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Monday, August 01, 2011

Freakonomics: How Best to Realign Major League Baseball: A Freakonomics Quorum

Woo-hoo! Noisier than Hasil Adkins loading his equipment on stage! With…J.C. Bradbury, Andrew Zimbalist, Dave Berri and Raymond Sauer.

Dave Berri

...Beyond the inability to expand, let me briefly comment on a proposal that I think is linked to the idea of realignment. There is also a movement to expand baseball’s playoffs to five teams in each league. So if 15 teams play in each league, 33% of the each league would be in the post-season if the playoffs are expanded.

My sense is that an expanded playoffs is really motivated by a) a desire to increase baseball’s revenue and b) the desire to reduce the chances of the Yankees to win the World Series. Of these two motivations, I would guess that (b) is a bigger issue for Bud Selig. Selig has been campaigning for improved competitive balance in baseball for years (although competitive balance across the past few decades is much better than what we saw in the early 20th century). I suspect this campaign is really about limiting the ability of the Yankees to win the World Series.

One key issue about baseball’s playoffs is that outcomes are quite hard to predict. The teams in the post-season are not very different and baseball performance from week-to-week can vary tremendously (even for the best players). By expanding the playoffs, the odds of the Yankees navigating all the way through to another title get even longer. And for Selig – the former owner of the relatively small market Milwaukee Brewers — it would probably be a good thing if the Yankees’ path to yet another World Championship was made more difficult.

Repoz Posted: August 01, 2011 at 08:15 PM | 58 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. phredbird Posted: August 01, 2011 at 08:57 PM (#3890555)
for the millionth time. add a team in the NYC area. brooklyn to be exact. the borough is bigger than what, 90% of the cities in the country. it won't erode the yanks market overnight, but that is the long term solution.

at the same time, add a team west of the miss.

the separate leagues thing is over, thanks to bud's stupid interleague business.

turn MLB into 8 4-team divisions divided along geographical lines, keeping bos and nyy in separate divisions. then have them duke it out in 3 rounds of playoffs.

this will decentralize the playoffs enough that you'll have a lot of fan interest in areas throughout the country. if the yanks make it through that gauntlet it won't matter so much. the playoffs will resemble the good part of march madness, which is everybody being excited that their team is in it at the start.

i'm sure this has some drawbacks, but what we have now and this 15-team proposal really suck.
   2. PreservedFish Posted: August 01, 2011 at 09:13 PM (#3890565)
phredbird, your solution seems crazier than what we have now. I'm not ready to just wave away the National and American leagues with an "ehhhh, Bud's already ruined it for us." Baby/bathwater.
   3. zack Posted: August 01, 2011 at 09:15 PM (#3890567)
this will decentralize the playoffs enough that you'll have a lot of fan interest in areas throughout the country. if the yanks make it through that gauntlet it won't matter so much. the playoffs will resemble the good part of march madness, which is everybody being excited that their team is in it at the start.


The flipside is, I suspect, that this will result fan intersest like the NHL playoffs, where fans only care about the playoffs for as long as the local team is involved.
   4. cardsfanboy Posted: August 01, 2011 at 09:16 PM (#3890569)
i'm sure this has some drawbacks, but what we have now and this 15-team proposal really suck.


I love the 15 team proposal, assuming you mean three divisions within each league, 5 teams per division, interleague play all year long with 30 interleague games per team each year. (I believe it was 18 games within division--72 games total, 6 games each with every team from your league that is 60 games, and 6 games against 5 teams in interleague. Personally I prefer a more balanced schedule but this seems to work without dealing with expansion...although I would prefer that the most) Add in the one/three game wild card playoff round and you have a nice balance of league and fan preferred concepts.
   5. Mash Wilson Posted: August 01, 2011 at 09:18 PM (#3890571)
I have no idea why you would want the Red Sox and Yankees in separate divisions. Explain, please?

Four divisions and two rounds of playoffs is the answer, though. With a 154 game schedule and no off days during the playoffs unless you're traveling.

OK, now I'll RTFA.
   6. lastplaneout Posted: August 01, 2011 at 09:21 PM (#3890573)
I registered here just so I could note my appreciation of the Hasil Adkins reference.
   7. phredbird Posted: August 01, 2011 at 09:40 PM (#3890588)
like i said, its got its drawbacks.

the worst part obviously is the loss of the AL/NL split, but ... well ... milwaukee has already changed leagues. houston probably will. players move from league to league more than they used to -- don't they? interleague play has eroded the distinction too.
this is, if not the next step, a change that is not out of the range of possibility.

what i'm more interested in is seeing balance and the end of wild cards. by bringing the teams to 32, this can be done. 8 pennant winners, one from each division. that's the part i like.

this seems to work without dealing with expansion


there's nothing wrong with expansion. expansion is a temporary inconvenience. it just seems to me that 32 teams with the geographic distribution that results will cover the US adequately for a long time and so there'll be some stability in the game that will grow fan loyalty. you have fans now that are unaware that interleague play is new. combining and realigning isn't going to make time run backwards.
   8. Ephus Posted: August 01, 2011 at 09:42 PM (#3890591)
I know that it is an article of faith around here that a third team in NYC would help to dilute the spending power of the Yankees, but I do not think that there is good empircal evidence for that. Looking at each of the four major sports, it seems that there is a dominant team that monopolizes most of the big Wall Street/Hedge Fund $$$, and that the other teams obtain only a sliver. In MLB, since the early 90s, the Yankees have been the glamor team, while the Mets have struggled to intermittently break through. In the NFL, the Giants have regularly sold out the Meadowlands and were able to sell all of the PSLs for the New Meadowlands, while the Jets have struggled, even while reaching the AFC Championship Game in each of the past two years. In the NBA, the Knicks have held the glamor position despite being a train wreck for the past decade, even while the Nets made two NBA Finals in a row. And in the NHL, the Rangers have held the glamor position, even while the Devils were winning the Stanley Cup. The Islanders - the only third team in New York in any of the four major leagues - have struggled to survive and, if they lose tonight's referendum on a new arena, may be headed out of town.

