MLB realignment could result in a Phillies competitive nightmare


If many realignment rumors prove correct, the Phillies could be facing a division rivalry with the Yankees during the 2020’s. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Philadelphia Phillies baseball club and their fan base have now experienced seven consecutive non-winning seasons, six straight losers.

The front office is now in the midst of a pivotal off-season. GM Matt Klentak and his staff work the phones for potential trade partners. Owner John Middleton has promised to provide “stupid” amounts of money for them to shop in the free agent market.

It is all an attempt to return the Phillies to a consistent winner, something that became commonplace in the previous decade. The Phillies fielded a winning team in 10 of 11 seasons from 2001-11. That included five consecutive National League East Division crowns, back-to-back NL pennants, and the 2008 World Series championship.

As they make their plans, the Phillies brain trust is keeping at least one eye on their NL East rivals. The defending division champion Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, both of whom finished ahead of the Phillies in 2018, have already made big moves to improve their clubs.

The New York Mets and Miami Marlins finished behind the Phillies in the NL East standings this past season, and the Marlins are in a rebuilding program that may have them years away from contention.

Up in New York, the Mets have a new general manager who is on the verge of his own first big move. The Mets finished just behind the Phillies in 2018 and were coming up fast from behind when the season ran out on them.

But should the Phillies management actually be worried about the Braves and Nationals at all as they plan for the longer term?

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has spoken with a number of individuals in recent years about expansion and realignment. The goal has been rumored to be the dissolution of the two-league system with unity of rules, including a universal DH rule.

The result of expansion, with Montreal and Portland emerging as the two leading candidates, would come a 32-team league. Those teams would then be divided by geography into eight four-team divisions.

And here comes the potentially tough part. In many of the rumors the Phillies would be placed into a division with three other teams: the long-time division rival Mets, along with both the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Respected baseball writer Maury Brown of Forbes and formerly of Baseball Prospectus and USA Today was on this topic again today at Twitter as part of a discussion regarding the Portland efforts to build a ball park.

How does that sound to you, Phillies fans? The Phillies organization would have to be up to the competition provided by two behemoths from the Big Apple, and the traditionally powerful Bosox.

Each year, Forbes does a piece on “The Business of Baseball” in which they rank the value of each team in Major League Baseball. The Yankees ranked #1, the Red Sox were at #5, and the Mets were right behind as the sixth-most valuable. Among their current rivals, only the Mets rank higher than the Phillies, who finished as the ninth-ranked club.

That all matters when you consider the ability of those organizations to go after top talent. The overall allure of the Big Apple and all of the marketing opportunities that come with it always make the New York teams attractive.

Same goes for the lengthy winning traditions of the Yankees and Red Sox organizations. The combination of money and tradition make those two clubs perhaps the toughest in the game to compete against on a consistent basis.

Any plans for expansion, realignment, dissolution of the two-league setup, and major rules changes such as to the DH will likely come during the 2020’s. The Basic Agreement between MLB and the MLBPA will expire on December 1, 2021.

As baseball eventually comes to a new agreement with its players regarding the first-half of the new decade, many of these changes are sure to be addressed. By that point we should be getting a much clearer picture of the Phillies having to adjust to a much more difficult long-term competitive situation.






  1. Mmmkeg

    December 1, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    I don’t care if we play in that division. It will still be cyclical for the talent. I am way more upset that we’d be going to the much slower, more boring DH rules. I know you analytic types think that’s a better brand, but you don’t take into account the way a pitcher has to be in the better NL. You can’t just throw at a player without a chance of being thrown at yourself. It makes you a better pitcher. I love baseball, but that could be the final nail in its coffin for me. I almost left with the steroid era, but I stayed with the promise of testing. I think taking away REAL baseball will be the end. Go Phillies!

  2. Nate

    December 1, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    What sense doesn’t that make? I’d rather see Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore and Boston or one of the New York teams

  3. Craig Glessner

    December 1, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    Change Montreal to New Orleans new alignment
    National league
    Ny Yankees, Ny Mets, Toronto, Boston
    Philly, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, DC
    Atlanta, Miami, Tampa, New Orleans
    Detroit, Cleveland, Cincy, Milwaukee

    American League
    Saint Louis, Kansas City, Chi Cubs, Chi Sox
    Minnesota, Colorado, Houston, Texas Rangers
    Phoenix, Dodgers, Angels, Padres
    Giants, Oakland, Seattle, Portland

    I love the DH I’m tired of watching pitchers strike out with the bases loaded and 2 outs. Pitchers pitch and hitters hit. If old people want to quit watching OK if the sport wants to survive and thrive it needs to appeal to a younger crowd. I’m old enough to know there is just as much strategy with the DH as there is without. I don’t want to go to a game Nola is pitching a shutout in the 7th inning of 0 to 0 game and his reward is to be lifted for a pinch hitter.

  4. betasigmadeltahag

    December 2, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    I hate that they would drastically chance the best sport in the world. The DH is a terrible rule, but I do like the differences in the leagues. I think instead of getting rid of the two league system they need to embrace it. Stop interleague play, would make the all star game and WS more of a must see. Expansion would make 2 16 team leagues, and would be perfect for no interleague play. Build the division tension and competition between the league. I also don’t like re alignment, it messes with the tradition of the sport. Just like the last time when they moved Houston to the AL I felt they should have just moved the Brewers back that would have made more sense;

  5. Schmolik

    December 3, 2018 at 7:01 am

    I doubt they would drastically shake up the NL and AL.

    I think there needs to be more baseball teams in the south so I added Charlotte and Nashville.

    NL East: Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Pirates
    NL Central: Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Reds
    NL West: Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks
    NL South: Braves, Marlins, Rays, Charlotte

    AL East: Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays
    AL Central: Indians, Tigers, White Sox, Twins
    AL West: Angels, A’s, Mariners, Rockies
    AL South: Rangers, Astros, Royals, Nashville

    To me this is an almost perfectly geographically balanced setup. I wouldn’t know where to put Portland or Montreal and I’m not a fan of either city being added (Portland is too far a trip from Philly and I can do without any more teams from Canada). I’d love to have the Pirates back in the NL East and the Pirates, Mets, and Nationals are the perfect NL East for the Phils with no long plane rides (as opposed to now, Atlanta and Miami).

  6. S. Yoder

    December 25, 2018 at 11:02 am

    Assuming Montreal and Portland are awarded MLB franchises, I would just add Montreal to the National League and Portland to the American League. Nl realignment- East-Washington, Philadelphia, N.Y. Mets, Montreal…South-Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati…Midwest- Milwaukee, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis, Colorado…West- L.A. Dodgers, Arizona, San Francisco, San Diego. A.L. Realignment- East- Boston, N.Y. Yankees, Toronto, Baltimore.. Midwest-Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago W. Sox, Tampa Bay…Southwest-Houston, Texas, Kansas City, Minnesota…West- Oakland, L.A. Angels, Seattle, Portland. Or N.L. South- Atlanta, Miami, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh…Midwest- Chicago Cubs, St. Louis, Colorado, Cincinnati…A.L. Midwest- Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago W. Sox, Milwaukee. All other divisions in N.L. and A.L. remain the same.

    • Matthew Veasey

      December 25, 2018 at 1:14 pm

      Interesting breakdown. It’s going to be a major change in the 2020’s, and will be very interested to see how MLB chooses to go.

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