Opinion

Here’s an idea for realignment that may satisfy Phillies fans

Like shadows on a sunny day, the word creeps into our viewfinders and causes us to tremble with fear, maybe scoff with disgust: “Realignment.”

Okay, maybe it’s not that worrisome, but the idea of realignment can certainly … realign … how we feel about what it is being realigned.

And in this circumstance it’s the major leagues. Not that it’s happening yet, but there are whispers from up high that Major League Baseball may expand to 32 teams (Montreal and Portland, Oregon, are the two cities most likely to land squads, which makes sense and would be great because both cities are cool). Of course, 32 isn’t 30, and so the current divisions become uneven, which means things might have to change. Thus, we get talk of realignment.

Here’s my scorching take on realignment: It’s not that bad when you’re really into a sport, but if you’re even a casual fan, it sucks. For example, I used to be a huge hockey fan, especially back when divisions and conferences were named after royalty. But the National Hockey League underwent major expansion, and thus, realignment, and so many times that my head spins to think about how the league changed. And certainly, the confusion regarding which teams were in what division and just what the heck those divisions were called helped to push me away from watching and caring about hockey. If I was a devout hockey follower I probably wouldn’t care so much, but from afar it’s just screwing with my mind to think about the Flyers being rivals with Columbus, and it was still weird to look at VGK on a score ticker, because for a few moments I had no idea what that meant.

So I won’t be too unhappy if baseball realigns to fit a 32-team configuration. But some casual fans may be frustrated or upset, and I’m sure MLB will be ready for that.

Anyway, how will this affect the Phillies? Tracy Ringolsby at Baseball America came up with his idea with four divisions, the important element in his being no more American and National leagues.

Now, I’m fine with change, and the idea of separate American and National leagues has turned into a blurry notion since expansion, the creation of interleague play and the evolution of “brands” (forcing entities like MLB to filter everything through itself instead of letting the two leagues do what they will). But there’s no way we should get rid of the leagues. While baseball can sometimes feel painfully stuck in the past, the idea of two leagues opposing each other and waging war is one thing baseball gets really right. If anything, the AL and NL should have more differences between them, but alas, we’re here. Even if the leagues are decoration, keep them.

Moving on: Ringolsby’s new MLB puts the Phillies in the “East” with standard rivals Atlanta, Miami and Washington, plus Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Tampa Bay. It’s not terrible if we’re mixing leagues, but it’s very odd to see the Phillies not in the same division with the Mets (they’d be in the “North” with the Yankees, Red Sox and a slew of Great Lakes teams). One of his main reasons for these divisions is to keep teams in their own time zones as much as possible. Again, makes sense, but how can you take the New York teams away from Philly?

Again, I don’t like eliminating the leagues. Back in 2011 I actually wrote a post mapping out my realigned league, in response to some pieces back then about baseball wanting to fix competitive balance. My 2017 version isn’t very different; here it is:

National League East

  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. New York Mets
  3. Washington Nationals
  4. Atlanta Braves
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates
  6. Chicago Cubs
  7. St. Louis Cardinals
  8. Montreal Expansion Team

National League West

  1. Cincinnati Reds
  2. Milwaukee Brewers
  3. Houston Astros
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. San Francisco Giants
  6. Los Angeles Dodgers
  7. Arizona Diamondbacks
  8. San Diego Padres

American League East

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Baltimore Orioles
  4. Toronto Blue Jays
  5. Tampa Bay Rays
  6. Miami Marlins
  7. Cleveland Indians
  8. Detroit Tigers

American League West

  1. Chicago White Sox
  2. Minnesota Twins
  3. Kansas City Royals
  4. Texas Rangers
  5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  6. Oakland Athletics
  7. Seattle Mariners
  8. Portland Expansion Team

In this scenario we revisit the pre-1994 division alignment to some extent. Back then, the Pirates, Cubs and Cardinals were in the NL East with the Phillies, Mets and Montreal. Things have changed, so the Nationals obviously make it in with Atlanta. To keep the division at eight, Miami (a relatively new team in baseball) moves to the American League. Houston has to move back to the National League, but they’ve already moved a bunch. Meanwhile, look at that AL West – it’s the exact same AL West we had in 1993, just with a Portland expansion team. Beautiful, huh?