Here is a much simpler method to reduce the Yankees advantage: the top four teams in payroll would be limited the following year in the length of contract they could offer a free agent. The team with the highest payroll could only offer a 1-year contract. The team with the second highest payroll could only offer 1-year or 2-year contracts. Third highest payroll ---> maximum three year contracts. Fourth highest payroll ---> maximum four year contracts. All other teams could offer contracts as they saw fit.

This rule would place the Yankees and Red Sox at a disadvantage in trying to sign free agents from other teams, and would also allow other teams to effective compete for Yankee/Red Sox free agents.
   9. phredbird Posted: August 01, 2011 at 09:43 PM (#3890592)
I have no idea why you would want the Red Sox and Yankees in separate divisions. Explain, please?


no reason other than i think there would be enormous pressure to have them in separate divisions to enhance the possibility that they meet in the playoffs. tv ratings.

i'd prob. recommend the same solution for stl and cubs and dodgers and giants. i listed the divisions in a thread similar to this before. its do-able with a little gerrymandering.
   10. cardsfanboy Posted: August 01, 2011 at 09:50 PM (#3890597)
I have no idea why you would want the Red Sox and Yankees in separate divisions. Explain, please?


Not that I support that proposal, but I think it's implying that MLB mostly cares about the Yankees and Red Sox and by having them in separate divisions you "guarantee" they meet in the playoffs. Considering that historically the Red Sox are about the 15th best team in baseball history, I don't understand why everyone cares so much why a team with basically a decade of success (see Pirates of the 70's I guess) is a team that the rest of baseball should care about in long term planning.

Basically any type of realignment is going to follow some basic rules. 1. divisions will still exist. 2. leagues will exist 3. Cardinals/Cubs, Yankees/Red Sox, Dodgers/Giants will all be in the same divisiion 3a. as long as Bud is involved Brewers/Cubs will stay in the same division. 4.Nationals/Orioles, Yankees/Mets, Cubs/White Sox will be in opposite leagues
   11. phredbird Posted: August 01, 2011 at 09:51 PM (#3890598)
ephus, i see what you are saying, but i did qualify my comment. it won't cripple NYY overnight, but i don't see how the yankees could continue to be the dominant team indefinitely if there were a team in brooklyn. a couple of down years, an efficient ownership group in one of the other ... i dunno. the yankees were not the no. 1 team in NY for the first 25 yrs of the 20th century.

maybe i'm just after change for change's sake ... not nec. a good thing.
   12. cardsfanboy Posted: August 01, 2011 at 09:53 PM (#3890600)
I know that it is an article of faith around here that a third team in NYC would help to dilute the spending power of the Yankees, but I do not think that there is good empircal evidence for that.


I'm not even sure that is why people propose adding a third New York team, the purpose of adding a third New York team is that the population of New York can support it, it has little to do with diluting the spending power of the Yankees, and more to do with finding a viable healthy spot for an expansion team to play.
   13. Mash Wilson Posted: August 01, 2011 at 09:57 PM (#3890604)
Ephus's post is good except the last two paragraphs.

phredbird: I misread your post and thought you were arguing for four divisions (which is the Right Thing but we'll move right along). In an eight division setup that makes more sense.
   14. Dale Sams Posted: August 01, 2011 at 10:00 PM (#3890609)
I would think the Yanks diminished chances of making the WS (assuming they have to play some sort of wild-card play-in round) are made up a little by the fact that adding an extra playoff spot gets them into the playoffs in those one out of 10 years they wouldn't have otherwise.
   15. Dale Sams Posted: August 01, 2011 at 10:03 PM (#3890610)
historically the Red Sox are about the 15th best team in baseball history,


???

Their 11 world series appearances place them 6th. I dont have a handy chart of playoff appearances, but I know they have 20 appearances, 21 if you were to count 1904.
   16. TerpNats Posted: August 01, 2011 at 10:10 PM (#3890613)
Considering that historically the Red Sox are about the 15th best team in baseball history, I don't understand why everyone cares so much why a team with basically a decade of success (see Pirates of the 70's I guess) is a team that the rest of baseball should care about in long term planning.
The economy is becoming so bi-coastal, with the Bay Area and Boston joining New York and Los Angeles as concentrations of wealth in our new high-tech society. Boston isn't going to devolve into Pittsburgh for a long, long time, if ever. The Red Sox may not be the equal to the Yankees in wealth, just as Yale isn't the equal of Harvard in endowment, but both have a decided advantage over the rest of the field.
   17. Lassus Posted: August 01, 2011 at 10:11 PM (#3890614)
My sense is that an expanded playoffs is really motivated by a) a desire to increase baseball’s revenue and b) the desire to reduce the chances of the Yankees to win the World Series. Of these two motivations, I would guess that (b) is a bigger issue for Bud Selig. Selig has been campaigning for improved competitive balance in baseball for years (although competitive balance across the past few decades is much better than what we saw in the early 20th century). I suspect this campaign is really about limiting the ability of the Yankees to win the World Series.

I just cannot, try as hard as I might, believe this bit of black-helicopter nonsense about some kind of anti-Yankees plot. Especially considering that their dynasty was all of a.) four non-consecutive WS wins b.) ending over a decade ago. Honestly, laying so much weight on that point strikes me as ridiculous enough not to take much else of what Berri says seriously.
   18. cardsfanboy Posted: August 01, 2011 at 10:39 PM (#3890623)
???

Their 11 world series appearances place them 6th. I dont have a handy chart of playoff appearances, but I know they have 20 appearances, 21 if you were to count 1904.


