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Monday, September 16, 2002

Changing Things Around - A Modest Proposal

Fixing the schedule, among other things.

There are a couple of things that bother me about the current MLB setup. The major league schedule is a nightmare. Teams in the same league play in April, and then never again, while other teams don’t meet until August or even September. I find that intolerable, but I don’t see how that problem can be fixed with one 16-team league, another 14-team league, and an extremely unbalanced schedule. In addition, I think that the novelty of interleague play has worn off, except for the local rivalries. People still want to see Yankees/Mets and Cubs/White Sox, etc., but I don’t sense that fans flock to see the Mariners play the Phillies or the Dodgers play the Orioles.

Fortunately, I think these problems can be fixed, although the owners don’t seem to want to take the steps to fix them. One obvious approach would be to expand each league to 16 teams, and reduce interleague play to one home-and-away matchup with one opponent from the other league.

I would propose the following:

       

    1. Move the Arizona Diamondbacks to the AL. This provides some geographic balance between the two leagues, and also provides a reasonable interleague opponent for the Padres.
    2. Move the Expos to Washington and place an NL expansion team in Montreal or Buffalo, or (alternatively) allow the Expos to remain in Montreal and place an NL expansion team in Washington. While I would personally prefer the latter option, my gut feeling is that MLB has done a pretty good job of destroying the Montreal market, and might be better served by putting a team in Buffalo, which has a history of supporting minor league baseball. In either event, placing an NL team in Washington provides an interleague partner for the Orioles, and a team in Montreal or Buffalo would be an interleague partner for the Blue Jays.
    3. Place an AL expansion team in the NY/NJ suburbs, or (alternatively) in Charlotte. I prefer the former option, because I think that the NYC area could support a third major league team and I doubt that the Charlotte area will.
    4. Each league would have two eight-team divisions. The NL East would have Atlanta, Buffalo/Montreal, Cincinnati, Florida, Mets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington, while the NL West would have the Cubs, Colorado, Houston, LA, Milwaukee, SD, SF, and St. Louis. In the AL, the East would include Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, NJ/Charlotte, the Yankees, Tampa Bay and Toronto, while the West would feature Anaheim, Arizona, the White Sox, KC, Minnesota, Oakland, Seattle, and Texas. My personal preference would be for only the division winners to reach the postseason, but if MLB simply must have that extra round of divisional series, the top two in each division could go, or the two division winners and the teams with the two best records after that.
    5. For the most part, the interleague matchups are with geographic neighbors (past, as in Braves/Red Sox, or present). The yearly interleague matchups would be as follows: Atlanta with Boston or Charlotte, Buffalo or Montreal with Toronto, Cincinnati with Cleveland, Florida with Tampa Bay, Mets with Yankees, Philadelphia with NJ or Boston, Pittsburgh with Detroit, Washington with Baltimore, Cubs with White Sox, Colorado with Seattle, Houston with Texas, LA with Anaheim, Milwaukee with Minnesota, SD with Arizona, SF with Oakland, St. Louis with KC.

 

This proposal simplifies the scheduling. Each team would play 12 games with each of the seven opponents in its own division, 9 games with each of the opponents in the other division, six games with an interleague opponent. 84+72+6 = 162. With a nice divisible-by-three number for the number of times a team plays each opponent, there’s no need for the two-game and four-game series that dot the current schedule. With at least nine games against each team in your league, it’s easier to spread things out so that you’re not seeing a team for the last time in April or waiting until August to see a team for the first time.

One more change that I’d make - the All-Star break would last a week, and each division would have an All-Star team of 25 players. There would be an All-Star doubleheader on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday of All-Star week, with the four teams playing a round-robin. The leagues could also do a Monday/Wednesday/Friday round-robin and have the two best teams in the round-robin play Saturday for the title of best of the best. With 50 All-Stars from each league rather than 30, the one-player-from-each-team rule would be less onerous, and most deserving players would make it. With three games (or four) instead of one, the managers would not feel as though they have to force every player into each game as much as they do now with just the one game. There may actually be some on-field continuity within the game, giving it more of the feel of a baseball game instead of a celebrity showcase.

