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June 11, 2011

ESPN: Realignment on the table

Former Orioles beat writer Buster Olney cites several sources claiming that a modest realignment could be part of the next baseball labor agreement, but I can't imagine that MLB wants to emulate the NBA playoff system by going to two 15-team leagues that would each produce five playoff teams.

Here's a link to the story.

The current baseball model has been so successful that MLB revenues have more than tripled since the disastrous labor war of 1994-95. Going with a system in which the top five teams would advance might increase late-season interest in some mediocre clubs, but it would remove a lot of the suspense from the regular season for the elite teams that have to battle each other for their respective division titles.

I would oppose any attempt to increase the number of playoff teams, but I could live with an extra wild card in each league, which would create a play-in series and expand the postseason to four rounds. I wouldn't be in favor of it, but it wouldn't seriously diminish the integrity of the regular season.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 7:07 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Just baseball


The only real reason for and result that will come from this, at least for the AL, will be to give one more AL East team a shot to get hammered by Boston or New York and still say they made it to the playoffs. Baltimore, let's dare to dream!

The post-season is already too long, but no one will kill the goose laying the golden eggs The post-season should end in mid-October. It's mid-June and the NBA and NHL finals are still going on. I never pay attention to the NBA anyway, but I lost interest in the NHL post-season weeks ago. Leave the fans wanting more. There can be too much of a good thing.

As much as I'm not a fan of the NFL, they do have the best playoff system. Thirty-two teams, eight four team divisions, with the division winners and two wild cards from each conference. Twelve teams out of 32 make the post season, not a ridiculous number, but the important thing is that the league has division races. Sure, you're going to have a situation where a 7-9 divison winner gets in over a couple of 10-6 second place teams, and people might not think that's fair, but that system keeps the integrity of the regular season. If those 10-6 teams want to complain, well, all they had to do was win a couple of more games, their destiny is in their hands. The NFL lives for rivalaries, and if take away Ravens-Steelers, Cowboys-Eagles-Giants-Redskins, you might as well shut down the league.

Pete, you mentioned the NBA, the NHL can also be put into that category. I don't know why those leagues even have divisions, they use the conference standings to determine playoff seedings. And while each league has some very compelling story lines for their playoffs, they also have the epic race for eighth place. Somehow, finishing eighth doesn't seem to be what people dream off when they grow up.

The only pure way to determine a champion is to put alll 30 baseball teams into one big league, have them play each other an equal number of times, and let the balls fall where they may. But that'll never happen.

And baseball doesn't lend itself to odd number leagues, as is being talked about, you really can't have a "bye" week, unless you give one team in each league three days off while the other 28 play. Of course, it might work with interleague play, but you'd have to stagger the inter league series, you wouldn't be able to have the whole sport playing interleague at one time.

So, baseball could add two teams and go to the NFL system, and that'll never happen, or they could contract a couple of teams, and we've been down that road before. There is no perfect scenerio for baseball playoffs, but making two 15 team leagues with the top five teams making it is by far the worst way. If they did that, in essence all you'd be doing would be having the Yankees and Red Sox use the regular season to set up their rotations for the playoffs. I will say this, baseball does have a fair amount of parity, so there might be some suspense for the fifth place team, but still, do we really want to have the people over to watch the showdown to be number five?

I say, keep the divisions, maybe even make them smaller, so that there would still be some divsion races. You could almost put the Yankees and Red Sox into their own division, and break the other 28 teams into seven four team divisions and go from there. That might work, but it'll never happen.

MLB needs to get rid of the interleague play gimmick. They can add another wild card if they must (with a one game playoff between wild card teams), but dump the interleague games that are only of interest between a few teams, anyway.

Return to a balanced schedule. My preference would be returning to two divisions, with two division winners, and the two other teams with the best record, regardless of division, as wild cards (so no added playoff team.)

Pete, I hated the original wildcard and was completely wrong so I'm willing to give a 2nd wildcard a shot. I'm more interested in who moves where in a mew alignment. I think the easiest would be Arizona to the AL West, Houston to the NL West. You can't put the Giants in the same division as the A's, IMO, just like you wouldn't put the 2 NY or Chicago or LA teams in the same divisions.

D'oh, scratch that first alignment! Moving Houston to the AL West makes the most sense!

....and we'll be able to watch the World Series with our Thanksgiving turkey!

Aren't you contradicting yourself? You oppose increasing the number of playoff teams but "could live with" an extra wild card in each league. Isn't a wild card team an extra playoff team?

Two 15-team divisions would mean there'd always be an interleague series happening somewhere to ensure that all teams are playing all the time. While that's not a bad idea in general, you don't want interleague games happening during end-of-the-season showdown time. That's why there's an even number of teams in each league. Instead, reduce the three divisions in each league to two, play a balanced schedule and have the top two runners up get wild card spots. You could even add a short wild card series ...

Here's my modest suggestion. Go back to having only 2 divisions per league (East and West) and have 4 playoff teams per league: the 2 division winners and 2 wild-card teams, regardless of which division they belong to.

This will keep the same number of playoff teams and structure but will allow for the possibility of 3 playoff teams coming from the same division (say, the AL East).

As an added plus each division within a league will have the same number of teams (7 each in AL and 8 each in NL respectively).

1. Same amount of teams in each league (15)... a no-brainer.
2. Three divisions in each league of five teams each.... another no-brainer.
3. One wild card team in each league..... just like now.
4. Shorten preliminary playoff series' to best-of-three. Shorten League Championship Series' to best-of-five.
5. Keep World Series best-of-seven.
6. Eliminate inter-league play altogether.
7. Either have the National League adopt the DH or eliminate it from the American League; i.e., have it in both leagues or not at all.

Do these seven things, and for the first time in decades, ALL TEAMS will have an equal chance to win a World Championship.

I agree with Bear's vision of how the league should refine the current structure and have been saying the same things to my friends for years. But I would be more prescriptive as to the DH. It should stay. And I think the players would prefer it stays as it prolongs the career of higher paid members.

How about the Orioles beat Toronto and Tampa and stop complaining about the Red Sox and Yankees. Or spend some of the money they are pocketing from MASN.

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About Peter Schmuck
Peter Schmuck wants you to know that, contrary to popular belief, he is more than just a bon vivant, raconteur and collector of blousy flowered shirts. He is a semi-respected journalist who has covered virtually every sport -- except luge, of course – and tackled issues that transcend the mere games people play. If that isn’t enough to qualify him to provide witty, wide-ranging commentary on the sports world ... and the rest of the world, for that matter ... he is an avid reader of history, biography and the classics, as well as a charming blowhard who pops off on both sports and politics on WBAL Radio. That means you can expect a little of everything in The Schmuck Stops Here, but the major focus will be keeping you up to the minute on Baltimore’s major sports teams and themes, whether it’s throwing up the Orioles lineup the minute it’s announced or updating you on the latest sprained ankle in Owings Mills. Oh, and by the way, that’s Mr. Schmuck to you.

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