15th wasn't a hard and fast number, just pointing out that they aren't the Yankees, and are not even the Dodgers, Cardinals, or Giants as far as historical significance goes. The concerns of Boston shouldn't be the concerns of MLB.

I just cannot, try as hard as I might, believe this bit of black-helicopter nonsense about some kind of anti-Yankees plot. Especially considering that their dynasty was all of a.) four non-consecutive WS wins b.) ending over a decade ago. Honestly, laying so much weight on that point strikes me as ridiculous enough not to take much else of what Berri says seriously.


Agreed, I don't doubt for a second that Bud wants to take money away from the Yankees and spread it about, but I don't think he honestly considers there to have been a Yankee dynasty or that it's bad for baseball, he just wants the Yankees to subsidize other teams, even if they win all the time. His primary goal against the Yankees is that he thinks they single handedly drive salaries up and wants to do all in his power to take the ability of a "rogue" owner from spending too freely, therefore causing other owners to spend, costing the owners their "well deserved profits".
   19. Dale Sams Posted: August 01, 2011 at 10:53 PM (#3890628)
15th wasn't a hard and fast number, just pointing out that they aren't the Yankees, and are not even the Dodgers, Cardinals, or Giants as far as historical significance goes. The concerns of Boston shouldn't be the concerns of MLB.


You're pretty much right about the teams of historical significance, but as the Sox are usually 1rst or 2cnd in road attendance here in the present...they shhould be the concerns of the MLB...all deserved scorn from non-fans aside.
   20. AndrewJ Posted: August 01, 2011 at 10:54 PM (#3890629)
for the millionth time. add a team in the NYC area. brooklyn to be exact. the borough is bigger than what, 90% of the cities in the country. it won't erode the yanks market overnight, but that is the long term solution.

Or North Jersey -- an MLB team in the vicinity of Elysian Fields, Hoboken would be poetic.
   21. PreservedFish Posted: August 01, 2011 at 11:12 PM (#3890638)
If you have 15 NL / 15 AL, could you solve the scheduling problem by having exactly one interleague series on at any time? I think this would reduce the number of overall interleague games (from 250 to 162), and remove some of those non-rivalry games that people make fun of. It would also create a kind of roving spotlight effect, where the two teams playing the only interleague game of the night get a little extra attention. You could retain the regional rivalries that MLB loves so much.
   22. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: August 01, 2011 at 11:20 PM (#3890646)
I just cannot, try as hard as I might, believe this bit of black-helicopter nonsense about some kind of anti-Yankees plot. Especially considering that their dynasty was all of a.) four non-consecutive WS wins b.) ending over a decade ago. Honestly, laying so much weight on that point strikes me as ridiculous enough not to take much else of what Berri says seriously.
This.

It may not be true, but it sounds like if you'd told him that the Yankees' 2009 title had been their first since 2000 he'd've been shocked.

Expanding the playoffs is entirely about more revenue.
   23. BDC Posted: August 01, 2011 at 11:27 PM (#3890654)
To go back to TFF, I thought each of the authors had a pretty good point. Zimbalist notes that no "solution" is going to be perfect. Bradbury notes that a division title in baseball is still something to hang a flag for – true of no other major sport, really. Berri notes that 32 teams would be both ideal and hard to fit into existing stadia (more so than markets, even). Sauer recognizes that some sort of unified DH policy would have to accompany major realignment.

The one weak argument is Berri's, in the excerpt. IMO, at least (and in several others' too, I see). Berri senses that expanded playoffs are an attempt to have the Yankees win less often. I think just the opposite. The Yankees have done OK at not winning the World Series lately – one in the last ten years is hardly a juggernaut. I think that expanded playoffs are an attempt to guarantee that the Yankees and Red Sox make the playoffs every year, without which they cannot go deep and bring in big TV audiences. Perhaps one's perspective on this depends on one's feelings about the Empires.

For my part, I would hate to see the four-team AL West go. It has been a fun little division, competitive and concentrated. Despite the late TV times for me, I love seeing the four coast teams come into Arlington so often. In its 16 years, the division has gone five times to the Angels, four apiece to the Rangers and A's, and three times to the Mariners. Only two pennants and one World Champion in the stretch, but the division flags and the regional rivalries are fun, I think.
   24. Karl from NY Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:03 AM (#3890674)
A team in Brooklyn would cannibalize the Mets more than the Yankees. Yankee fans in Brooklyn won't flip loyalties to a new team, but the Mets do have a Dodgers-legacy following that would switch back to a Brooklyn team in a heartbeat.

New Jersey is your better bet for diluting the Yankees, but I don't know where to put a stadium. Hoboken has no space for a major-league facility short of building a whole new pier out on the river, and absolutely no way to get cars in and out of the town. (Literally, there is not a single highway into Hoboken, and the connection from the nearby Turnpike funnels through two small surface streets.) The Meadowlands people only go to on weekends for football, the Devils and Nets always drew crap there on weeknights. Newark is the only workable option, but still nobody wants to go there on a weeknight, the Devils have drawn middling at best there.

As for the broader topic, NFL/NHL-style realignment is coming within ten years so brace for it now. The big concern consistently heard from the owners is to get as many games as possible in their own time zones. (See the Astros' desire to switch leagues now.) Which naturally comes with lower travel burdens and costs. We will see realignment into 8 divisions by geographical clusters as soon as MLB figures out where to put the two additional expansion teams, which means whoever lets themselves get suckered into building stadiums. It's coming and we can't stop it. The AL and NL will be as relevant as the Wales and Campbell Conferences.
   25. DFA Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:04 AM (#3890675)
Not sure why the AL and NL need to have 15 teams. I see that a six team division and a four team division isn't fair, but I'm not sure why this can't be resolved by 2 divisions per league like it used to be. Eliminating interleague play allows a slight imbalanced schedule as well though a world without the classic Diamondbacks - Orioles tilt is a world I don't want to live in...
   26. cardsfanboy Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:18 AM (#3890688)
(See the Astros' desire to switch leagues now.)


where was this at? I've seen plenty of people posit that the Astros would be the team to switch, but I've not heard anyone in authority claim this is what they want or that there is any real possibility of that happening.

