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Daily Archives: May 19, 2011

MLB Realignment Proposal: Time to Overhaul the Divisions

Thursday May 19, 2011

MLB reports:  Looking at today’s divisions in baseball, the setup to me does not make sense.  From a geographical and competitive standpoint, the current six divisions in baseball appear to exist without much of a foundation or reason.  After years of watching baseball in its present day form, I believe that it is time for a change.  As a disclaimer, I will warn that this article is not about expanding or changing the playoff format, the unbalanced schedule within divisional matchups and revamping interleague play.  While all these items are worth discussing, they will need to be put on the back-burner for a different day.  For now, the focus is on the division setup and the new MLB divisions as proposed by MLB reports.

In order to create a new structure, we need to look at the recent history of the divisions in major league baseball to understand how we got to the current structure.  Not too long ago, the American League and National league were broken up into two divisions apiece:  the East and the West.  Each league was stocked as follows:

 American League East

Baltimore Orioles

Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Milwaukee Brewers

New York Yankees

Toronto Blue Jays

American League West

California Angels

Chicago White Sox

Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins

Oakland Athletics

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers

National League East

Chicago Cubs

Montreal Expos

New York Mets

Philadelphia Phillies

Pittsburgh Pirates

St. Louis Cardinals

National League West

Atlanta Braves

Cincinnati Reds

Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

There were four divisions in total.  When the playoffs rolled around, the leaders of the East and West in each league faced-off and the winners met in the World Series.  A system that had its flaws, but the majority of people knew it and liked it.  The system worked for many years, but with time inevitably came change.  New teams entered baseball through expansion:  the Marlins, Rockies, Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now Rays).  The Montreal Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals.  Baseball wanted to expand its playoff format and add two more teams per league to the playoff mix.  As a result of the changes, baseball grew from a four division to a six division format.  Both the American League and National League had three divisions each:  the East, West and now Central Division.  Add to the mix that the Brewers moved to the National League, the Angels went through somewhat of an identity crisis and the MLB divisions now look as follows:

American League East

Baltimore Orioles

Boston Red Sox

New York Yankees

Tampa Bay Rays

Toronto Blue Jays

American League Central

Chicago White Sox

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins

American League West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Oakland Athletics

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers

National League East

Atlanta Braves

Florida Marlins

New York Mets

Philadelphia Phillies

Washington Nationals

National League Central

Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati Reds

Houston Astros

Milwaukee Brewers

Pittsburgh Pirates

St. Louis Cardinals

National League West

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

Checking the totals, we have 14 teams in the American League and 16 Teams in the National League.  Divisions have a range between 4-6 teams each.  From a competitive standpoint, teams in the American League West have the best mathematical chance at a division/wildcard entry, with the fewest amount of teams in their division and fewer teams in the league overall.  Based on competitive records, the impression is that teams in the American League East face the toughest battles, while the National League Central for example is a weaker division.  Finally, from a geographical standpoint, the current setup just doesn’t work.  Looking at a map one day, I thought to myself:  there has to be a better way.  After a geographical and competitive analysis, I believe that I have found the fix.

In order not to change the baseball landscape too much, I have left the current six named divisions in place.  For simplicity of discussion, let’s assume that this portion works.  I believe that too many divisions will create chaos, while too few divisions will create a logjam of teams.  I am prepared to proceed with five teams per division and simply realign the current system.  On that basis, the following is the MLB reports proposed MLB divisional realignment plan.  Featured for the first time ever, our new MLB would look like this:

American League East

Baltimore Orioles

Boston Red Sox

New York Mets

New York Yankees

Washington Nationals

American League Central

Cincinnati Reds

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Milwaukee Brewers

Toronto Blue Jays

American League West

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Houston Astros

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers

National League East

Atlanta Braves

Florida Marlins

Tampa Bay Rays

Philadelphia Phillies

Pittsburgh Pirates

National League Central

Chicago Cubs

Chicago White Sox

Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins

St. Louis Cardinals

National League West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Los Angeles Dodgers

Oakland Athletics

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

 

From a geographical and competitive standpoint, it is impossible to ever make a perfect division.  But on the basis of 15 teams per league and 5 teams per division, I believe that the above proposal is a vast improvement over the current baseball divisional arrangement.  I will present each division as proposed by MLB reports with the related commentary as to the logic behind each.

American League East

Baltimore Orioles

Boston Red Sox

New York Mets

New York Yankees

Washington Nationals

This division was one of the most difficult to build.  The Red Sox, Mets and Yankees were a given as the foundational teams to the new AL East.  Based on their history and makeup, the Red Sox and Yankees were not moving from the East.  Based on geography and rivalry, it was time to add the Mets to the mix and bringing them to the American League will create a fresh start for a team in need of change.  The last two teams for the AL East was between the Orioles/Nationals and Phillies/Pirates.  It would have been nice to see the Phillies in the Yankees/Red Sox division, but location and the team chemistries were part of the equation.   The Orioles and Nationals need to be in the same division based on proximity and are a better fit for the American league.  The Phillies and Pirates are still NL based and without good reason for a move, should remain in the senior circuit.  The Orioles have a long-standing rivalry with the Yankees and Red Sox, with the Mets and Nationals now joining the party that is the AL East.

