Recently, Commissioner Bud Selig stated he’s looking into realigning the divisions and changing the games to allow for better parity, specifically targeting smaller market teams in making the post season. I suggest taking a page from the NFL’s book and make the game even more region and rivalry based, while adding the DH rule to the National League. Here’s how it could break down.
That I propose will expand the current division sets to be regional meaning the end to the broad West, Central and East, but rather change Central to North and add a South Division. Currently these are the divisions:
AL West: LA Angels, Seattle Mariners, Oakland A’s, and Texas Rangers
NL West: San Francisco Giants, LA Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Arizona DBacks, and Colorado Rockies
AL Central: Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, KC Royals, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians
NL Central: Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates
AL East: Toronto Blue Jays, NY Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, TB Rays
NL East: Philadelphia Phillies, NY Mets, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, Florida Marlins
These would be the new divisions:
AL West: Seattle, Oakland, LA Angels, Arizona*
NL West: San Francisco, LA Dodgers, San Diego, Colorado
AL North: Minnesota, Chi. White Sox, Cleveland, Detroit
NL North: Milwaukee, Chi. Cubs, St. Louis, Cincinnati
AL South: Texas, Kansas City, Tampa, New Orleans**
NL South: Houston, Florida, Washington, Carolina**
AL East: NY Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore, Brooklyn**
NL East: Philadelphia, NY Mets, Atlanta, Pittsburgh
As you can see, there would be quite a few changes. Toronto would no longer have team, Arizona would be switching leagues, and two new teams would be added to balance out the schedule and divisions.
The NL West would see the least change and would end up losing the Diamondbacks to the AL. In moving the Diamondbacks to the AL this will allow all the West coast teams to play a majority of their games in their time zones while not having to accommodate Texas, as in the current situation. The North divisions would feature some of the best rivalries in the game including Cards v Cubs and White Sox v Indians. The new AL and NL South would be amalgamations of the rest of the divisions and would give better competition to those teams while also being more localized. The AL and NL east would see better localizations and also segment the outrageous spending that the Yankees and Red Sox do on an annual basis, without having such a wide effect as many teams.
The biggest improvement would be in bringing the game back to a once forgotten market, as well as two brand new markets in New Orleans and a Carolina. There has been no greater tradition than the baseball rivalries of New York, and with Brooklyn having a similar mentality to that of the Chicago White Sox fan base, there would be no greater honor than to give that area a team to combat the Wall Street Yankee and Yuppie Met mentalities. Putting a team in New Orleans could be extremely beneficial as the city continues to redevelop and redefine itself. I purposefully left the Carolina team vague because either state would have the combined market for a team, look at the Carolina Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes; both are in different states and are well supported. Considering the three new teams, the team that would have the most potential value would be the Brooklyn team due to the tradition as well as the market of New York; though with the right ownership groups, New Orleans and Carolina could become powerhouse teams in the South.
One caveat I would hope MLB establish would be that the teams take on a name that is suitable and reflective of the respected areas. In an overly politically correct world, I would not be opposed to naming the Carolina team the Rebels or the New Orleans team the Cajuns, both are reflective and historically accurate to each demographic, and are no worse than the Indians, Vancover Canucks or Montreal Canadiens or Habs.
Another aspect is the idea of Inter-League play, and by making the DH rule the standard; this would eliminate the barrier between the AL and NL. With 32 teams in the league this will allow for better balancing and would allow for every team to play every other team in MLB while keeping more games with the intra-division teams.
In a recent statement from Commissioner Selig is to extend the playoffs, and this would provide him the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone; add an extra round to the playoffs, and expand the game to new markets. With the new balance, there could be the addition of another Wild Card team come post season play then each league would have three series before the World Series. The playoffs would then have to adopt less off days and go to a 5-5-5-7 and would in turn provide plenty of TV stations plenty of games to fight over.
This is a tall order for the league especially considering the current economic state though it would be worth investigating potential ownership groups that are interested in forming teams that would be supportive and competitive in whatever market that ends up hosting. Realigning the divisions would better balance the teams and give smaller market teams a better chance of making the post season like Kansas City, Florida, and the Texas teams. If Selig wants to expand the game to more people, he should consider focusing on bettering the game at home first.