MLB Should Investigate a Payroll/Geographical Look into Division Re-Alignment

Monday, May.21/2012

Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)- Despite being a Yankees fan, I admit the economics of baseball are way out of whack. I was talking with a few other fans about the MLB and thought of a radical new change in division re-alignment that may finally end the disparity between all ball clubs having a chance to make the playoffs each year. Much like soccer, it would kind of be a tier system. Scheduling and travel wise it makes a lot more sense as well. For those hardcore fans I would also make each team play at least 3 games against every other team in the Majors. Let’s see if you like what I have done.

The new AL would feature the bigger payroll teams. I know this break’s up 130 years of tradition but it is time to move into the new millennium.  There would be 15 teams in each league so that would make for 1 Interleague series at all times.  Under this format you could still keep your 2nd wild card berth.  After you read these Divisions take a look at how I would break up the 162 game schedule-and then demo sampled the natural rivalries playing each other 12 or 19 times still.  I believe this is the fairest and most accurate way to have competitive balance for all of the clubs.  The National League would take a bit of a hit however they should change the All-Star Game to mean nothing for the World Series home advantage.  The team with the best record overall in the regular season should have home field advantage when deciding the World Series and playoff round.  There would be 50 interleague games for each team.  This still only represents 30% of the games folks.  With more teams rotating through the league, the games would remain fresh.  They can still keep the American League and National League Stats separate like the NFL does.

Proposed Changes

The following shows of the salary each team has for the 2012 and what their 2011 final record was.  I added up the entire division’s payroll and gave the average for each team.  I also combined the record overall and what the averages were.  At the end, I assigned division winners and 2 wild card winners from each league.  These were numbers based on the 2011 season.

AL EAST

In-PHI, NYM and DET/Out-TOR, TB, FLA

Projected Payrolls in Millions-2012 ($732 Million total or $146 Million per team/Record Last Year Combined 462-348 or 92-70 per team)

New York Yankees-$198.00 and 97-65 (Wild Card #1)
New York Mets- $93.3 and 77-85
Boston Red Sox-$173.4 and 90-72
Philadelphia Phillies-$174.5 and 102-60 (Division Winner for AL East under new alignment.)
Detroit Tigers-$132.3 and 95-67 (Wild Card #2)

Detroit might suffer a little because of the economy but they are one of the proudest franchises and draw well. With New York and Philly 100 miles away they should all play each other a lot more. Boston is not too far either. All of these teams have the capability of drawing 3 Million-4 Million fans to compete.  The New York Mets should be able to compete once their troubled ownership straightens itself out.  These teams would really battle each other all out.  They still might pick off the two wild card positions every year.

AL Central

IN ATL, TEX, HOU PIT /Out-CWS-CHC-DET-KC

Projected Payroll in Millions-2013($420 Million total or $84 Million per team/Record Last Year Combined 411-399 or 82-80 per team)

Cleveland Indians $78.4 and 80-82
Atlanta Braves $83.3 and 89-73

Houston Astros $60.7 and 56-106
Pittsburgh Pirates $63.4 and 72-90
Texas Rangers $120.5 and 96-66(NL Central Division Winner under new alignment.)

Houston and Texas could benefit by more state kind of games. Cleveland is really close in flights to all as is Atlanta.  Pittsburgh would have a chance to compete under this alignment without Chicago Cubs/St. Louis both exceeding $100 million and with one less team in the division. This was easier to because of Houston already moving to the AL.  This is only 2 teams being brought from the NL. Texas is the strongest franchise right now but that could change.

AL West

In-SF, LAD, STL/Out-TEX-OAK

Projected Payroll in Millions-2012($564 Million total or $113 Million per team/Record Last Year Combined 411-399 or 82-80)

Seattle Mariners-$82.0 and 67-95
SF Giants-$117.6 and 86-76

LA Dodgers-$95.0 and 82-79
LA Angels-$154.5 and 86-76

St. Louis $110.0 90-72  (AL West Division Winner under New Format)

We have St. Louis, San Francisco and Seattle all playing vs Kansas City, Oakland and Colorado as their natural rivalries so they will play 8 more games vs. each other in addition to the 4 games for cross league divison.  Seattle could easily afford more payroll if the team was playing better.  They proved they could draw in the 3 million range for fans.  Having the 6th biggest city in the USA is another reason why Seattle should be able to draw better.