As for the broader topic, NFL/NHL-style realignment is coming within ten years so brace for it now. The big concern consistently heard from the owners is to get as many games as possible in their own time zones. (See the Astros' desire to switch leagues now.) Which naturally comes with lower travel burdens and costs. We will see realignment into 8 divisions by geographical clusters as soon as MLB figures out where to put the two additional expansion teams, which means whoever lets themselves get suckered into building stadiums. It's coming and we can't stop it. The AL and NL will be as relevant as the Wales and Campbell Conferences.


That seems even more far fetched than my theory that by 2025 the DH will be in both leagues. MLB prides itself on the two league format and pennants flying that the other sports don't pride themselves on. If MLB was in any financial concerns then I could see that possibility but considering the state of it's popularity and the revenue it's bringing down, I don't see them doing anything to rock the boat too much.

I agree that there will be some realignment in the future after MLB adds expansion teams, (although none of the original teams will change leagues) but there is no way it's going to diminish the importance that the fans and teams place on division championships. There might be 8 divisions but it's going to be 4 divisions per league and leagues will still have validity.
   27. villageidiom Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:20 AM (#3890689)
15th wasn't a hard and fast number, just pointing out that they aren't the Yankees, and are not even the Dodgers, Cardinals, or Giants as far as historical significance goes.
If you're talking the history of baseball, well, yeah, they're significant. They're likely in the top three of teams that didn't spend 60 or so years in NYC. There are only 16 teams that can claim the duration of baseball history that the Red Sox have been around, so 15 is bottom of the barrel.

If you're not talking about that duration of baseball history... The Red Sox have more cumulative wins than the Cardinals over the last X regular seasons, where X is any number under 70.

The concerns of Boston shouldn't be the concerns of MLB.
Absolutely agree.
   28. cardsfanboy Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:22 AM (#3890690)
Not sure why the AL and NL need to have 15 teams. I see that a six team division and a four team division isn't fair, but I'm not sure why this can't be resolved by 2 divisions per league like it used to be. Eliminating interleague play allows a slight imbalanced schedule as well though a world without the classic Diamondbacks - Orioles tilt is a world I don't want to live in...


First reason is that no major sports league is going to reduce the number of teams who make it to the post season, so if you do it by your method you will have two first place teams and two wild card teams. Second that would reduce the number of playoff races, another thing that no major sports team is going to do, the money is in the ability to sell how important games are in August, going back to the old format reduces the potential number of competitive races each year. That isn't going to happen. The appeal is in smaller divisions and more post season teams, at least to the casual fans. Smaller divisions generally speaking makes it easier for a smart organization to become competitive again or exploit a lucky year.
   29. Dread Pirate Dave Roberts Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:30 AM (#3890694)
15th wasn't a hard and fast number, just pointing out that they aren't the Yankees, and are not even the Dodgers, Cardinals, or Giants as far as historical significance goes. The concerns of Boston shouldn't be the concerns of MLB.

You're pretty much right about the teams of historical significance, but as the Sox are usually 1rst or 2cnd in road attendance here in the present...they should be the concerns of the MLB...all deserved scorn from non-fans aside.


After this year, the Red Sox will have had 6 losing seasons over the last 45. That's a pretty long period of historical significance. Contrast that with Pittsburgh, who have had 6 losing seasons since 2005 inclusive. The Dodgers have had 6 losing seasons since their last title in 1988. I think the MLB would be right to be concerned about the Red Sox.
   30. Dread Pirate Dave Roberts Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:34 AM (#3890696)
With regard to the 3rd NYC-area team, one point I've heard mentioned in previous threads is that while regional rivalries drive interest up, it's a zero-sum game when the teams are within the same market and competing against each other. I agree with this point and I think it often gets overlooked in these proposals.

While the Yankees and Giants are the dominant teams in NY for MLB and the NFL, the Mets and Jets have a sizable, consistent following and have generally not suffered over the others' existence. Contrast that to the NBA situation with the Knicks/Nets and the NHL with the Rangers/Islanders/Devils, where the teams directly compete against each other. The losing teams here really do struggle. The same effect can be seen in LA with Dodgers/Angels versus Lakers/Clippers and Kings/Ducks.

This was likely one of the factors that led the Dodgers and Giants to leave NYC to begin with -- the Yankees had no problem on their own since they were in a separate league. But the casual NL fan in NYC would simply cheer for the winning team of the Dodgers/Giants tandem, and not bring in any new fans.

Therefore, I believe that the only way a 3rd team in NYC would thrive (similar to the Mets/Jets/Angels/White Sox thriving) would be if it were in a 3rd league. This, of course, really isn't on the table now, but there are fun ways where the current MLB structure could be divided into 4 leagues instead of 2, while simultaneously respecting MLB past while embracing the current and anticipated future trends of current fans' enjoyment.
   31. Karl from NY Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:47 AM (#3890702)
I don't see them doing anything to rock the boat too much.


