Friday, June 17, 2011

Unalignment Revisited

There's a lot of news right now about realignment in baseball. The collective bargaining agreement expires after this year, so it's the perfect time to make any changes. The idea that's getting the flashy headlines is "unalignment", which I've discussed before. Every sports writer in the world is busy typing up an article with their take on the issue.

The idea is simple: do away with divisions entirely and the top 5 teams make the playoffs. Currently 4 teams from each league make the playoffs. Bud Selig is determined to up that number to 5. (Starting an alignment controversy is a good way of diverting attention away from that and focusing the debate somewhere else.) To make it fair, every team in the league would play every other team the same number of times. (Currently teams play other teams in their division more.)

For some reason though, in order to really make it "fair", they want to even out the leagues. Currently the NL has 16 teams and the AL 14. Apparently unalignment wouldn't be fair to the NL because of its extra teams, so they want to move a team from the NL into the AL.

I don't really understand why they see this as necessary. The 2 extra teams in the NL are already at a disadvantage. Unaligning doesn't really change that. So why is this suddenly a problem? Instead "evening out the leagues" creates a whole host of other problems because it wouldn't be "evening" out the leagues, it would be "oddening" them.

This is the whole reason Milwaukee moved to the NL back in the 90's. The owners in their brilliance awarded an AL expansion team to Tampa and an NL expansion team to Arizona and somehow didn't realize that put an odd number of teams in each league. That means you either have to have one team in each league idle on any given day or there must be an interleague game happening on any given day.

If you "odden" the leagues, this will still be true. No one wants to see interleague games in September during pennant races. They tried that and no one liked it. Even if you ditch divisions and there are no pennant races, that will still be true. Teams want to play teams that count down the stretch.

But continuous interleague play causes other problems, namely with the Designated Hitter. If you're really going to make the schedule "fair" you not only need to play every team in your league, but every team in the other one too. That leads to lots and lots of interleague games. As many as 75 according to this guy's estimate. That means every AL team would have to bench their DH for a quarter of the season and every NL team would have to come up with one for a quarter of theirs.

That opens up the DH debate. You either have to add it to the NL or axe it from the AL, which the player's union would never allow.

Or you don't play as many interleague games, which defeats the whole purpose of "balancing" the schedule. One NL team will get stuck playing the Yankees, while its rival will pick up the Royals. Which of course is the scenario we have today, so does it really matter?

There's no perfect solution. Is there a better one than the one baseball uses today? Maybe. What would I do? That's a story for another post.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.