Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Baseball seems like it’s amping up for some sort of major realignment for the 2012 season, after the current player’s contract expires in 2011. There’re a lot of wild theories and suggestions out there such as floating realignment, which is too ridiculous to even be given serious consideration in these pages.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports suggest unalignment which would do away with divisions all together, restore a balanced schedule, and send the top 4 teams to the post season. A quick trolling around the interwebs reveals that the current unbalanced schedule is blamed for a lot of the game’s ills.

My how things come full circle.

I remember a time when the unbalance schedule was the answer to all of baseball’s problems. When interleague play began in the 90’s, teams complained about all the extra travel and playing so many games against teams they’re not directly competing with for a postseason spot. So in 2001, MLB switched to the current unbalance format. It reduced travel and bolstered regional rivalries, long touted as a core strength of the sport, something that set it apart form other sports and should be exploited.

But there are three problems with an unbalance schedule. The first two are the Yankees and the Red Sox. Any team regionally unfortunate enough to be stuck in their division (read Tampa Bay Rays) is hosed and at an inherent disadvantage. (You could say the same thing about the Cubs/Cardinals dominance of the NL Central, but that gets less press.) The second is the wild card. Sure it makes sense to play more games against your divisional opponents if your record against them is the only measuring stick for making the postseason, but it’s not. Then you start comparing apples to oranges as teams from different divisions with wildly different schedules compete for that last spot. It’s inherently not fair.

So from that perspective, unalignment with a balance schedule makes a lot of sense. It’s really the most fair way of doing things.

But there are problems. One is travel. Passan brushes that aside by saying the teams can afford the travel costs, but money isn’t the only issue. The other is wear and tear on the players. Sure they’re paid a lot. Buck up and deal, but it is an issue.

You also lesson the importance of geographic rivalries, but not every team has those. Therefore, in a sense, fostering them is unfair.

Then, of course, there’s the interleague play issue. Even a “balanced” schedule won’t really be balanced as long as there’s interleague play. What if my team finishes a game out of the top 4, but I had to play the best teams in the other league while the team ahead of me played the worst? Maybe it’s not apples and oranges, but it’s lemons and limes anyway.

Given that interleague play isn’t about to go away, it’s probably the best way to go about it.

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