Flip it around: in a realignment scenario, what reason do the owners have to keep the leagues? Historical league affiliation doesn't drive any revenue. Do there exist any league rivalries that wouldn't be preserved by a geographical alignment? Yankees-Boston, Mets-Phillies, Cubs-Cardinals, Giants-Dodgers would stay together in any geographical scenario. So why wouldn't the Mets and Yankees want to shack up together and add 18 guaranteed sellouts against each other every year while skipping out on nine days of travel and travel costs? Baltimore-Washington, Cincinnati-Cleveland, Houston-Texas, there's plenty of pairs that would love to draw from each others' cities on a regular basis. The most there is to lose by geographical alignment are quasi-rivalries like Mets-Braves or Pirates-Phillies, but baseball wouldn't miss those any more than it misses Minnesota-Milwaukee (AL) now.
   32. cardsfanboy Posted: August 02, 2011 at 01:02 AM (#3890720)
Flip it around: in a realignment scenario, what reason do the owners have to keep the leagues? Historical league affiliation doesn't drive any revenue. Do there exist any league rivalries that wouldn't be preserved by a geographical alignment? Yankees-Boston, Mets-Phillies, Cubs-Cardinals, Giants-Dodgers would stay together in any geographical scenario. So why wouldn't the Mets and Yankees want to shack up together and add 18 guaranteed sellouts against each other every year? Baltimore-Washington, Cincinnati-Cleveland, Houston-Texas, there's plenty of pairs that would love to draw from each others' cities on a regular basis. The most there is to lose by geographical alignment are quasi-rivalries like Mets-Braves or Pirates-Phillies, but baseball wouldn't miss those any more than it misses Minnesota-Milwaukee (AL) now.


Again I said there would be some realignment, but not to the degree that it makes the leagues unimportant. I honestly do think that the Pirates Phillies is going to happen it makes too much sense not to, and think that eventually the Rays/Marlins will also join the same division. Even the NFL doesn't do something as crazy as put two New York teams in the same division(the Jets are AFC, and Giants are NFC) I don't see how having two teams from the same city helps out, it makes more sense if they are close but separate as it becomes a destination weekend, in the same city your just cannibalizing your own income.

And as long as baseball attendance is strong, there is no reason to gimmick up the league in that way. NBA and NHL did it because they are crappily run leagues who lost a ton of their attendance by bad marketing and TV negotiation. The NFL doesn't care one whit about attendance as it doesn't make a dent in their revenue.
   33. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 02, 2011 at 01:06 AM (#3890727)
This, of course, really isn't on the table now, but there are fun ways where the current MLB structure could be divided into 4 leagues instead of 2, while simultaneously respecting MLB past while embracing the current and anticipated future trends of current fans' enjoyment.


Original ALs, Original NLs, Expansion ALs and Expansion NLs??

I was daydreaming the other day about what would have happened if say the Pacific Coast League had become financially viable as a major league, AND the Continental League had become a viable major league. Then in effect, the AL and NL would be pretty much east coast leagues. The PCL would be the west coast league. And the CL would likely be kind of a midwest league.

AL
Baltimore
Boston
Chicago
Cleveland
Detroit
Kansas City
New York
Washington

NL
Brooklyn
Chicago
Cincinnati
Milwaukee
New York
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
St. Louis

PCL
Hollywood
Los Angeles
Oakland
Portland
Sacramento
San Diego
San Francisco
Seattle

CL
Atlanta
Buffalo
Dallas
Denver
Houston
Minneapolis
New York
Toronto

Eventually I would guess, franchises would eventually relocate to large markets like Phoenix, Miami and Tampa and possibly Montreal.

I don't know how exactly the setup would be for the post-season - every year the leagues alternate who they match up against in the opening round?
   34. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 02, 2011 at 01:24 AM (#3890743)
A team in Brooklyn would cannibalize the Mets more than the Yankees. Yankee fans in Brooklyn won't flip loyalties to a new team, but the Mets do have a Dodgers-legacy following that would switch back to a Brooklyn team in a heartbeat.


I see no evidence that any element of this statement is true.

The real reason not to put a team in Brooklyn is that there is no desirable space at all. Parking and mass transit would be a nightmare, the real estate would cost a fortune, and the PR would be a shitstorm of epic proportions.
   35. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 02, 2011 at 01:42 AM (#3890773)
The real reason not to put a team in Brooklyn is that there is no desirable space at all. Parking and mass transit would be a nightmare, the real estate would cost a fortune, and the PR would be a shitstorm of epic proportions.


Umm, there's plenty of derilict industrial space in Brooklyn, and Mass Transit is excellent.
   36. Karl from NY Posted: August 02, 2011 at 01:51 AM (#3890787)
Even the NFL doesn't do something as crazy as put two New York teams in the same division(the Jets are AFC, and Giants are NFC)


The NHL has all three New York teams in the same division, and their games against each other are consistently the best-attended for all of them.

That said, splitting the Giants and Jets does make sense for the NFL, since they sell out everything anyway, and get more exposure by being on opposite TV networks.

The closest parallel we have to Yankees-Mets sharing a division are the NY and LA intracity pairs in the NBA. The Knicks and Lakers sell out anyway, but the Nets and Clippers highly welcome the extra sales from hosting their neighbors. So the Yankees probably wouldn't care a whole lot but the Mets would be happy to share a division (in revenue terms, maybe not so much in trying to beat out the Yankees for a playoff berth.)


I see no evidence that any element of this statement is true.


A former co-worker of mine who was known to wear a Brooklyn Dodgers cap to the office has told me exactly that, that he'd flip from the Mets to a new Brooklyn team. He can't be alone. My own Mets loyalty might be tested too; I'm a Mets fan born from multiple generations of Brooklyn Dodger fans and Yankee haters.
   37. cardsfanboy Posted: August 02, 2011 at 02:22 AM (#3890832)
The NHL has all three New York teams in the same division, and their games against each other are consistently the best-attended for all of them.


That is hockey.... Nobody cares about hockey(or basketball) so they need a gimmick to juice up attendance. The sports that people care about don't need to rely on gimmicks like that Football doesn't, baseball doesn't. First off attendance is a minor issue of revenue for football, so it's actually in their best interest to keep the two teams in separate division to focus on tv ratings boosts which is their primary income. A Giant/Jet game isn't going to get the national ratings that a Jet/49ers game(assuming same quality of teams) will get. Second off again, comparing a well run sport like MLB to an abortion like the NBA isn't anything to point to as a point of pride. The NBA had positioned itself to become bigger than baseball and then basically Selig took over, or basketball screwed up their marketing, either way, the NBA is a shell of it's former self, trying to follow their lead is a recipe for disaster or a way to alienate their fans.