You can work out the number of games against teams any way you want, but I’d reduce interleague play to only 8-12 games per season. Each team has its own “natural” rival (in this instance the Phils would be rivals with Boston), and then plays another random team each year. That way the Phils see almost every AL team once every 15 years, which is weird but also fun.

Thoughts? Personally, I think this is the best realignment idea. But that’s me.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Frank Nolan

    October 19, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Realignment: Northeast division: Montreal, Boston, both New York teams, Philly, Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh.
    Great Lakes Division: Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit, both Chicago teams, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Cincinnati.
    Pacific Division: Seattle, Portland, Oakland, SF, both LA teams, San Diego, Arizona.
    Heartland Division: Colorado, St Louis, KC, Houston, Texas, Atlanta, Miami, Tampa..
    No more National or American Leagues, all under the MLB banner. Works Series becomes a round robin tournament of the 4 division champions, maybe wildcards if needed, seeded by record.

  2. Ed

    October 19, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Make it like football, 8 – 4 team divisions.
    AL & NL East, West, North and South.

  3. Mark

    October 19, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    Much better than what was previously suggested. And the nl can avoid the designated hitter a while longer!

  4. Ken

    October 19, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    Why Cubs in the east and Reds in the West?

  5. Vernon Dozier

    October 19, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    I’d rather see MLB fix it’s Florida problem before they even think about expansion.

  6. Benny Gundlach

    October 19, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    Eight is too many in a division. I’d rather see 5, 5, & 6, or 4, 4, 4, & 4 per league. You are right, though, the separate leagues MUST remain!

  7. Dave

    October 19, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    What happens with the DH. I don’t like it.

  8. bruce

    October 19, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    The idea of realignment always troubles me with the thought of “here we go again”. After coming around and accepting interleague play with reluctance, now comes this idea (or is it a proposal?) that the MLB owners are tossing about to ease in new expansion teams. Of course, the bottom line is revenue profits to fill the owners’ pockets.

    If the new realignment does become a reality, I like the writer, Tim Malcolm’s arrangement of realigned teams in each division. It would be horrible NOT to have arch rivals Mets and Nats in the same division with the Phillies.

  9. Richard Mooney

    October 20, 2017 at 10:55 am

    I like this realignment. But I’d also want to entirely get rid of inter-league play. The unfamiliarity of two teams meeting in the World Series, who haven’t competed against each other all season, was one of the great intrinsic positives about MLB.

  10. betasigmadeltahag

    October 20, 2017 at 11:20 am

    I like the two divisions in each league, this gives you 2 division champs, and 3 wild card teams, with the best of the wild card teams given the bye in the wild card round. This could give you 4 teams from one division in the playoffs, which would work if you limited the unbalanced schedule. With 2 series of interleague of home and away is 12 games, 150 to play inside you league. I think this would possibly give you the five best teams in the playoffs. I also think you have to keep the NL and AL and think there needs to be limited interleague play, WS and All Star game is enough. If you want to make the All-Star game matter again, eliminate interleague all together.(I know that won’t happen, but I’m not sure why) Because it would be one of the only times we and the players see each other, it is called competition for a reason. For lack of a better word, it is good to have animosity between the leagues and the teams. And by eliminated the unbalanced schedule, you get a truer picture of the good teams.

  11. jasomm

    October 20, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    MLB:
    NL E – PHI, NYM, WAS, Montreal
    NL N – CHC, PIT, CIN, MIL
    NL S – STL, HOU, MIA, ATL
    NL W – LAD, SF, SD, AZ
    AL E – NYY, BOS, BAL, TOR
    AL N – MIN, CLE, CHW, DET
    AL S – KC, TX, COL, Mexico City
    AL W – LAA, SEA, OAK, Portland

    NBA:
    East: PHI, BOS, NYK, TOR, BRK, WAS
    North: MIN, MIL, CHI, DET, CLE, IND
    South: ATL, MIA, CHA, ORL, NO, MEM
    Central: DAL, HOU, SA, DEN, OKC, SLC
    West: LAL, PHX, POR, SAC, SF(GSW), SEA(clippers relocate)

    NHL:
    East – PHI, PIT, WAS, BOS, NYR, NJ, OTT, MON, Quebec City
    Central – MIN, CHI, STL, CLB, DET, BUF, TOR, Hamilton, Markham
    West – EDM, CAL, VAN, SJ, COL, LA, ANH, WIN, Seattle

  12. Bill Worth

    October 20, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Let’s put low attendance teams in the bigger population cities in the country. The population centers are moving.

