Monday, June 20, 2011

Realigning The Divisions And It's Problems

As it currently stands, the divisions in Major League Baseball are certainly a bit out of whack. Probably decided upon after too much debate in the wee hours of the night after too many drinks. The AL East and Central divisions have 5 teams each while our AL West division has only 4. That has been a good thing for our Mariners but probably looked down upon by the lower teams in the other divisions. The NL East has 5 teams as well as the NL West, but the NL Central division has 6 teams. That is a combined total 14 teams in the AL and 16 in the NL. The least that could be is balancing out each division with 5 teams a piece. Which would have been done years ago if common sense was used.

Some of the options being talked about are the most ridiculous ideas I have ever heard and some of them, actually aren't too bad.

I want to start by getting rid of any ideas that involve a bye. The worst idea for hitters and pitchers alike that I can't even assume the players union would go for is any idea that involves a weeks worth of rest before playing the most important games of the year. This would happen if the MLB went to two leagues with no divisions and the top 5 teams from each league went into the playoffs. This is the style of thinking that is just plain stupid. There idea is to allow more teams the opportunity to make the playoffs as the higher market teams would always be there. That's a horrible substitute.

Another idea that involves a bye is to add two teams to each league in expansion and have four divisions in each league. Sounds pretty straight forward until you hear about them adopting NFL's wild card rules to makes 6 teams per league which would inevitably cause a bye. Bad idea.

The problem originates because of the major market teams that are always in the playoffs while teams with decent records are not even close to making the playoffs due to being in a division with the likes of the Yankees and the Redsox. The other side of the coin is that a team with a record just over .500 in the AL West can make it into the playoffs and a team in the east can have a 90 win season and not make it to the playoffs. Also, the AL East teams such as the BlueJays have to play teams like the Yankees and the Redsox three times the amount of times that the M's have to while the M's rivalries are the Rangers, Angels and Athletics. Not balanced.

So, how do we fix this problem? Here are some ideas that I like.

Move the Houston Astros to the AL West. This would give all the divisions 5 teams and would create a Texas rivalry that would increase the fan base in the Texas market. Make a balanced schedule for every division. All the teams play the same amount of games with the same teams. Keep the playoff structure the same, that part isn't broken and allows a top record team in as a wild card.

All these options don't fix the problem of the AL East and high market teams so there is only one other option. A salary cap. For the team, not just a fine if you go over it, you can't go over it. This would also include a salary cap for players which is why it probably hasn't happened yet, but it needs to. That way if New York wants to pay top dollar for every home run hitter in the league then they would have to settle for a weaker pitching staff or vice versa. It would make teams have to depend on their farm systems a lot more and give smaller market teams that already depend on their farm systems a better opportunity to compete. This should be implemented before Albert Pujols signs a $30 Million dollar contract this off-season.

Any of the other options would put the Mariners in an awful predicament. If we are thrown in a single division with the Yankees, Redsox, Tigers, Whitesox, etc. it would make it a lot harder for us to contend. Not impossible, but really it would make it a lot harder for teams that aren't mentioned above, unless there were a salary cap. Any way you look at it, the problem isn't where you play or what division you're in, the problem is the money. Bud Selig wants to make a change and balance out the game, this has to be where he starts, besides moving the Astros to the AL. This being said, it sounds like I'm saying that the Mariners would never have the opportunity to contend if there were only two divisions. If you've come to that conclusion already, that's not where you should be.

In 2001 the Mariners won 116 games and had the best record in baseball ever. Obviously they would have made the playoffs that year even if there were only two divisions. The problem is that even though the Redsox had an impressive staff in 2010, they were able to go out and grab Adrian Gonzalez in the off-season and sign him to a multi-year deal. Good for them, but there were a lot of teams that would have been very interested in A-Gon but couldn't come close to affording him. The Redsox should have been one of those teams as well, but they were still able to get it done.

And then there are the Yankees.....
Enough said!

So, keeping things the way they are isn't best, but a total makeover would be bad for the sport. In my opinion, the best realignment option isn't being discussed at all and that's the salaries of owners and players. I understand that players have the right to a certain percentage of what the owners make considering that they are out there doing the work and drawing the fans, but honestly, it's gone way too far. Who needs $30 million a year? Although we would love to have it, I don't think I could find a way to spend that much in my lifetime, let alone a single year.

I could go to a few more games a year if I didn't have to spend $36 dollars per person to sit in the nose-bleed section. I'm sure that the MLB could find a lot of things to do with any overflow dollars that could make a difference in this world besides padding peoples pockets. So MLB, realign all you want, the problem isn't structure, it's greed!


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