The chances that this proposal, or anything like it, will be adopted are close to zero. Nonetheless, I think that MLB has to take some steps to simplify matters. The gimmicks - new ballparks, interleague play, far-flung divisions with wild card races crossing divisional lines, home run derbies at the All-Star game - might get some people in the door. But to keep them there MLB has to stop diluting the regular season with sideshows.

 

Mike Emeigh Posted: September 16, 2002 at 06:00 AM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Jason Posted: September 16, 2002 at 12:46 AM (#606191)
I agree with Sam why wouldn't you go with 4 4 team divisions if you had 32 teams? The major reason why owners want realignment and unbalanced scheduling is so it can cut down on travel costs and time (which makes players happy). It's a shame that Mexico couldn't support a team, but maybe they could? To generate the neccesary revenue it might only be able to play in Mexico city, but that would surely help to make expansion a bit easier. I'd guess that the 4 team division would also provide 2 good races a year per league, and a couple of snoozers and weak divisions (which would probably cycle around like they do in the NFL). The weak divisions help to provide a little hope and faith. I have a big problem with the argument though that interleague play is dead outside of a few natural rivalries. Each team only has a certain number of marquee games each year with a big rival. Interleague play created more of those games. I'd argue that outside of those all other games are viewed more or less the same by the fan at large, so it doesn't matter if you play the D-rays in interleague or get more games against the Brewers.
   2. Mike Emeigh Posted: September 16, 2002 at 12:46 AM (#606194)
Why would you only want two teams per league to make the playoffs? What's wrong with four teams per league? It adds excitement to September and helps MLB to market itself in more areas. Is there a valid reason for the MLB owners and players to give up that extra playoff money, other than traditionalist sentiments?

In baseball, unlike other major sports, it used to be that you had to win something to make it to the postseason - you had to prove yourself superior to all of your competition over the long haul. If you don't have to win something to make it to the postseason, in my opinion, it devalues the regular season - that's why I prefer that only division winners make it to the postseason.

If we are going to have a four-team postseason, then my preference would be to have the division winners and the two non-division winners with the best records going to the postseason.

In that vein, it would be simpler to just make four four-team divisions per league, a la the NFL this year, and each division winner advances to the playoffs without a wild-card. Each team plays teams in its own division 18 times, teams in other divisions in the same league 6 times, their "intra-league rival" (e.g. Yankees-Mets) 6 times, and a home-and-home set with other intra-league teams.

In the proposal that I made, teams play over half the schedule against their direct competition; in the proposal above, they only play about 1/3 of the schedule against their direct competition. If you don't play well against your direct competition, in my opinion, you shouldn't be able to make the postseason.

I think teams playing for the same playoff spot should play the same schedule.

It hasn't been that way for a long time, and as long as there is interleague play it isn't going to be that way; it's just not possible to devise a schedule that accounts for interleague play AND home/road balance AND matching schedules for all competitors. Ideally, I'd go to a 4X8 league setup with no interleague play, 154-game schedules, and only pennant winners going to the postseason. Realistically, that's not going to happen - so my idea here was to avoid tinkering *too much* with the existing framework and to minimize the impact of schedule differences.

The fact that for now the Mets get the Yankees and the Marlins get the Devil Rays is a problem - but I'm not assuming that the Devil Rays can't build a competitive team down the road and the Yankees might not find everyone getting old at once and not be able to replace everyone. I think that in the long run, any competitive disadvantage from playing the rival year and year out will wash out.

<I>Also, I haven't lost interest in interleague play. As a Braves fan, I was getting bored with games against the AL East, but this year I enjoyed seeing Texas, Minnesota, and even Detroit.


I realize there are other factors that affect the attendance, but after a quick look at some of the interleague matchups my sense was that except for the rival games, teams weren't drawing extra fans for interleague games above and beyond what they normally drew for an intraleague game on the same night. Obviously we need to look at the attendance in a year where labor news *doesn't* overshadow everything else, though.

