Lately, there's been a lot of talk about realignment as a cure to baseball's competitive balance problem in lieu of a salary cap remedy. Of course, there is no competitive balance problem: despite massive disparities in payroll, the MLB has the most turnover per playoff spot of the four major American sport leagues. Nevertheless, Baseball does have a competitive balance perception issue, so the talk continues.
Will this stop me from fanning the flames by contributing yet another realignment plan? Absolutely not. Presenting
- I'm no purist. If I were MLB Commish, I'd simply jettison the leagues. In a unified MLB, former NL teams would use the DH. My apologies to the fans of .076 hitters batting three times a game, but every other professional league on the planet uses the DH. It's high time the NL moved into the 21st Cent-- err, the late 1970's.
- I'd jettison the divisions too. The MLB could be the most progressive American sports league, with 30 teams competing for
810 (or more) playoff spots irrespective of geography. In this reworked league, every team would play each other in one 3 game series, home team alternating every year. That takes care of 87 games there; what about the remaining 75 games? This is where it gets interesting...
- Sometime before the trade deadline, teams would "bid" on game dates in the following year's schedule with priority to the small market teams. In this "scheduling draft," the Royals/Pirates/Brewers could decide whether to A) earn cash by hosting good teams, or B) boost their playoff chances by hosting bad ones. Thereafter, the large market teams could bid to keep their profitable rivalries intact, so we'd still have plenty of Sox/Yanks, Cubs/Cards, Dodgers/Giants match-ups.
- If we wanted to be even more radical, we can cut the regular season schedule to 159 games, then let teams ranked 5-12 compete in four "play-in" series (teams 1-4 get a bye). The revenue that teams would gain from gate receipts with more teams in contention later in the season--and the chance for national TV money during the LPS--would more than compensate for those missing regular season games.