National League

NL East

In-TOR, BALT, TB/Out-NYM, PHI, ATL

Projected Payroll in Millions-2012 ($420-Million total or $84 Million per team/Record Last Year Combined 398-412 or 80-82 per team)

Washington Nationals $81.3 and 80-81 (Wild Card #2)
Toronto Blue Jays $75.4 and 81-81 (Wild Card #1)
Tampa Bay Rays-$64.3 and 91-71 (NL East winner under new alignment.)
Florida Marlins-$118.1 and 72-90
Baltimore Orioles-$81.4 and 69-93

It is time to face the truth – That is that these teams are at a severe disadvantage with the divisions they are currently in. It’s a natural to have BAL-WSH, TB-FLA in the same division. You have to think about practicality here of Marlins/Rays fans being able to watch their own team in the same state a few more times. Toronto is the odd duck of the group, but with four teams having two-sets of close ball yards, going on road trips would be a lot easier for the Canadian team.

NL Central

IN-CWS/MIN OUT STL/HOU/PIT/

Projected Payroll in Millions 2011($465 Million total or $93 Million per team/Record Last Year Combined 388-422 or 78-84 per team)

Chicago White Sox-$96.9 and 79-83
Chicago Cubs-$88.2 and 71-91
Minnesota Twins-$94.1 and 63-99

Cincinnati Reds $82.3 and 79-83

Milwaukee Brewers-$97.6 and 96-66 (NL Central Winner under new alignment)

The NL Central division re-alignment makes the most sense with Milwaukee and the two Chicago teams being only 100 miles apart. Minnesota is within a 6 hour drive of Chicago too. Cincinnati does have the ability to play with the big timers if they play well. Cincinnati is 300 miles from Chicago, 400 from Milwaukee and a quick plane ride to Minnesota

 

NL WEST

In-OAK, KC/Out LAD and SF

Projected Payroll in Millions- 2012 ($324Million total or $64.8 Million per team/Record Last Year Combined 383-427 or 77-85 per team)

San Diego Padres $55.4 and 71-91

Arizona Diamondbacks $74.3 and 94-68 (NL West Division Winner under Format)

Kansas City Royals $60.9 and 71-91
Colorado Rockies $78.1 and 73-89
Oakland $55.3 and 74-88

This division makes sense because of the payrolls all being so low.  It is time to factor this in.  Chances are these teams would not win the wild card spots anyway but they would have a chance at a division title every year.

The National League carrying lower payrolls for the teams makes sense without the DH.  A good DH will raise your teams budget by 10-16 Million Dollars.

Divisional play would be 11 games (4×11 for 44 games), League play(non-divisional) would be 6 games x 10 teams (60 gms=104 overall).  The opposing league East vs. East, West vs. West and Central vs. Central all play each other on a 4 game set.  (5×4 =20) for 124 overall. You would play the other 10 teams in your cross leagues 3 games (10×3=30) and 154 overall.  You then would play your natural rivalry 8 games to make up the 162 game season.

A look at what the New York Yankees season series would look like versus the other teams

NYY opponent list

BOS (19)

DET (11)

NYM( 11)

PHI (11)

CLE (11)

ATL (6)

HOU (6)

PIT (6)

TEX (6)

HOU (6)

SEA (6)

SF (6)

STL (6)

LAA (6)

LAD (6)

TOR (4)

TB (4)

MIA (4)

WSH (4)

MIA (4)

CWS (3)

CHC (3)

MIN (3)

MIL (3)

CIN (3)

ARZ (3)

SD (3)

COL (3)

OAK (3)

KC (3)

Natural Rivalries. Games vs. each other for year

NYY/BOS (19)

DET/TOR (12)

PHI/NYM (19)

TB/MIA (19)

BAL/WSH (19)

STL/KC (12)

LAA/LAD (19)

ARZ/SD (19)

COL/SEA (12)

SF/OAK (12)

CWS/CHC (19)

MIL/MIN (19)

CIN/ATL (12)

PIT/CLE (19)

TEX/HOU (19)

Natural Rivalries (Play each other an additional 8 games even if not in the same division.)   For this example New York Yankees are playing Boston as their main rival and would play the normal 11 divisional games plus another 8 rival games.  However, Toronto and Detroit would only play each other 4x for cross league same division and then play each other for an additional 8 rival games for 12 overall.