-- MWE
   3. Mike Emeigh Posted: September 16, 2002 at 12:46 AM (#606195)
In case I didn't make it clear:

My first choice would be to leave the Expos alone and to put teams in DC and NJ. Buffalo would be an alternative if - and only if - Montreal has become totally non-viable as a baseball market, thanks to MLB's incessant trashing of the city.

Buffalo is in my opinion a better sports market than Portland. The minor-league team has drawn well and the Bills and Sabres do well, too. I don't know that there is the necessary level of commitment in Portland; IIRC, the Blazers have struggled to draw in recent years when they aren't winning.

-- MWE
   4. Charles Saeger Posted: September 16, 2002 at 12:46 AM (#606197)
</i>I hope this sentence ends the italics.

Good ideas, Mike, and it's nice to know that at least someone else wants four 8-team leagues to play 154 games, 22 games against each opponent.
   5. Charles Saeger Posted: September 16, 2002 at 12:46 AM (#606200)
However, I must disagree with Buffalo vis-a-vis Portland.

The draw of an NFL team is not meaningful. As it plays eight home dates about two weeks apart, on average, it is easy to make an event of an NFL game and draw 60,000 fans.

Furthermore, I do not think Buffalo is a media market on par with Portland, especially since Buffalo would compete with New York and Toronto for fan support. It suffers from the same problem Milwaukee has -- it is just too darn near Chicago to be an independent market. Portland does not have this problem, Sacramento may or may not, Vancouver does.

There isn't anything Buffalo has that separates it from, say, Louisville. Buffalo has great minor league support, Louisville has great minor league support. Buffalo is by some big markets but isn't a part of them, Louisville is by some big markets but isn't a part of them. You could insert Orlando or Charlotte in these sentences.
   6. jimd Posted: September 16, 2002 at 12:47 AM (#606222)
Some quick points on the debate about division size.

To have a good pennant race, you need two teams of approximately the same quality playing for the same prize, the prize has to valuable enough to the players to be worth playing hard for, and the quality of play has to be high enough to interest the neutral fan.

Races for home field advantage usually don't stimulate the players like a do-or-die race.

Playoff spots are always worth it to the players, but NHL/NBA playoff races don't interest the neutral fan because the teams involved are no better than .500 and are first round playoff filler to keep the top seeds busy.

Statistically speaking, the more teams there are competing for a particular playoff spot, the higher the average team quality of the winner, with increasing likelihood of a competitive race.

Therefore eight-team divisions are much better for races than four-team divisions, even if you insist on taking the top two-of-eight for the playoffs. (Yes, I'm a traditionalist, but I love a good pennant race, even if it's no longer for a pennant.)
   7. KJOK Posted: September 16, 2002 at 12:47 AM (#606231)
Mike:

I think the overall framework of your proposal is excellent. My only quibble is with your choice of Buffalo as a possible expansion/relocation city:

A. Positives are:

Close to Toronto.
3rd in AAA attendance in 2001 (but behind Sacramento and Memphis).
Good baseball history.

B. Negatives are:

MSA of only 1.575 mil pop, behind even the current smallest cities of Mil and KC, and also behind Portland, Sacramento, Orlando, Los Vegas, Indiannapolis, San Antonio & Norfolk, VA.

#47 size media market - well behind the current smallest KC, Cin & Mil, and also smaller than Sacramento, Orlando, Portland, Indiannapolis, Charlotte, Raileigh-Durham, and many others....

I think Washington or New Jersey would be a good choices, but probably won't happen.

The best "other" choice would probably be Sacremento:

1. Drew over 900,000 fans in AAA in 2001.
2. Larger population than KC or Milwaukee
3. Larger media market than Pittbsurgh, St. Louis, Baltimore, San Diego and of course, KC, Cin & Mil.




   8. Don Malcolm Posted: September 16, 2002 at 12:47 AM (#606240)
While I would personally prefer the latter option, my gut feeling is that MLB has done a pretty good job of destroying the Montreal market, and might be better served by putting a team in Buffalo, which has a history of supporting minor league baseball.