American League Central

Cincinnati Reds

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Milwaukee Brewers

Toronto Blue Jays

Definitely a different look to the AL Central, this new division is reminiscent of the old AL East.  The only difference is both the Yankees and Red Sox are missing with the Reds now on board in the American League.  After some thought, I think you will agree that the new AL Central will be one of the most competitive and fun to watch in baseball.  The Jays and Tigers have always enjoyed a strong rivalry and based on geography, it makes sense for the teams to be in the same division.  The same goes for both Ohio teams, with the Reds offense now enjoying an extra kick in the American League by adding the DH to their lineup.  The battle of Ohio will be a heated one and it is about time both teams were in the same division.  The fifth and final team came down to a choice of the Brewers or Twins.  While the Milwaukee fans might protest a return to the AL, the team overall seemed to be the best fit for the new AL Central.  A great offensive team that will match up well with the Tigers, Jays and remaining group in this division.

American League West

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Houston Astros

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers

After watching the last few years of Angels/Mariners and Rangers/A’s matchups, it is time for a change.  These teams do not have the rivalry factor and the old AL West simply lacked excitement.  The Astros and Rangers in the same division will showcase the battle of Texas, which I believe will slowly become one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports.  The Rockies and Astros have the offensive ballparks that were made for the American League, power and home runs in excess.  The Diamondbacks and Mariners based on location fit best into the new AL West, a division in search of an identity but strong overall in hitting.  Exactly what fans would expect from their AL teams.

National League East

Atlanta Braves

Florida Marlins

Tampa Bay Rays

Philadelphia Phillies

Pittsburgh Pirates

Rivalries, both old and new, will be the highlight of the new NL East as we showcase the new divisions of the senior circuit.  The Marlins and Rays are logical combatants based on their Florida location.  With the Braves not far away and already being rivals of the Marlins in the existing NL East, this division should feature some of the best baseball ever seen.  With the Pirates on the rebuild, the matchups of the Pennsylvania neighbors will bring back memories of the NL East from days gone by.  The Pirates became stagnant in the Central and with renewed rivalries and enthusiasm, this division will be competitive for years to come.  The move by the Rays to the NL should be an exciting one, with strong pitching and youth, the Rays will finally be home where they belong.

National League Central

Chicago Cubs

Chicago White Sox

Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins

St. Louis Cardinals

The battle of Missouri and Illinois will run rampant in the new NL Central.  The White Sox after all these years will be the leaving the American League and changing leagues to do battle with their arch-rivals, the Cubbies.  These two teams do not like one another and the Illinois fans will go wild.  After a season or two, people will never understand how these teams weren’t in the same division to start with.  The Royals, with the best farm system in the game and some of the most highly touted young pitchers and hitters will be a force in the NL Central.  The battle of Missouri will ignite Kansas City and bring spark and life to this once proud franchise that needs a fresh start and identity makeover.  Further considering the rivalry between the Cubs and Cardinals, I can see the Cardinals and White Sox having intense face-offs every year.  The White Sox in coming over to the NL also bring their rivals the Twins with them.  The Twins, always built on strong pitching and defense will enjoy their long overdue move to the NL and should continue to match up well against the White Sox, Royals and new division foes.  It may take some time for the Twins to find life in this realignment, but over the long haul they will be better off for it.

National League West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Los Angeles Dodgers

Oakland Athletics

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

Last, but certainly not least, we come to the last and probably the best new division in the baseball, the revamped NL West.  The Dodgers, Padres and Giants are all left in their rightful homes and coming over are geographical based enemies, the Athletics and Angels formerly of the AL West.  The A’s logically will match up well with both the Giants and Dodgers, cross town rivals and former World Series opponents.  Compared to the old matchups with the Mariners and Rangers, the Athletics will see a sharp spike in attendance and popularity in facing geographical opponents that will ignite strong pitching matchups and close baseball games game-in and game-out.  The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, formerly the California Angels and the Anaheim Angels, will battle their “Los Angeles” foe in what will become as heated as the Yankees/Red Sox one day.  Having teams of geographical proximity playing in separate leagues in the past was preposterous.  The new baseball realignment will finally fix the divisional setup and create once and for all, an all California division that will showcase truly what the West Coast is all about.

I hope that you enjoyed reading our feature on the new proposed MLB realignment.  The ideas have been in my mind for some time and watching almost 1/3 of the season in 2011, it was time to suggest to align baseball into divisions that make sense.  The current setup as previously indicated does not make sense.  Baseball in its current form is nothing more than a patchwork set of divisions that quite frankly when viewed do not make sense.  It is time to get teams on more equal footing and create divisions that better reflect geographical proximity and competitive balance.  If major league baseball thought that creating interleague play and wild cards sparked new interest in the game, the new realignment will shake up baseball and bring a whole new level of fans to the sport.  It will be impossible to get everyone to agree on the divisional alignments.  But at the end of the day, most of us can agree that change is needed.  Here is one proposal on the table: let’s discuss it and work towards implementing the best system we can.  The fans deserve it and the game as a whole will benefit as a result.

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