Friday, June 6, 2008

Should MLB Expand

The other day I was reading an article on Deadspin or some other blog and it mentioned something about if Major League Baseball should expand or not. Seeing at how there are already 30 teams in baseball, it seemed unlikely. But I ask the question, why shouldn't it?

I have two reasons why I think expansion should happen: first is the odd set up of the current league. Why does a division like the NL Central get 6 teams to battle it out for 1 (possibly 2) playoff spots, when the AL West gets 4? How are some of these teams even placed in these divisions? With many divisions having teams so spread out, it is hard to develop rivalries, not to mention the burden of travel. Second, what the hell is the abomination that is the wild card. What the hell is a "wild card"? What makes it so wild? How is it possible that a Wild Card team can have a better record than a division winner, and yet get "seeded" worse than them? Or, how is it that a WC can have the worst record of the four playoff teams, but avoid playing the best team because that team was in it's current division? Is this making any sense? I think not...

I answer these questions with a question of my own: Wouldn't it be easier to have 4 divisions in both the American and National Leagues (via the expansion of 2 teams), get rid of the wild card, and have the 8 division winners battle it out for the World Series?

A simple realignment of the leagues would do wonders for the league. I would propose that MLB divide the league into 4 divisions per league (North, South, East, and West), with 4 teams per division. This would get rid of the abnormality of 6 teams in one league and 4 teams in another and make it more fair for each team to gain a spot in the playoffs. Here is how it would look:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

NL WEST

Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Pittsburgh Pirates

Comments: This one was the easiet of them all. By getting rid of the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves (who, all things considered, have been a staple to the NL East for almost two decades), we have a bucket of teams that are all within driving distance of one another. Closer proximity amounts to more heated and interesting rivalries. Who cares about the Marlins-Nationals "rivalry" when you can spice things up by putting the Pirates in the mix and having the Phillies and Pirates duke it out to see who is the real champion of Steal Town.

NL North

Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals
Milwuakee Brewers
Cincinatti Reds

Comments: Another easy one once I figured out where to drop the extra two teams to get rid of. The NL Central actually isn't all that bad in the first place, except for the fact that it is the only division that has 6 teams in it. This way, you keep the Cubs-Cards rivalry and make it just as equal for every team in the league to get into the playoffs.

NL West

San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres

Comments: Boom! Very little changes here. You keep the California teams intact on the west coast and you keep the Rockies in the division they have been in from the get go. Easy enough.

NL South

Florida Marlins
Atlanta Braves
Houston Astros
Arizona Diamondbacks

Comments: The new division I created. How does it make sense to have the warm weather Astros playing cold weather teams like the Cubs, Brewers, and Reds? Furthermore, what is the point of having such a long distance between "division rivals" like the Marlins/Braves and the Mets/Phillies? Doesn't it make more sense to group all of these teams that are ALREADY in the south into a division named the South? I rest my case. This will keep whatever rivalry that the Marlins and Braves already have, and add in perennial contenders Arizona and Houston to make what could be a very exciting division.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AL East

New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Baltimore Orioles
Toronto Blue Jays

Comments: Obviously, you have to keep the Yanks and the Sox together. The only thing this does is bring these teams together and make it a more close-knit division. Now, the argument could be made that the Rays should stay in here, since they have budding rivalries with the Sox and Yanks. But I feel as though it makes more sense for them to be in the South since, ya know, Florida is in... the south.

AL North

Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers

Comments: Very little to explain here. These four have always been the contenders in this division as it is. You get rid of the Royals and this makes the division possibly the best in baseball in the coming years.

AL West

Seattle Mariners
Oakland Athletics
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Kansas City Royals

Comments: You keep these West Coast teams together to continue their inter-division rivalries. The only stretch is putting Kansas City in the division. KC was the last team I had, I felt like KC would be more fitting in the West (like the Chiefs). The case could also be made to put them in the South. Plus, I don't think this team should be in Kansas City anymore as it is. I feel it makes more sense to move the franchise to a city that actually cares and can get behind it's team, say, Portland? Las Vegas? Tokyo? Boise, Idaho?

AL South

Tampa Bay Rays
Texas Rangers
Expansion Team 1
Expansion Team 2

Comments: Ok, here is the only real problem with all of this. The way teams are already laid out in MLB, the only way to divide this up and keep the rivalries is to move the Rays and Rangers into this new division and create two expansion teams to put here. A lot of people would say that there is no chance they can compete with two already established teams, to which I would argue look at the '97 Marlines or the '01 D-backs. Besides, when has Texas ever done anything and the Rays are FINALLY starting to show some signs of relevence. Top candidates for expansion cities: Indianapolis, IN (the Colts play in the south already), Louisville, KY, Nashville, TN, Charlotte, NC, New Orleans, LA.

Ok, so the biggest questions are what does this do to baseball and how does it help?

1.) It evens out the league to have 8 divisions with an equal amount of teams, thus creating 8 division winners and making things significantly easier for seeding in the playoffs.

2.) It elimates the wild card, which doesn't make any sense as it is and, as stated above, makes things easier for seeing in the playoffs. It also avoids potential playoff seeding issues.

3.) It eliminates unnecessarily long road trips and travel times for teams. Now, teams will not have to go on 7-10 day road trips all across the country just to play division opponents. They will play the majority of their games in the division and be able to take long road trips to crack out teams outside of their division.

4.) There is clearly a wealth of talent all around baseball, both in this country and outside of it, so this will do nothing but increase the parity in baseball (especially when you consider the effect this will have with the revenue sharing agreement). It also wouldn't hurt to elimate part of the farm system in an effort to get higher caliber prospects a shot at the big leagues sooner. It allows more players from outside the country to also get a shot and rewards the teams that are better at scouting (A's, D-backs).

5.) Baseball creates new fanbases in cities already capable of handling professional sports teams and, furthermore, creates more exciting and closer to home rivalries which, in turn, can only help make baseball more exciting and captivating for a younger audience.

6.) Makes interleague play/rivalries much easier and much more exciting. Baseball can institute a simple East vs. East, West vs. West, etc. situation, or go East vs. West, North vs. South.

7.) It could give baseball the shake up needed to return to America's Pastime.

Anyways, I think that this could have a potentially significant positive impact on MLB. I had been thinking about this for a while and thought it could raise some interesting debate on how baseball should and could shake up the league.

1 comment:

Young Knuckleballer said...

I think there are a lot of positives with this idea, but as for your point that it would help restore the game to "America's Pasttime" is a little over the top. I think the people that love baseball are going to get excited about this and sure it could draw in a few new fans, but I don't see the MLB ever reaching the popularity of the NFL again. Right now, baseball trails football and Nascar in popularity.