Lurking in the background of the sports news landscape like Jax at a Sig Chi party stalking the next unsuspecting freshman girl is the discussion of baseball realignment. If you haven’t been paying attention its not entirely your fault, the NBA and NHL finals have been in the forefront, relegating the MLB to the secondary news of the day. That being said, such a monumental change to a sport hasn’t been suggested in our lifetimes, and with some owners claiming it to be a 50-50 ordeal, we ought to spend a little time thinking about what we as fans should really want.
So realignment essentially amounts to is a restructuring of the league to level out the competition. Of course this makes sense on paper – Having the Yanks, Sox, and Rays in the same division could very well amount to having the top three teams in a league together in the same division, with one team missing out on the playoffs as a result of the idiotic structure. Imagine the Colts, Pats, and Steelers in a division together – Then imagine that there was no salary cap and that these teams could maintain their dominance. Of course this isn’t the situation in the NFL, their league makes sense: It has a salary cap. Baseball on the other hand is the China of pro sports, everyone’s poor except for those 4 rich guys who run everything. Forget salary cap its not happening.
So say we have a realignment, what can we expect? Well the god-awful AL West and NL West finally get broken up. Seriously, how many years in a row do we have to have the embarrassing “I wonder if a team will finish above .500 in the NL West” discussion. The AL and NL East get broken up to diffuse the dominance. As fans this sounds pretty smart, but its the way that the divisions are broken up which matters most. So what can we expect?
Two possibilities actually:
1.) Divisions go away, AL and NL remain. One team moves from the NL to the AL and two 15 team leagues emerge. Pretty easy – Get some team to move that doesn’t belong geographically to its division or just generally flies under the radar (Marlins, Astros fit both criteria).
Problems: Rivalries go away for the most part, Yanks/Sox, Dodgers/Giants, Cards/Cubs become less meaningful. Remember there’s actually some pride in winning the pennant in your division. The Sox and their fans hate when the Yanks win, and vice-versa. Also all this really resolves is the Yanks/Sox/Rays power division situation and takes away a lot of the fun of divisional ball. As fans let’s go ahead and veto.
2.) Reorganize the divisions. Trickier yes, but done in the right way and we could be onto something exciting. Certain things must prevail for this to work. The aforementioned rivalries had better stay put – As a game of tradition you can bet that forcing new rivalries is going to be an unsuccessful venture. Also geographic proximity is still important, so that should be kept in mind. How then do we split the teams up for this to work? Let’s give it a shot:
2 Leagues, 3 Divisions, 5 teams:
AL East – Yanks, Sox, Orioles, Reds, Pirates
AL Central – Cubs, Cards, Tigers, Twins, White Sox,
AL West – Angels, Rockies, Padres, Mariners, D’Backs
NL East – Mets, Phils, Indians, Nationals, Jays
NL Central – Rays, Marlins, Braves, Brewers, Astros
NL West – Dodgers, Giants, Rangers, A’s, Royals
Quick Thoughts: Yanks/Sox in AL East will always be dominant, lets sacrifice some teams to the baseball gods to keep status quo in that division. AL Central stays fun with Cubs/Cards – Inter-city Cubs/White Sox becomes a more heated rivalry. AL West has a much needed face-lift. NL East Keeps Mets/Phils – Upstart Indians and promising Nationals lurk behind the big spenders. NL Central get an interstate rivalry in Rays/Marlins, Braves can be counted on to compete. West gets real interesting with the 3-team Dodgers/Giants/Rangers fight to the top.
Of course this is never going to happen, but it would be fucking awesome if it did. Baseball needs a makeover anyway, so let’s think outside the box for once. I’m looking at you MLB. Make it happen.
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