The idea of this proposal started when stories were written about the ideas that had been randomly thrown out by Special Committee set up by Bug Selig. One of those ideas was “floating realignment” were teams would switch divisions based on economic and other issues. The reaction to this was interesting to say the least, but all the talk made me start thinking about the realigning of and formulating a new schedule for Major League Baseball. The following are steps I believe is a common sense approach to create a better competitive balance for Major League Baseball without hitting the brick wall that is the salary cap issue.
1) Return the Milwaukee Brewers to the American League
2) Eliminate divisions and return to the pre-1969 practice have listing all the teams in a full league table
3a)For scheduling purposes, the 15 teams in each league would be divided into three “tiers” based on the previous year’s standings (Teams finishing 1st to 5th, those finishing 6th to 10th, and those finishing 11th to 15th). Teams will face the each of the other four teams in their “tier” a total of 18 times and every other team in their league 6 times.
b)Interleague games will increase to 30 for every team, facing five teams a total of 6 times. In each league, teams will be grouped into 3 geographical “pods” modified from the old divisional alignments. These “pods” of teams will face one another in a three year rotation so that a team will face every team from the other league in a 3 game series at home and away.
Thus the new Schedule Formula would be as follows:
18 games vs. 4 teams in the same ‘tier’ (72 total)
6 games vs. 10 remaining league teams (60)
6 games vs. 5 teams in interleague play (30)
4)How it would work
To demonstrate how my proposal would work, I will show how the schedule would have been formulated for the 2010 season if my suggestions were in place right now. NOTE: The 2009 playoff teams in each league will be put into the first four places of the standings so as reflect how things will be done in the future, and the Brewers' 2009 record place them the Tier 2 in both the American and National Leagues so by switching leagues they faced the same competitive situation.
Tier 1: NY Yankees, LA Angels, Boston, Minnesota, Texas
Tier 2: Detroit, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Milwaukee, Chicago White Sox
Tier 3: Toronto, Oakland, Cleveland, Kansas City, Baltimore
Tier 1: LA Dodgers, Philadelphia, Colorado, St. Louis, San Francisco
Tier 2: Florida, Atlanta, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, San Diego
Tier 3: Houston, NY Mets, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Washington
Geographical Pods for Interleague Play would be:
AL East- Baltimore, Detroit, New York, Tampa Bay, Toronto
AL Central- Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minnesota
AL West- Kansas City, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, Texas
NL East- Atlanta, Florida, New York, Philadelphia, Washington
NL Central- Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, Pittsburgh, St. Louis
NL West- Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco
Interleague Pod Rotation Schedule would be:
Year 1: AL East vs. NL East, AL Central vs. NL West, AL West vs. NL Central
Year 2: AL East vs. NL West, AL Central vs. NL Central, AL West vs. NL East
Year 3: AL East vs. NL Central, AL Central vs. NL East, AL West vs. NL West
Taking into account the standings, the geographical pods, and choosing Year 3 for Interleague Rotation, let’s look at how the Atlanta Braves 2010 schedule would have been:
18 games vs. NL Tier 2 teams: Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, Florida, and San Diego
6 games vs. The 10 remaining National League teams
6 games vs. AL Central Pod: Boston, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Minnesota
Turning to an American League team, let’s look at what the Baltimore Orioles would have been facing this season under my proposal:
18 games vs. AL Tier 3 teams: Cleveland, Kansas City, Oakland, and Toronto
6 games vs. The 10 remaining American League teams
6 games vs. NL Central Pod: Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, Houston, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis
Q: In my introduction I said this was a common sense approach and would create a better future for Major League Baseball. So after giving my proposal, how does it make common sense?
A: Well let’s look at the new schedule of the Baltimore Orioles for the answer. Under the current system, the Orioles have to play the Blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees 18 times each or 44% of the games this season. Now consider that those four teams currently (as of June 29) have a combined 0.582 record while the Orioles are 23-52. Now under my system, the Orioles would be facing the Athletics, Blue Jays, Indians, and Royals 18 times each and those four teams have a combined 0.451 record. Now let’s just think about that for a moment, under the current system the Orioles are currently facing teams that are combined winning 58% of their games a total of 72 games over the 2010 season while under my system they would be facing teams winning a combined 45% of their games over those same 72 games. I’m not saying that magically the Orioles would find themselves as contenders, but by facing teams that are on the same competitive level they would begin the 2010 with a better outlook than they do under the current system.
Having teams face others that finished in the same “tier” the year before results in creating competitive balance that can’t be done economically. At the beginning of the season almost every team in each league will believe it has a shot to make the playoffs, especially those that missed it the year before. While teams that finished in the middle and bottom of the league standings face one another as if they were division opponents, the previous year’s playoffs teams (plus the unfortunate 5th-place team) would be doing the same thing. This combination would most likely result in at least one, if not more, of the previous year’s playoff teams not making it and that knowledge will have teams believing they have a fair shot at the playoffs.
Q: Why is Boston in the “AL Central” pod?
A: Yearly in the American League and in interleague play, the tickets for Yankees games are the ones that all teams either increase prices for or bundle with games against teams that normally don’t sell well. After the Yankees, the teams with the nation-wide fan bases to draw fans to road games would be the Red Sox, Braves, Cubs, Cardinals, and Dodgers in some particular order. Except for the Cardinals- Cubs dynamic, those teams are split into each pod with only the “AL West” pod without a team with a possible nation-wide fan base. With visiting teams bringing in fans, teams suffering low attendance figures could see their gate receipts receive a bump, especially every three years when the Yankees come to town. So the reason Boston is in the AL “Central” pod is so that for the two years National League teams don’t get to play the Yankees in interleague play they a team that can substitute for at least one of those years.
Q: How would ties be broken under your proposal, especially for a place in the postseason?
A: With regards to the postseason, if two teams tie for 4thplace then like the current system the teams would have a one-game playoff to qualify for the postseason. As for any other ties, especially for 5th- and 10th-place, then the season series between the teams will decide who finishes higher. If the season series between the teams is tied, then how the teams faired against only their respective league determines who finishes higher. If the teams are tied in league games then strength of schedule will be next tiebreaker. Though to be honest it would be extraordinary if we get that far.
Q: How will the postseason work?
A: Like it does now, except that the lowest-seeded team in each league will face the highest-seeded team in the 1st round of the playoffs guaranteed. The ‘LDS’ will still be a best-of-five series and the winners will face off in the LCS best-of-seven series. And though I haven’t suggested it as part of my proposal, this should help end the All-Star Game decides World Series home-field debacle while having it replaced with best record gets home field advantage in the World Series.
I don’t know if someone has presented an idea very close to this, but I will acknowledge that I have borrowed an idea or stance from individuals (both Mike Greenberg and Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio, for instance). So if anyone has written anything similar to what I’ve proposed, I didn’t purposely steal your idea but I would be interested in comparing notes.
So what do you think of my proposal? I await your comments...