— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Posted: September 16, 2002 at 06:00 AM | 20 comment(s)
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