Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Should MLB Go To an East-West Realignment?

Would Major League Baseball benefit from an East-West realignment?  Would it gain more interest from U.S. sports spectators and sustain it?

It's not the steroids controversy that has singularly pushed the sport behind others in popularity, it's also partly due to format issues.  The great game of baseball, the only one played without a clock to count down time left, must consider tinkering with aspects of its game in order to enhance interest among sports fans (I wrote these solutions for baseball's season, playoffs about one year ago).

With 30 teams to consider geographically, the split to East-West realignment would place 15 teams in the East and 15 in the West.  This split just seems to make common sense.  Get all the teams who are close to each other to play each other more times to determine playoff seeding from each league, East and West.

Would there be Interleague play still?  I suppose so.  It's not absolutely necessary.  If the schedule permits, possibly rotating the home team every other year-for example, East-West Interleague play could be viable.

The most important variable is to get the realignment established and get fans vested in the regional rivalries.

What about the Designated Hitter rule, how's that going to be handled?  Frankly, the DH rule is the least of MLB's worries, but, of course, it does need to be addressed.

There are several ways to skin this cat.  One suggestion is to allow teams to determine before every home game whether they want to use the rule or not. This would create an additional home-field advantage.

The visiting team won't know until right before the game starts whether the rule will be in effect.  Strategies will include determining whether the opposing pitcher is any good at the plate or whether the home pitcher can swing the bat pretty good.

How great will it be to see the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates playing the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox on a more regular basis each season.  Surely, the L.A. Dodgers and Oakland A's will sell more seats if they are playing more often.  Plus, MLB saves on travel costs.

Here's the breakdown of how the realignment can look:

East---Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins, Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers.

West---L.A. Dodgers, L.A. Angels, Oakland A's, Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox.

It's not a perfect realignment.  Ideally, it would be best to leave the Chicago teams in the East, but there are two slots too many in the East, so bringing Chicago to the West is the best solution.

The playoffs is how this format will really be at its best.  There will be matchups leading to a World Series that will pit teams in the Wildcard rounds through the pennant rounds with really close travel times, making it more emotional for fans.

It seems to have worked pretty well for the NBA.  Probably, the most intriguing element for the NBA is its Finals, when the East-West format is on stage for the world to see.  The World Series will have this opportunity, as well.

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