Baseball cares about tradition more than other sports, that is why it's still the number 1 (or 1A) sport in the U.S. it keeps it's old fans, and has done a good job of recruiting more fans over the past 20 years. It does enough changes that the MTV short attention span generation can enjoy it, while not doing enough to completely alienate the stick up their ass traditionalists. It's a high wire act and they slowly move the bar, but they won't do anything like moving the Pirates or Phillies to the AL or dumping the NL/AL concept, at least not in the next 10 years, heck the issue of the DH will be resolved before anything that radical happens.

In the next ten years, you might see some moderate realignment, you might see a proposal to make the DH universal, 10 playoff teams is pretty much a guarantee, probably as soon as next year. If we are lucky they might seriously consider expansion, but that is about it. The Yankees and Mets will not in my lifetime(assuming I live to 100 years old, that puts it at 2070) be in the same league or division. Not going to happen.
   38. Mash Wilson Posted: August 02, 2011 at 02:26 AM (#3890837)
I have no idea how in the world you can claim the MLB is equal to or greater than the NFL in popularity in the U.S., CFB. Can you back that up?

I agree that you won't see much change in the next decade except a larger playoff field (we will get to 12 teams in about 10 years, I think) and the eventual universal adoption of the DH. I expect once the Astros move to the AL West that will be the last realignment for a while.
   39. Dread Pirate Dave Roberts Posted: August 02, 2011 at 02:32 AM (#3890839)
Original ALs, Original NLs, Expansion ALs and Expansion NLs??

I was daydreaming the other day about what would have happened if say the Pacific Coast League had become financially viable as a major league, AND the Continental League had become a viable major league. Then in effect, the AL and NL would be pretty much east coast leagues. The PCL would be the west coast league. And the CL would likely be kind of a midwest league.


Something like that. In my #1 scenario I'd purchase the PCL name from the current AAA league, and then carve out a league from the current NL West and AL West (sans Rangers). Then I'd reform the American Association (homage to the previous ML in the 1800s plus a consistent minor league presence over the years) and put an expansion Brooklyn team there, but generally make it a southern based-league: move Atlanta, Washington, Florida, Tampa Bay, Texas and Kansas City here, while also expanding somewhere in NC. While NY competing in the south may seem awkward, the Dallas and Washington connection is very strong in the NFC East and could be reunited here if done right.

The remaining AL and NL teams would generally be the ones with the longest tenure in their cities (Toronto and PCL teams excepted). Each of the 3 non-PCL leagues would have a decent mix of eastern and central time zone teams -- one hour difference isn't really huge, it's the 2+ ones that have caused concerns on the past. So in this manner, tradition is preserved (old teams in old leagues, new leagues made in homage to past leagues, 8 team leagues). Regional rivalries are set up (PCL, southern-based league) but in general there is only one team per metro region per league (A's would probably have to move in this scenario, while the distance between the Dodgers and Angels and overall size of the LA/Orange County areas will probably make this one exception work).

Where I would have a major deviation is that in today's era, with several major competing sports leagues and oodles of other entertainment options that didn't exist 75 years ago, MLB cannot survive with just the pennant winners moving on. People just won't watch a 5th place team in August, let alone ones that are worse. So I would propose having each pennant determined via a 4-team tournament at the end of the year among each league's top 4 finishers. First team to win 7 games in the tournament wins the pennant; highest placed team always has home field. In this way, the 4th place team never has a home game, 1st place always does. It rewards excellence while still giving the others a chance, and will cause teams to play their hardest in September for seeding.

All of this will never happen, of course. But I think it's a fun thought. It requires 32 teams and I'm not sure if economic conditions are ripe both in MLB and the country in general for an expansion.
   40. cardsfanboy Posted: August 02, 2011 at 02:37 AM (#3890840)
I have no idea how in the world you can claim the MLB is equal to or greater than the NFL in popularity in the U.S., CFB. Can you back that up?


Well outside of tv ratings, I don't see how anyone could claim that the NFL is equal to MLB in popularity. Raw number of attendance clearly favors MLB. (and yes I know I'm cherry picking, but the silliness of morons comparing NFL ratings to baseball ratings makes me cherry pick stats in the same vein. I mean Since football ratings are based upon one weeks worth of games, then baseball should be able to add their entire weekly ratings to make it equivalent...)

NFL and MLB as recently as three years ago were neck and neck in annual revenue, look at the casual fans during the off season and baseball fans care more about day to day happenings than NFL fans etc. I mean how many articles do you see a year written about who should win the MVP for the two sports, how about who goes to the all star game, etc? nobody cares about football except the three hours it takes for them to play their 11 minutes of action on a weekly basis.

You don't see people bemoaning the steroid freaks of today's football players breaking the records of the clean and pure guys like OJ Simpson etc. People just don't care about the NFL outside of during go time. And it's closer to a weekly poker party to a lot of people than it is a game.
   41. Dread Pirate Dave Roberts Posted: August 02, 2011 at 02:42 AM (#3890843)
The NHL has all three New York teams in the same division, and their games against each other are consistently the best-attended for all of them.


That is true, but how well attended and watched are Nets games against anyone else? Or Islanders/Devils games versus anyone else?

