Bud Selig has long talked about realignment in Major League Baseball, and now it looks like the players are on board.WHAT WE KNOW…
The key component of realignment would be for one team from the National League to move to the American League, giving both leagues 15 teams.
The most likely candidate is the Houston Astros who could move from the 6-team NL Central into the 4-team AL West, and form a natural rivalry with the Texas Rangers. The move would also be beneficial to the Rangers, as it would give them, and their new multi-billion dollar TV deal, more divisional games in their time zone.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW…
The biggest hurdle appears to be a minor one: does each league move to three, 5-team divisions or do they scrap divisions all-together?
The non-divisional format is popular among those that long for a fair playoff format in which the top four teams in each league qualify for the postseason. This would eliminate a scenario in which a division has three good teams and one misses the playoffs.
The non-divisional format would also conveniently increase the probability of both the Yankees and Red Sox making the playoffs each year.
Removing divisions also removes the unbalanced schedule. And removing the unbalanced schedule means more cross-country trips for the teams. This is not only taxing on the players, but it means more games that do not start at 7pm in the team’s home market.
And if you think you hate 10pm start times, imagine how much the networks hate them. Late games (or early on the left coast) mean lower TV ratings. And lower TV ratings means less money for baseball.
OH YEAH, WHAT ABOUT INTERLEAGUE…
An odd number of teams in each league means MLB would have interleague play all season. And interleague all season could mean increasing the number of interleague games.
This would lead MLB to adopt a schedule more similar to the other major sports. Right now, MLB teams typically play 11 per cent of their schedule (18 of 162 games) against the other league. In the NFL, the number is 25 per cent (4 of 16 games) and in the NBA, it is 37 per cent (30 of 82 games).
IN THE END…
Realignment is long overdue. There is no reason why one division should have six teams and another division has four. And there is no reason why AL teams should have a better shot at reaching the World Series.
However, when debating the merits of realignment, divisional play, and interleague games, we can’t just focus on what is fair for the players and the teams. Doing so, leaves out the most important fact, the networks.
And let’s face it, the networks call the shots.
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