Okay let’s get this straight. I’m not against realignment per say. I just don’t like any Bud Selig inspired or sanctioned plan because I know from past experience that those who run major league baseball have only one motive in mind, money. They also seem to have a desire to make baseball the same as other sports, ignoring the beauty and originality of it.
Playoffs generate lots and lots of money regardless of which sport and the excuses of seeking a competitive balance with as many teams as possible only serve to bring up a National Hockey League type scenario. The NHL system basically renders the regular season meaningless and sets up a two or three month playoff round(s) which at the final conclusion, render said playoffs meaningless as well.
But lots and lots of cash is generated, especially in those cities where attendance is mediocre at best. It gives the illusion that all is well and of course allows owners to spend less and less on trying to field a quality team. There is little reason to strive for a team which plays above the .500 mark. While having poor quality teams matched up in the playoffs can make for “exciting” games, it only weakens the sport in the long run.
First we had the proposal over the past offseason of floating teams from division to division depending on their won lost record of the previous season. It was difficult to tell if this was serious or not but surely no one here would want to see the World Series featuring the present day Houston Astros and the Kansas City Royals. Teams with barely above .500 records have advanced through the playoffs but that is more of a fluke and should not be something which is strived for. Another proposal saw an expansion of the wild card, again watering down the overall quality.
The National Football League does something similar although it achieves this with its’ scheduling. The worst teams from the season past play almost exclusively other less successful teams, allowing for inflated and deceiving records the following season. Once again, most incentive to produce a quality on field product is removed, further watering down the sport.
Baseball has of late been proposing a system of two 15 team divisions, (one for each league), with the top four or five teams qualifying for the playoffs. This seems to be a basic extension of the present wild card format, a format which while generating fan interest longer into the season, has the effect of inter division games late in the season being basically meaningless. One is forced to instead focus on the wild card standings and closely following those teams with a sub or barely .500 record. As there is no real incentive to finish first, (except for home field advantage for the team with the best overall record), when it is much easier to finish fourth, mediocrity is once more encouraged under the guise of competitiveness.
Ironically, the latest proposal would leave more teams out of the playoff picture earlier than since the introduction of the wild card and would return us to a pre 1969 situation. It would also set up the season for a battle between the fourth and fifth place teams, leaving little incentive to finish in the top three. It would bring baseball to a European soccer like situation which no one really understands.
Here is my proposal if we are going to throw traditions out the window. As we seem to be stuck with interleague play which I admit does work well in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Baltimore, let’s go one step further.
Let’s have one league, (similar to the NFL), and have four divisions. We could call it North, South, East and West. Inter divsion play would be the majority and the first two teams in each division would be playoff bound. With the first place team having home field advantage until the World Series. Next week I’ll get into a detailed discussion of this plan but I think there are distinct advantages to it.