MLB may have tried hard to destroy the market, but the basic tenet?build a winning team and the fans will show up?is still alive and well. Take a look at the Indians' attendance for a perfect example. I say stick with Montreal and plug the expansion teams into the two top markets (NY and LA). Leave Virginia for the Marlins, who will probably have to be moved.

It's just not possible to devise a schedule that accounts for interleague play AND home/road balance AND matching schedules for all competitors. Ideally, I'd go to a 4X8 league setup with no interleague play, 154-game schedules, and only pennant winners going to the postseason.

Amen, brother. Just think how much easier it will be to compute park factors. :-)
   9. scruff Posted: September 16, 2002 at 12:47 AM (#606242)
Mike, great job.

I can't remember who said it, but Orlando does not play at Disney. They have their own arena, downtown (I assume you are referring to the NBA team).

I would love 2 eight-team divisions in each league. I don't know if I'd like 4 leagues, but that's nitpicky, since we're in fantasy land anyway.

I think Buffalo would be a great baseball market. It gets shot down pretty quickly every time I bring it up as well, but I really think it would work. They are a great natural rival for Toronto. It's 5-6 hours to drive to NY from Buffalo, it's at least 7-8 from Baltimore, Cleveland is about 3-4 if I remember right and so is Pittsburgh.

I realize NFL attendance is not indicative of baseball success, but I do think Buffalo is a very good sports town, they support all of their teams. I realize it's just anecdotal, but I know some people from Buffalo and they are great sports fans. Two guys I went to college with got us into the AFC Championship Game in January 1994, just for driving them up their 7 1/2 hours. That town was incredible, the support for their team was amazing. I realize it's pretty easy to support a team headed for their 4th consecutive Super Bowl, but it really seemed like a great sports town.

In 1989 I was in Buffalo for a Monday night football game, pre-Super Bowl run. There were a couple of Volkswagon Bugs painted like football helmets in the parking lot. The town was incredibly juiced, you could feel it in the grocery store that weekend. It's just a really good sports town. As far as I know, the Sabres get very good support as well. It's a blue collar town that's supported minor league baseball as well as possible, I really think after DC this is the best untapped market in the nation for MLB.

Mike as a more realistic compromise solution, what do you think of Bob Costas' idea in Fair Ball, move Houston to the AL West (natural rival w/Texas) and only the 3 division winners in each league make the playoffs.

You set up 4 true pennant races in each league. The 3 divisional races are do or die. And the 3 division winners are battling not just for seeding, but to avoid an entire round of playoffs and set the rotation up. The Atlanta/Arizona race this year would be great, if they were playing to avoid St. Louis and a first round matchup. The Yankees and A's/Angels would be battling to avoid a date with the Twins. Teams have to keep plugging all year, until they've locked up the best record in the league, just like it used to be (before 1969).

The networks get their extra tier of playoffs, we'll never get rid of that. But it's a better matchup, and the late season is much more important.

I hate 4-team mini-divisions. I'd rather have the status quo. You'll have crappy teams in the playoffs every year. Here's your alignment:

AL East: Yanks, Jays, Sox, O's
AL South: Devil Nerds, Royals, ARod's, DC
AL North: Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Diamondbacks, A's, Angels and Mariners

NL East: Expos, Mets, Phillies, NJ/Buffalo
NL South: Braves, Marlins, Astros, Reds
NL North: Cards, Cubs, Seligula's, Pirates
NL West: Rockies, Dodgers, Giants, Padres

So your playoff squads, 2002:
1. Yankees
2. Arizona/Oakland/Anaheim (great race, but is it worth letting Texas in?)
3. Twins
4. Rangers

5. Expos/Phillies
6. Braves
7. Cardinals
8. Dodgers/Giants

At least with the current format, more often than not the best 4 teams in each league get in. And when they don't, it's usually number 5 goes instead of number 4.

With 4 team divisions, you'll have a race between the 7th and 8th best teams in the NL, and the 8th best team in the AL will beat out 3 expansion teams (TB, KC and DC).

