The steroids controversy hasn’t singularly pushed baseball behind others in popularity, it’s also the 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 an East-West realignment would place 15 teams in the East and 15 in the West. That kind of split just seems to make 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, but it would not be absolutely necessary. If the schedule permits, rotating the home team every other year, East-West Interleague play could be viable. Such a system works for the NBA and NHL.
The most important variable would be to get the realignment established and get fans vested in the regional rivalries.
What about the designated hitter rule? How would that be handled? Frankly, that 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. That would create an additional home-field advantage.
The visiting team wouldn’t know until right before the game starts whether the rule will be used. Strategies would include determining whether the opposing pitcher is any good at the plate or whether the home pitcher can swing the bat well.
How great would it be to see the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates playing the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox on a regular basis each season? Surely, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s would sell more tickets if they were playing each other more often. Plus, baseball would save on travel costs.
Here’s the breakdown of how the realignment could 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: Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles 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 bringing Chicago to the West would be the best solution numbers-wise.
This format would really be at its best during the playoffs. There would be matchups leading to a World Series that would pit teams in the wild-card rounds through the League Championship Series that are closer together, making it more emotional for fans.
It seems to have worked pretty well for the NBA. 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 would have that opportunity in this new alignment as well.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com