. Will I still be a fan? You betcha.