Other than the DC/Tex rivalry (you stole their team!) I don't see many positives to this :-)

This is typical too, I'm almost positive. I just don't have the time to go back and do this for prior years, but I bet the results would be similar. 4 team divisions will suck, trust me.
   10. Dan 'The Boy' Werr Posted: September 17, 2002 at 12:47 AM (#606262)
As long as we're dreaming up our ideal systems:

I actually like the four teams in the postseason too, even if it means that I hate puppies and wish Hitler had won the war. (Actually, HT, I think you know this, but I think it was great all those things happened. That doesn't mean nothing can change. I also think the 1995 AL West race was great, and the 2002 AL West race--and don't tell me it wasn't interesting because the wildcard was a safety net; my favorite team was in first place most of the season and now it looks like they'll be sitting home. If there had been 30 teams back then, all of those things would have been different, too, but that doesn't mean I think we should get rid of 14 teams. The present and the past can coexist happily, even when they're not identical.)

My preference is three divisions, because I think eight teams buries too many (and with 4 postseason teams, I don't like the races being for second place) and four teams is a little light (I do favor expansion to 32 teams). I don't feel any need to rig the playoffs to return the best team as champion more frequently, either; for me, part of the charm of the playoffs is the best team not winning, and it's not hard for me to discover on my own that the best team in 2001 was Seattle. I don't like lengthening the series, because I don't think there should ever be a point where a team is basically out of it but the series goes on.

I don't mind the current playoff system, but I do like either of the two small modifications--Costas's idea, which Scruff mentioned, of having three teams with a best record bye, or the idea (I can't remember whose) of two wild card teams who play a one-game playoff (or even a 3-game). That creates a wild-card disincentive but keeps more teams interested.

I don't mind the unbalanced schedule (I understand the complaints, but I think it keeps things a little more interesting), and would rather do without interleague play, but I don't mind it all that much. And keep the DH in one league.

And abolish the indifference call and always swing at a 3-0 pitch in a blowout.

Again, not to argue any of the above opinions; just thinking out loud about my ideal system.
   11. John Posted: September 18, 2002 at 12:48 AM (#606289)
Lots of good ideas. Here's my pet plan:

Move the D-Backs to the AL West and Houston to the NL West. Six, five-team divisions. Leave the 'Spos in Montreal, or move them to DC, or Buffalo. (Hey, Vlad, I've got good news and bad news...).

Each team plays 20 against its four divisional rivals (333344), for 80. The four-game sets are each team's last 32 games of the season.

Each team plays 7 against the other 10 teams in the league. Yes, seven. Flip the site of the four-game set each year. Total of 70.

Each team plays 6 against its interleague "geographical" rival (Texas-Houston, D-Backs-Rockies, Pads-Mariners, all else as usual. If the 'Spos are in Buffalo, same as now. If they're in DC, stick Toronto with the Phils and bring in Wild Thing and Clutch Carter as honorary captains).

Each team plays 6 against a random interleague opponent, changes every year.

80 + 70 + 6 + 6 = 162

This may be precisely Costas's idea. I don't know; haven't read his thoughts on it. Excuse inadvertent plagiarism.

Three division champs and a wild-card. The idea of a bye for the best record is neat, but I wonder if the layoff would hurt as much as it would help.

Issues: Texas and Houston won't like being stuck in the west and having all those West Coast games (40 per year), while the eastern teams only have to go west between 15 and 20 times per year. But you know what? The east cost boys have to go further. And the Rangers/'Stros get the benefit of having 40 divisonal home games against teams that have traveled halfway across the country to get there. Get over it. The D-Backs might be less than thrilled with the move, but I think there's some kind of clause in their entry contract--or there ought to be, anyway.

So the 'Spos move to Vegas, or Portland, instead? Fine. Put the Pirates in the NL East, the 'Stros back in the Central, and les Expos in the West (AL or NL, depending on whether you want to irritate Jerry Colangelo or not). If they move to Louisville--which isn't really a terrible idea, since one-sport towns like Sacramento, Portland, SLC, Green Bay and New Orleans do OK, Orlando possibly excepted--put them in the ALC and put KC in the ALW to make the Rangers happy. D-Rays can move to Virginia, eventually; Fish can move to Jersey or Boston (tell me that city can't support 2 baseball teams).