 Looking principally from a payroll point of view, these moves in a dramatic realignment would make sense.

 ***Thank you to our Baseball Writer- Douglas “Chuck” Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Chuck Booth, you can follow Chuck on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and you can also follow Chuck’s website for his successful Guinness Book of World Record Bid to see all 30 MLB Park in 23 days click here  or on the 30 MLB Parks in 23 days GWR tracker at the Reports click here. To Purchase or read about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames Book please click here . ***

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About chuckbooth3023

I played competitive baseball until 18 years old and had offers to play NCAA Division 1 University Baseball at Liberty University. Post-concussion symptoms from previous football and baseball head injuries forced me to retire by age 19. After two nearly made World Record Attempts in 2008, I set a New World Record by visiting all 30 MLB Parks (from 1st to last pitch) in only 24 Calendar Days in the summer 0f 2009. In April of 2012, I established yet another new GWR by visiting all 30 Parks in only 23 Calendar Days! You can see the full schedule at the page of the www.mlbreports.com/gwr-tracker

Posted on May 21, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Mr. Booth:

    I really enjoyed your article and your insight into a proposed realignment of the divisions in baseball. I agree with everything you said.

    Having been a longtime fan of AL East baseball, especially of the Toronto Blue Jays and having the opportunity to closely observe the Tampa Bay Rays organization, I have developed some particular views in the issue. After all, there is possibly no other division in baseball with so much disparity as we can find in the American League East.

    One thing I want to point out is that we need to consider that we cannot look only to the total amount of money that an organizations ownership is willing to hand over to their front office to construct a ball club. We must also pay attention to the front office’s use of this money and their “effectiveness per dollar spent” (referred to from hereon as ‘EPD’). In the same way that college football accounts for difficult of schedule, I believe we must closely analyze EPD when looking at viable alternatives to the current divisional breakdown in baseball.
    We have general managers in baseball like Brian Cashman who have all the backing from their franchises ownership group that one could ever want. The Dodgers new ownership group has been absolutely beyond generous, and has even bailed out the free spending Boston Red Sox on several deals that may not have looked too prudent a few years from now (see Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett). An additional problem exists in the modern world of baseball. Prospects are regarded as superstars before they ever step onto a big league diamond, players with 2-3 years of successful playing time under their feet command enormous contracts when they hit free agency, and the Albert Pujols, Prince Fielders and Alex Rodriguez can command 10 year deals worth over a ¼ of a billion dollars with commitments that stretch into the years that they may reach man-o-pause. Teams must either be willing to bet the boat on key free agents for the next couple of years and hope either that the ship doesn’t sink on the back end of these contracts or they can find somebody to bail them out these contracts.

    The alternative is teams that make due and recognize the enormous amount of young, affordable and retainable talent that is available to them. There may not be the same name brand on first base or as many jerseys sold or the TV deal that comes with having a Pujols manning first base, but there are alternatives. Baseball has progressed enormously. As competitive as it used to be, now we have high school kids that are learning how to work out and train on YouTube. I might speculate that your typical “AAAA” player these days is as good of a fundamental ball player as a run-of-the-mill, career major leaguer from the 70s.
    Teams like Tampa Bay and Toronto, who have been playing with the Big Boys for years now, have had to elevate their game and become more creative. A team like the Yankees arms their General Manager with rocket launchers. If they run out of rockets and make a mistake (see Alex Rodriguez), their ownership hands them a shot gun. Pretty soon, revenues from their broadcasting deal and merchandise sales allow them to buy more rockets. Case in point: If the Yankees wish to extend Robinson Cano this offseason…they will. When you are Coca Cola you are able to spend a little bit more recklessly and a little more arrogantly than if you are the mom and pop producer of local soda pop. You may not put a better product on the market, but you will still see a profit.

