Sunday, June 12, 2011
MLB needs geographic realignment
By Jim Bowden
With Major League Baseball and the Players Association considering some form of realignment, I would suggest geographic realignment, with six divisions of five teams each. This, of course, would include the eradication of the American and National Leagues, as we know them, as well as the designated hitter rule.
In "old school" terms, I realize my proposal would be considered radical, but here are my recommendations:
Geographic rivalries would increase attendance, revenue and excitement in the region where each team is located. For example, the following series -- Reds-Indians, Orioles-Nationals, Mets-Yankees, Marlins-Rays, Dodgers-Angels, A’s-Giants and Royals-Cardinals -- have all seen significant attendance bumps and TV ratings in interleague play.
Along with geographic realignment, my proposal would call for expanded playoffs that would increase the number of teams making the postseason from eight to 12. In each conference, the three division winners and the three teams with the next-best records would be postseason-bound. The division winner with the conference's best record, the No. 1 seed, would play the No. 6 seed; the team with the second-best record, the No. 2 seed, would play the No. 5 seed, etc. The first round of the playoffs would be a best-of-five series. The next rounds would be best-of-seven series.
The regular season would begin around March 24, which would shorten spring training. During the first few weeks of the regular season, the games would be played in the National Conference, where the weather is normally dryer and warmer, resulting in fewer rainouts and postponements.
Basketball and hockey have 16 playoff teams, so there is no reason Major League Baseball can’t increase its postseason teams from eight to 12. This would create more pennant races and more excitement in more cities come September.
Baseball’s present proposal is to increase the playoff teams from eight to 10, by adding a second wild-card team. The problem with that concept is that the division winners would have to sit and wait for the wild-card series to end. That might work in basketball and hockey, but not in baseball. In baseball, timing is important, and sitting and waiting is a detriment for both hitters and pitchers.
The other problem with the current proposal is that the wild-card series would either be a single game or a best-of-three, lessening the chances of the best team moving on. And if it takes the weekend before the end of the regular season to clinch a playoff spot, a team's rotation might not be set up to give it a legitimate chance to win a short series.
The time has come for baseball to go beyond moving just one team to a new league and to discuss a realignment plan that makes sense geographically and is in sync with the plan to expand the playoffs.
I look forward to your thoughts and opinions. You can also follow me on Twitter: @JimBowdenESPNxm.