Outcome this year? Cards have a bigger cakewalk, D-Backs make it a four-horse race in the AL West, Houston nips at the heels of the Dodgers and Giants. Not worse, maybe better.

At least, it makes sense to me...and I think the math works. Doesn't it?
   12. jimd Posted: September 18, 2002 at 12:48 AM (#606308)
Two things. First, only 1/8 of the teams making the playoffs worked just fine from 1903 to 1960. (It was 1/10 from '62 to '68.)

All of these proposals to create three 5-team divisions in each league are overlooking a basic problem. You must have either off-days or interleague play going on every day with such a setup. An odd number of teams in a league is awkward in a sport which plays games practically every day.
   13. scruff Posted: September 18, 2002 at 12:48 AM (#606325)
Interleague play all season. I think the 'blocks' of interleague play is one of the dumbest things about the whole setup.

The NFL integrates it into the schedule, and I think that's the way to go.

It'd be a lot nicer to focus on the good matchups one at a time, instead of having them all thrown at you the same weekend or two.

In September, just make sure the bad teams from the year before are playing their interleague series.

You'd have to have enough interleague series to last the season (52 total, 2 each week). Under the 1 natural rival, 2 series interleague plan, you end up with only 30 series, so that will be an issue. I think that through some schedule staggering you could pull it off without teams having to have consective off days.

If not, do the one rotating division thing and have each team play 4 inter-league series (12 games) a year. That would make for 60 series, and you'd have enough to have at least one interleague series going at a time, you could have 3 going at a time for 4 of the 52 series of the season to get the other 8 interleague series in.

Hope that wasn't confusing.
   14. John Posted: September 19, 2002 at 12:48 AM (#606334)
Re: the problems with 15-team leagues--I like the idea of interleague play throughout the year--though not in September (in my plan, anyway), since that's the time for pennant races. That takes some of the unique-ness away from interleague games, sure, but it could also put some juice in the various series-es, especially the natural rivals. Play them at a set time each year (i.e., Boston-Atlanta always play the first weekend in May, the New Yorks play on 4th of July weekend, etc.). Kind of the way the Third Saturday In October means Alabama-Tennessee to two states' worth of people (or at least it did before the SEC went to two divisions, but I digress...), the State Fair means Texas-OU, or the first weekend in December means Army-Navy. The biggies--SF/OAK, NYM/NYY, KC/STL, TEX/HOU, etc.--might go from being games to being circle-the-calendar Events. Which is what interleague play was supposed to be in the first place. Or ought to be, anyway.
   15. John Posted: September 19, 2002 at 12:48 AM (#606335)
Re: 1/8 of the teams making the playoffs--in a perfect world, I like that, because it DOES make the regular-season all-important, as it should be. A pennant ought to mean something. But cutting the playoffs from eight to four teams just isn't going to happen, realistically. Given the choice between three-divisions-and-a-wild-card and four mini-divisions, each sending 8 to the playoffs, I think the larger the divsions, the better. If eight playoff teams is taken for granted, I think 3 divisions per league is actually preferable to eight-team divisions and two wild cards, since the object of the wild-card is--or ought to be--rewarding one deserving team who might be the second-best in all of baseball, just stuck behind a juggernaut like the '50-whatever Indians, or the '98 Yanks or '01 Ichiro Manias. Two wild-cards in each league would mean the "pennant race" is essentially the second-place race in each division, which isn't right. Unless you go to mini-divisions or eliminate the first round, at least one team in each league gets to "coast" into the playoffs each year, unless one division turns up the three best teams (as happens to be the case this year in the AL, but it's an anomaly, historically); two 8-team divisions lets two teams coast--not good.
   16. eric Posted: September 19, 2002 at 12:48 AM (#606336)
First of all, expansion isn't going to happen, nor should it. The new labor agreement will prevent contraction for a few years, so 30 is the number we're dealing with. Given that, the Bob Costas proposal of moving Houston to the AL West makes the most sense.