    Oakland –> San Jose move
    Miami –> Jacksonville move
    Cleveland –> Columbus move
    Chicago White Sox –> Indianapolis move
    Tampa Bay –> Charlotte move
    San Antonio expansion
    Austin expansion
    the divisions be:

    mid east
    ———
    Washington
    Baltimore
    Pittsburgh
    Columbus

    North East
    ———-
    Boston
    NY Yankees
    NY Mets
    Philadelphia

    South East
    ———–
    Jacksonville
    Atlanta
    Charlotte
    Cincinnati

    Great Lakes
    ———–
    Toronto
    Detroit
    Milwaukee
    Chi Cubs

    Mid West
    ———–
    Minnesota
    Indianapolis
    St. Louis
    Kansas City

    Texas
    ——–
    San Antonio
    Austin
    Texas
    Houston

    North West
    ————-
    San Francisco
    San Jose
    Seattle
    Colorado

    South West
    ————
    LA Dodgers
    LA Angels
    San Diego
    Arizona

    4 games at each non divison team. 2 at home, 2 on the road 4 x 28 = 112
    16 games in division 8 at home, 8 on the road 16 X 3 = 48
    —-
    160

    Now let’s make the regular season count, with seeding that makes for a fun end of the regular season and makes every game count.

    Playoffs seeded 1-8 best to worst division winners
    9-12 best to worst

    quarter finals pelimanary
    ———————————
    seed 5 vs seed 12 (all games @ seed 5)
    seed 6 vs seed 11 (6 games @ seed 6 ; 1 game @ seed 11)
    seed 7 vs seed 10 (5 games @ seed 7 ; 2 games @ seed 10)
    seed 8 vs seed 9 (4 games @ seed 8 ; 3 games @ seed 9)

    Quarter finals
    ————-
    seed 1 vs worst seed left (all games @ seed 1)
    seed 2 vs second worst seed left (6 games @ seed 2 ; 1 game @ second worst seed left)
    seed 3 vs third worst seed left (5 games @ seed 3 ; 2 games @ third worst seed left)
    seed 4 vs fourth worst seed left (4 games @ seed 4 ; 3 games @ fourth worst seed left)

    Semi finals
    ————-
    best seed left vs worst seed left (5 games @ best seed left ; 2 games @ worst seed left)
    second best seed left vs third best seed left (4 games @ second best seed left ; 3 games @ third best seed left)

    finals
    ——–
    best seed left vs worst seed left (4 games @ best seed left ; 3 games @ worst seed left)

  13. Craig Glessner

    October 21, 2017 at 10:31 am

    3 things rule in realignment money travel and money. Oh yeah it’s mostly about money. 2 leagues national and American 8 teams in 4 divisions. 2 division winners and 4 wildcard teams in playoffs. The 4 wildcard teams play one game play in games with winners advancing to play division winners. More playoff teams more money because attendance is up in August and September because more teams are still in the race. Don’t like the wildcards tough it’s good business and if they make the world series they will earn it.
    Nl North both NY teams Toronto Montreal Boston Detroit Cleveland Milwaukee
    Nl East Philadelphia Pittsburgh Washington Baltimore Atlanta Miami Tampa Cincinnati
    Al Central both Chicago teams Minnesota St Louis Texas Houston Colorado Kansas City
    Al West Dodgers Angels Oakland San Diego Seattle Portland Arizona San Francisco
    One last thing don’t hate me but DH in all leagues I’m tired of watching the 8 hitter get walked with an open base and 2 outs because the pitcher is hitting .087 on the year.

  14. Bill Worth

    October 23, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    How about the home team decides whether to use the DH or not. The big argument among traditionalist is the DH takes away from strategy. That would add to the strategy, not take away from it. i.e. does my pitcher hit better than yours, or does my top bench player hit better than yours. Does our pitcher, pitch better not batting or batting. A lot to take into account before the game.

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