When given two or more teams in the same market competing directly, the casual fan trends towards the winner, with only a small amount of individual team brand loyalty built. So you'll get sellouts for the intercity games, but otherwise the Rangers/Knicks will get sellouts in other games (while they're good) and the worse team will struggle in those games because the casual fan has no reason to care for the loser team. Whereas if they were in different divisions, the opportunity for brand loyalty arises as direct competition doesn't generally happen until the postseason. Thus you see large number of loyal Mets and Jets fans, with both teams having reasonable attendance and ratings when compared to the Yankees and Giants even with the latter group generally being better teams over extended time periods.
   42. Sleepy supports unauthorized rambling Posted: August 02, 2011 at 03:18 AM (#3890856)
Baltimore-Washington, Cincinnati-Cleveland, Houston-Texas, there's plenty of pairs that would love to draw from each others' cities on a regular basis. The most there is to lose by geographical alignment are quasi-rivalries like Mets-Braves or Pirates-Phillies, but baseball wouldn't miss those any more than it misses Minnesota-Milwaukee (AL) now.


I'm guessing that Baltimore makes more money from the Yankees visiting than they would from playing the Nats. Same with pretty much every other AL East team.
   43. rr Posted: August 02, 2011 at 05:15 AM (#3890913)
. Nobody cares about hockey(or basketball) so they need a gimmick to juice up attendance.

nobody cares about football except the three hours it takes for them to play their 11 minutes of action on a weekly basis.

The NBA had positioned itself to become bigger than baseball and then basically Selig took over, or basketball screwed up their marketing, either way, the NBA is a shell of it's former self, trying to follow their lead is a recipe for disaster


You're projecting.

I am not that into pro football myself, but millions of people really care about it, talk about it, think about it, read about it, and look forward to watching it every week. Football is great for TV and great for casual fans, but it also has many, many intense fans.

As to the NBA, it has made some mistakes, the main one being not realizing that there is only going to be one Michael Jordan. But the NBA actually did very well commercially in many ways last year; the LeBron James storyline drove the numbers, and all the big markets had pretty good teams. What is going on now is that Stern and some small-market owners are trying to bust the NBAPA with an NHL-style nuclear winter, mostly because they can.

You are right though, about "following the lead." Each sport is different and should organize, market and compensate its players accordingly.
   44. valuearbitrageur Posted: August 02, 2011 at 05:53 AM (#3890918)
Tradition is what kills baseball. Traditionalists forget that we didn't play west coast baseball before the end of the 50s, didn't have playoffs until about the same time, didn't have the wild card until the 70s, same time as the DH. They want to freeze baseball in a vacume for all time, forgetting it's already greatly morphed.

Dump the NL/AL split. Just build 6 regional divisions to cut down travel and build rivalries, have every team make a swing through the other divisions once or twice a season, and seed based on over-all records, with two wild cards.

And make sure every playoff series is scheduled for 7 games, don't short shrift the first rounds, every team should have a chance to use their entire staff and rotation and don't favor the teams the the strongest two starters.

And I don't think baseball fans should take shots at the NFL for game length or lack of constant action. Baseball fans should take shots at Selig for not cutting our game length down even further and increasing the action within the game.
   45. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 02, 2011 at 06:19 AM (#3890922)
Umm, there's plenty of derilict industrial space in Brooklyn, and Mass Transit is excellent.


It certainly wasn't visible to the naked eye when I was living there. And the mass transit leaves a very great deal to be desired everywhere outside Fort Greene and Williamsburg. I don't know what Brooklyn you're imagining, but it's not one that exists.
   46. cabintwelve Posted: August 02, 2011 at 06:37 AM (#3890927)
Tradition is what kills baseball.

I think a lot of people agree with that. Except that it hasn't.
   47. Greg K Posted: August 02, 2011 at 08:02 AM (#3890938)
Tradition is what kills baseball. Traditionalists forget that we didn't play west coast baseball before the end of the 50s, didn't have playoffs until about the same time, didn't have the wild card until the 70s, same time as the DH.

Not that it effects your larger point, but I feel like I'm missing something. Wasn't the first LCS in 69, and the first Wild Card in 1995?
   48. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: August 02, 2011 at 08:58 AM (#3890944)
And I don't think baseball fans should take shots at the NFL for game length or lack of constant action. Baseball fans should take shots at Selig for not cutting our game length down even further and increasing the action within the game.


The 45 second play clock in the NFL is an absurd waste of time. The huddle is the most overrated thing in sports. NFL football has more downtime than any American sport.
   49. Dan Evensen Posted: August 02, 2011 at 11:28 AM (#3890956)
This was likely one of the factors that led the Dodgers and Giants to leave NYC to begin with -- the Yankees had no problem on their own since they were in a separate league. But the casual NL fan in NYC would simply cheer for the winning team of the Dodgers/Giants tandem, and not bring in any new fans.

This strikes me as being written by somebody who has no knowledge of baseball history, or of the concept of Brooklyn as a separate entity from New York that was popular for quite some time. It also contradicts everything I've ever read about the Giants - Dodgers rivalry -- and ignores the fact that Yankees attendance wasn't exactly stellar after the two NL teams vacated.

And as long as baseball attendance is strong, there is no reason to gimmick up the league in that way. NBA and NHL did it because they are crappily run leagues who lost a ton of their attendance by bad marketing and TV negotiation. The NFL doesn't care one whit about attendance as it doesn't make a dent in their revenue.

This I agree with -- though I do have issues with your later statement that nobody cares about the NHL (mostly because I do, I suppose).

I think that the anti-traditionalist statement in #44 is generally correct (though the dates are way off -- seriously, wild card in the 70s? WTF?). I don't like it, but I think you're right. After all, those of us who like vacuum baseball can always play Diamond Mind, OOTP, Strat, APBA, Replay, PtP, SkeeterSoft, Action, etc.