The objections to this are that it would force MLB to play an interleague game every day, and it would increase travel for the Astros. As to interleague every day, big deal! The NFL does it. Besides, even though it could be arranged so that teams that should be out the race meet each other in interleague in September, what would be wrong with giving the Mets in a bad year an opportunity to knock off the Yankees in a good year? As for the Astros' objection, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati aren't exactly nearby now, and before 1994, they were in a division with 3 West Coast teams, as well as Cincinnati and Atlanta (two teams that really got screwed in travel arrangements!) without benefit of a nice regional rivalry with Texas, which is what's being proposed here.

If I remember Costas' proposal right, it was that each team plays 2 3 game home and home series with teams from a division in the other league on a rotating basis, 2 3 game home and home series with each team in its league not in its division and 18 games with each team in its division. (3x5 + 3x10 + 18x4=162). Over the course of 3 years, the Yankees would play the Dodgers 6 times, the Mariners 18 times and the Red Sox 54 times. The only problem is that they would have an equal number of games with the Mets and the Brewers.

A modified version of this proposal appeared in Baseball Weekly, with the same 15-15 set up, only with just one interleague series with each of the teams from the division in the other league and one 3 game series with a designated rival, (Yanks-Mets, Cubs-Sox, etc.). Every third year the local rivalry would be a home and home. This would result in 18 interleague games. The Baseball Weekly proposal then had 6 games with other divisions within the league and 21 games against each of the teams in its division. (6x3 + 10x6 + 21x4=162)

Whatever you decide to do with the mathematics of scheduling, the big thing is the pennant race. Costas proposed doing away with the wildcard and giving the top division winner a bye. The problem with that is that in baseball, rust can be a major disadvantage. Besides, given the race going on right now between the Dodgers and the Giants, who can possibly argue that the wildcard is a bad thing? However, right now, that is the only exciting thing going on in baseball, the Angels and A's are both going to make the playoffs no matter who wins the division, and everybody else is on cruise control, since home field isn't really that big in baseball.

So I absolutely agree that the first round of the playoffs should be handicapped heavily in favor of the top team, and against the wildcard. However, I do not agree that it should be done by penalizing the wildcard home games for two reasons. One, the whole reason to root for your hometown team to make the playoffs in the first place is so that you have the opportunity to watch playoff games! Second, as stated before, home field isn't necessarily that big a thing in a short series in baseball.

However, where is it written that the winner of a five game series necessarily has to be the first team to win three games? Why not require the wildcard to win 4 out of 5 to advance and the top team to only win 2 out of 5? This is a far bigger reward to the top team than a 4 or 5 game homefield advantage, yet the wildcard's town still gets 2 home games to make their fans happy. In fact, baseball could even cut back on travel by going back to the 2-3 home format instead of the 2-2-1 because losing 1 or even 2 games on the road doesn't hurt the top team near as much.

Think about it. Under this system, the A's and the Angels would be in an epic battle to win the AL West to avoid having to win 4 of 5 in the first round. Both teams would be battling the Yankees to get that easy 2 of 5 first round victory. (Yes, the wildcard can play the top team if both are in the same division.) The NL would have a great battle between the Braves and the Diamondbacks for that same advantage, and we would still have the great wildcard race between the Dodgers and the Giants! Similar scenarios would play out every year.

The other proposal I like was in a book by Joe Morgan. Give homefield advantage in the World Series to the winning league in the All Star Game. I guarantee that would be the easiest way to avoid the travesty we saw this year in Milwaukee!
   17. eric Posted: September 19, 2002 at 12:48 AM (#606337)
Correction: the third paragraph in my last posting should have read 6x5 + 6x10 + 18x4=162. My math was good, my typing wasn't:)
   18. Marc Posted: September 20, 2002 at 12:49 AM (#606368)
Being a guy who likes the history of the game, here's a not so modest proposal.

