Major League Baseball is currently toying with the idea of realigning the American League and National League in hopes of creating two 15-team leagues. Additionally, MLB is tacking on playoff expansion to include a one game play-in scenario for the fourth and fifth ranked teams in each league. While MLB Commissioner Bud Selig already mentioned that he expects the playoff field to be expanded next season, it is nonetheless upsetting and nothing more than a moneymaker opportunity.
Under the proposed plan, one team from the National League would need to move to the American League. Divisions would be done away with and the top 5 teams in each league would advance to the playoffs. The fourth and fifth seeds would battle in a one game playoff to advance to face the 1 seed in what would be the equivalent of the Division Series.
All in all, the plan as is seems to be the second worst idea to come out of MLB in the past year; superseded only by the 10-team playoff proposition. Being that these two illogical ideas are reportedly going to be coupled with one another, this realignment plan is a bombshell of fallacy. The only logical answer to why MLB would opt to go this route is greed.
With that being said, here’s a breakdown of all the biggest problems with this realignment plan.
1) CONSTANT INTERLEAGUE PLAY
Under this realignment plan, the 15-team leagues would result in year-round interleague play. This not only takes away from the uniqueness of interleague play but also could result in a team having to play interleague play down the stretch of the season while trying to make a playoff run. What makes interleague play so entertaining is the fact that it is a rare occurrence. It’s truly a fan spectacle that is made special solely by the fact that it doesn’t happen all the time, and the teams faced aren’t always the same teams. Interleague play has already has quite a few bumps in its road, namely the scheduling (see ESPN’s argument here for clarification). Interleague play can’t afford another issue.
2) 10-TEAMS MEANS A PLAY-IN
While play-in scenarios are fun, they are again only entertaining when they are rare. The buzz and excitement are certainly lost when it all happens year after year. Another drawback of play-in scenarios is that it forces teams to put everything on the line in one game and makes the previous 162 meaningless. Also, if teams are forced to wager everything, they’re going to want to throw their ace. Odds are they’re not going to be able to finagle their rotation at the end of the season to get their ace on the mound for the play-in. If they somehow do manage to start their number 1, in a play-in game, then they’ve already set themselves up to be demolished by the well rested and top of the rotation starter from the number 1 seeded team in the next round.
3) RIVALRIES CAN’T BE CREATED SOLELY ON GEOGRAPHY
One thing MLB hopes to accomplish with this plan is geographical rivalries; which comes into play when discussing which team would need to move to the AL. Both the Houston Astros and Florida Marlins have been mentioned as possibilities, likely for the purpose of enhancing geographical rivalries. Moving the Astros to the AL gives MLB a chance to play up the Texas Rangers-Houston Astros “rivalry.” At the same time, the same can be said for the Marlins and their in state “rivals” the Tampa Bay Rays. This is also something MLB wants to achieve in respect to constant interleague play. Ah yes, FINALLY the people of Maryland can enjoy the timeless and history-rich Washington Nationals-Baltimore Orioles “rivalry.” MLB doesn’t seem to realize that a rivalry can’t be created simply because of geographic location. Believe it or not, there has to be a history before a rivalry ensues.
4) TOTAL DESTRUCTION OF DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AL & NL
If the two leagues are constantly locked in interleague play, then the only difference between the two is the designated hitter. In that case, what is the purpose of even having leagues? If divisions are casted off and interleague play becomes constant why even bother maintaining the difference in designated hitter rules? At least the National Football League can argue that even though the leagues constantly overlap, divisions act as some sort of barrier.
5) FURTHER ALIENATION OF SMALL MARKET CLUBS
Let’s be honest, the only thing keeping the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres afloat is the fact that they play in the NL West with limited “large market” clubs. The only legitimate club with any spending power in the NL West is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are facing their own financial problems. Thus, being able to play and race teams within the division is crucial to the success of the entire NL West. If they are forced to go head to head and face the larger spending powers of the rest of the National League on a regular basis, the playoffs will be dominated buy the usual suspects (which is already a trend).
To be short, this is a horrid idea. Ultimately though, it isn’t the “what” that is bad, it’s the “how.” Realignment could be a good thing for MLB considering how stacked the AL East is. However, this proposed realignment solution is certainly not the way and will only lead to more problems and less entertainment.