14 June 2011

Realignment Plans

The expiration of the current MLB CBA, the likely addition of two more wildcard teams, and reports leaking from MLB/PA negotiations has fueled even more realignment talk than we're used to. I figure it makes sense to re-post the plan I presented last season, with minor edits.


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 the Rational Pastime MLB Concept J-Doug's realignment plan:
  1. 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.

  2. I'd jettison the divisions too. The MLB could be the most progressive American sports league, with 30 teams competing for 8 10 (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...

  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Of course, this will, never, ever happen. And, like I said, baseball is in no need of repair--attendance and revenue is historically high despite the worst recession in decades, and viewership is stable and showing signs of an uptick. Even so, I think the Rational Pastime MLB Concept my realignment plan would be fun, fair, and profitable.


Anonymous said...

Attendance and revenue are historically high and you want to obliterate the leagues. It's like 1993 all over again. Attendance broke records that year but did that stop the owners from ruining pennant races by adding wild cards and expanding the playoffs? You want to erase 100+ years of history for what? I'm glad you're not commissioner.

JD Mathewson said...

I'm going to set aside how silly it is to get your underwear in a twist about a hypothetical I wrote five years ago, and address the assumptions in your post.

*Yes, attendance reached all-time highs in 92 and 93, largely because of two expansion teams, one that played in a football stadium with 60,000 seats.

*You might also note that attendance also skyrocketed after the addition of divisions and LCS playoffs to each league, the biggest change in the structure of MLB before or since.

*You might also also note that, after the strike, attendance recovered quickly and proceeded to set new all-time highs, despite (or, more likely, because of) "the owners...ruining pennant races by adding wild cards and expanding the playoffs."

Attendance is slightly down and steady since the 2008 recession, but that's as much a function of the economy as it is the trend towards smaller stadiums (which I wrote about here: http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2011/1/19/1941531/mlb-ballpark-seating-capacities-1920-2010).

I don't want to erase 100+ years of history, nor could I, as I don't write it, nor do I think anyone could. What I also don't want to do is wear history on my wrists like a pair of handcuffs that prevent me from designing new ideas, simply because those ideas weren't how we did it in the past.

And to answer your final question, "for what," well I believe I already answered it: to ensure that baseball continues to be "fun, fair, and profitable." See, despite your assumption that old-fashioned pennant races are what make baseball great, most fans don't agree. Most fans want to see *their team* in a race for the playoffs. The best way to do that is to eliminate the structures that prevent good teams from reaching the postseason, while encouraging bad teams to rebuild so that they can compete in the future.

If the best way to do that is to tear up and revolutionize the structure of the MLB schedule, divisions and season, then I'm all for it.