    If Brian Cashman is Arnold Schwarzenegger from Commando, then Andrew Friedman of the Tampa Bay Rays is James Bond. Teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays have had to evolve the way they ran a major league team if they wanted to stand a chance. Andrew Friedman has become effective and stealthy armed with nothing more than a minute pea shooter. When he runs out of ammo, he is stuck at the winter meetings surrounded by the Red Sox and Yankees, with nothing more than his good looks and charm. He has, however, utilized the teams drafts and scouting to the max, and is able to more than compete with teams that spend twice as much as the Rays. It is arguable that $1TB is equal to $2 NYY. This, of course, doesn’t take into account the revenues that the Yankees recognize for each dollar spent. After accounting for these revenues and looking at the fiscal returns these teams see, $2NYY is probably closer to $5TB. The product they put on the baseball field, however, is unaffected…it is more a matter of how quickly their bank accounts are replenished.
    Alex Anthopolous, along with Andrew Friedman are two young baseball executives that can be regarded as this generations Billy Beane(s). Anthopolous is known as a “ninja” and has the uncanny ability to pull deals out of his hat. His situation is a little bit different from that of Friedman’s in Tampa Bay, because Toronto has proven in the past to be a large market and has an ownership group that seems to be willing to support their front office monetarily. When Anthopolous breaks a pair of his nunchucks, it is likely that ownership will replace them.
    I really enjoyed your proposal for new divisions. I really loved your coupling of TB-MIA and BAL-WAS. The Blue Jays fit in there nicely. One thing I wanted to note that would help create a level playing field is the help that teams like Toronto/Detroit, Cubs/ChiSox, Rays/Marlins, Baltimore/Washington would receive financially from playing more games against natural rivals. The higher viewership and interest would likely result in higher attendance, higher merchandise sales, and possibly Los Angeles/New York types of TV deals. I know, from living in Florida, that this is a state that levitates towards college football and NASCAR. A lot of complaints about the level of interest surrounding baseball in Tampa Bay exist, but if you inject the fun associated with proud south Florida fans trash talking proud western Florida fans, it might invigorate baseball. Florida is a state that produces lots of baseball talent, but a lot of the baseball fans are Yankees, Red Sox, and Midwestern baseball fans that have migrated here. This divisional rivalry could help add a pulse to the baseball culture in the Sunshine State.

    Baltimore and the Washington Nationals have also been two teams that have been really improving their on the field products and would greatly benefit from these regional matchups as they become more competitive.

    I might offer an alternative, that is simply an alternative and in no ways intended to be an improvement. This option, however, would enable the Blue Jays to play Detroit more often, and may be partly selfish and biased towards more Blue Jays-centrism. In my eyes the Blue Jays have the financial ability to spend $130m+ when the time comes:

    (Payrolls are stolen from your article from several months ago)
    AL Central
    TOR $75.4
    DET $132.3
    TEX 120.5
    STL $110.0
    Cleveland $78.4

    NL CENTRAL
    PITT $63.4
    Kansas City $60.9
    ChiSox $96.9
    Cubs $88.2
    Reds $82.3

    AL WEST
    SEA $82.0
    Colorado $78.1
    Twins $94.1
    Oakland $55.3
    Padres $55.4

    NL WEST
    Giants $117.6
    Dodgers $95.0
    Angels $154.5
    Brewers $97.6
    Arizona 74.3
    *The Brewers and Arizona are teams with high EPD that always find a way to compete with the Big Boys…well run franchises.

    AL EAST
    FLA $118.1
    TB $64.3
    HOU $60.7
    BAL $81.4
    WAS $81.3
    **Houston is going to take a while to compete regardless of what division they are in.

    NL EAST
    NYY $198
    BOS $173.4
    PHI $174.5
    NYM $93.3
    ATL $83.3
    *In the same way that your divisions included the somewhat weaker (although not by much) Detroit Tigers in this division, I put Atlanta here. They too have a great tradition and are very proud. They also have the ability to spend. This alignment allows the Blue Jays and Tigers to play together across the pond, and might make a little more sense regionally.

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