Arguments that compare the relative popularity of the NFL and MLB in the US are inherently flawed, in my opinion. You've got plenty of fans who like both, including quite a few here on Primer. In my opinion, trying to follow King Football's lead is what got MLB into this mess in the first place. It would do well to come up with a solution better designed for baseball, such as the idea in #33. I would prefer to cut out all inter-league play in that example, and would be a lot happier if all four leagues were independent entities, both of which are very unrealistic expectations. Oh well -- there's always DMB, OOTP, etc.

EDIT: Oh, and I've yet to read a baseball related Freakonomics article that I've liked. I sure have read a lot of stinkers about how to speed up the game, though.
   50. BDC Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:13 PM (#3890977)
look at the casual fans during the off season and baseball fans care more about day to day happenings than NFL fans

This is highly dependent on what city you live in. In Dallas and Fort Worth, even given the Rangers' recent success, there are more column inches in the papers and yakking on talk radio about July developments on the Cowboys' depth chart than about the Rangers' actual July games.
   51. Mash Wilson Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:21 PM (#3890980)
Speeding up the game is the easiest thing in the world. Can't help but laugh when people go around proposing ten second pitch clocks and crap.
   52. Lassus Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:40 PM (#3890993)
And the mass transit leaves a very great deal to be desired everywhere outside Fort Greene and Williamsburg. I don't know what Brooklyn you're imagining, but it's not one that exists.

Voxter, on this point, you are simply not correct.. Hell, just look at the damned map.

Does the subway go everywhere it should? Of course not. Are the lower income areas ###### in favor of whiny upper-east-siders getting their train in Manhattan? Of course. Is mass transit bad in Brooklyn outside of Williamsburg, as you look south and everywhere? No, not even close.
   53. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 02, 2011 at 01:43 PM (#3891034)
add a team in the NYC area. brooklyn to be exact.

And who, pray tell, would put up the monry to get this venture off the ground? Expansion fees, contributions toward stadium construction, indeminfying the Mets & Yankees, developing a minor league system and acquiring players and staff could easily cost a billion dollars or more - with no prospect of profits for perhaps a decade or so. Who makes that type of investment?

Or perhaps MLB sweetens the deal by subsidizing the 3rd team with revenue sharing money for a couple of decades? I'm sure Bud's Boys would line up behind that - what could go wrong?
   54. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: August 02, 2011 at 01:52 PM (#3891040)
Bruce Ratner and the Atlantic Base Ball Club of Brooklyn, a match made in heaven.</fanciful>
   55. The Good Face Posted: August 02, 2011 at 02:16 PM (#3891052)
Voxter, on this point, you are simply not correct.. Hell, just look at the damned map.

Does the subway go everywhere it should? Of course not. Are the lower income areas ###### in favor of whiny upper-east-siders getting their train in Manhattan? Of course. Is mass transit bad in Brooklyn outside of Williamsburg, as you look south and everywhere? No, not even close.


Yep, Brooklyn has some gaps in its coverage, but it's really not that bad at all. Plenty of broken down warehouses and whatnot in Gowanus they could tear down to build a new stadium. I'd totally show up to root for the Gowanus Sewer Mutants.
   56. BDC Posted: August 02, 2011 at 02:22 PM (#3891058)
With the caveat that stadiums seem almost impossible to organize in NYC (look at the continuing nightmare of Atlantic Yards, for instance), there's excellent transit in Brooklyn. One area that is served pretty well, uncoincidentally, is the old Ebbets Field neighborhood on the E/NE side of Prospect Park. If parks can exist in the madness that is the Yankee Stadium neighborhood, or at Willets Point (one subway line, one LIRR line, some of the world's worst traffic), then Brooklyn per se is not such a bad option.
   57. zack Posted: August 02, 2011 at 02:57 PM (#3891091)
I see from this thread that igniting freebase cocaine and inhaling the resultant gases is still extremely popular among BBTF residents.
   58. Dread Pirate Dave Roberts Posted: August 02, 2011 at 05:50 PM (#3891228)
This strikes me as being written by somebody who has no knowledge of baseball history, or of the concept of Brooklyn as a separate entity from New York that was popular for quite some time. It also contradicts everything I've ever read about the Giants - Dodgers rivalry -- and ignores the fact that Yankees attendance wasn't exactly stellar after the two NL teams vacated.


You may be right on my general knowledge, although I expect to hear that in the politics thread or a steroids thread rather than here.... However, the Yankees ranked 1st or 2nd in the AL in attendance every year from 1926 - 1965. I don't see an effect of the NL vacating; I see an effect of the Yankees not being good in 1966, well after the Mets arrival. It is certainly true that per-game attendance was less than peak, but the big drop happened after 1951/1952, not after 1957. And as mentioned, there were league-wide issues as the Yankees still were ranked 1 or 2.

Certainly Brooklyn residents had their own issues with being incorporated into NYC itself, where they still thought of themselves as a separate city complete with its own baseball team. But while that was true in the 1st half of the 1900s, it ignores the spread of the suburbs and automobiles post World War II. By that point many Dodger fans no longer lived in Brooklyn -- they moved out into the suburbs. Were there no new Dodger fans growing up outside of Brooklyn? Were there no markets for the Dodgers outside of NYC proper? Certainly the Dodgers owned Brooklyn, but that's only part of the overall city.

Whatever the reason was, a winning Dodger team was generally ranked 1st or 2nd in attendance from 1949 through 1956. During the same time frame, the Giants were in the bottom half of the league in attendance every time they had a losing season, and twice during winning seasons. You may think it's not the effect of two teams in one league/division in direct competition, but I'm not convinced.

The Giants were likely moving anyway -- they had an offer from Minneapolis. Would the Giants alone moving have generated the huge outcry, and prompted the Mets into the league? I think the MLB officials were thinking along these same lines when only returning one team to the NL after the Dodgers/Giants move, not two. I'm sure there were territorial rights issues involved, but at the same time the Yankees wouldn't have had much of a leg to stand on since they shared the market with 2 other teams during their entire existance.

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