1. Re-name the New York Mets as the New York Giants.
2. Re-name the San Francisco team in the National League as the Seals.
3. Put the new Washington Senators, wherever they come from, in the American League.
4. Move the Baltimore Orioles to the NL in honor of the 1890's Orioles.
5. Re-name the Milwaukee Brewers as the Braves.
6. Re-name the Atlanta team as the Crackers.
7. Re-name the Philadelphia Phillies as the A's and move to AL.
8. Re-name the Oakland team as the Oaks.
9. Create 3 10 team leagues.

AL- NYY, Bost, PhilA, Wash, Det, Clev, Chi, Minn, Tor, KC
NL- NYG, Cin, Pitt, StL, Chi, Mil, Atl, Mia, TB, Balt
Wild West-Den, SD, Sea, Ana, AZ, Oak, LA, SF, Hou, Tex
   19. eric Posted: September 20, 2002 at 12:49 AM (#606369)
I agree in principal with what you're saying, but I'm not sure there is such a thing as a *significant* homefield disadvantage in a five game baseball series. Baseball teams win 2 out of 3 and 3 out of 4 on the road all the time in series throughout the regular season, so if you had all 5 games at one site, I don't think winning 3 out of 5 is necessarily that big a deal, if the objective is to make the front runners bust their butts. If you're the Diamondbacks and have Schilling and Johnson, do you really care where you're playing? I don't think it's an entirely bad idea, I just think my 4 out of 5 idea is a more ideal compromise between the status quo, and the idea of a first round bye, both of which have their problems.

Regarding Houston, I must confess that I never thought of the TV revenue idea, and it is a valid point. However, under the most radically unbalanced schedule I have proposed, the Astros would get 63 games with Seattle, Oakland, and Anaheim. That's where Noxious Dog gets his 1/3 number. However, half of those 63 games are at home, so that narrows it down to 30-33 games on the coast. Furthermore, of those, if they are randomly placed, 2/7 of them are going to be on the weekend, and therefore should be day games. So that would narrow it down to 20-25 games, which would be closer to 1/6 of the schedule. This is still perhaps less than ideal and TV ratings would go down for those games, but, if properly promoted, Astros-Rangers could be the Texas version of Yankees-Red Sox, Dodgers-Giants or Cubs-Cardinals, and that should create enough excitement to increase TV ratings in those games to offset the losses from 9:00 West Coast games. If not, as Costas pointed out in his book, MLB could provide financial incentives for Houston's ownership to go along.

The DH idea is interesting, but I think it's much akin to allowing one football team to play with 12 men on the field, or a basketball team to play with a 9 foot rim. In other words, I don't think any handicap should affect the integrity of the games themselves, just the sites of the games or as I suggested, the required number of wins.

As for whether baseball should expand again, sure it would make scheduling easier, but do we really need two more Devil Rays for the Yankees to beat up on? However, if they do go that route, or move a franchise, I do agree that Mexico City would be an excellent choice. I think that they a population base that could support a team, draw many if not most of the top Hispanic free-agents, and become an instant powerhouse. They could probably get a "superstation" TV contract with Galavision or Univision and be the Atlanta Braves of America's Spanish speaking community. Certainly, baseball is a bigger part of their culture than that of French Canada's. So that's where I think MLB should consider moving the Expos. If they can ever work out the legal entanglements, one of the Florida teams should move to D.C. And leave the Twins alone, historically they have proven that,if they have a winner, they will draw crowds, even if their stadium is a piece of _____ . The Marlins couldn't sell out their stadium when they had a World Championship team, which it now looks like will never happen again, while the Devil Rays never even had a honeymoon with their community, and by all accounts I've heard, their stadium is worse.

   20. Shaun Payne Posted: September 25, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606416)
What I don't get about the current setup is why second place teams have a chance to win the World Series. Why should a team that proves itself against another team in its division possibly have to beat them again in a short series? It's rediculous.

And it's not fair for two teams in the same division to play seperate schedules. They should play the same teams the same number of times.

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