FanPost

Baseball Should Expand and Re-Align

I have a problem with the disparity between leagues and divisions, and it has bothered me ever since the Brewers went all National on everyone. As an Angels fan, I'm tired of hearing about how the West is small and soft, and as a proponent of fair play I don't get how it's remotely fair for one league to let about 28.5% of its teams into the playoffs and another to only let 25%. While the American League is probably a more competitive division at the top, it's hard to say how things would shake out if you had added two new clubs to the bigs (my picks would be Portland and the rapidly growing OKC, personally), of course to the AL to give each league 16 teams.

One of my favorite things about baseball is that it's never been easy to make the playoffs. In the NBA, a vast portion of teams sneak into the playoffs; in fact, the 1983-1984 season saw 16 of the 23 clubs make the playoffs. In other words, so long as you weren't godawful, you managed to have a shot. Washington, the #8 seed in the Eastern Division, had a sparkling .427 winning percentage, generally good enough for last place in baseball (though a few teams always aspire to be even worse). Other than giving the top seeds a pseudo-bye, all it seemed to do was extend the playoffs needlessly while also glorifying a playoff hunt that rarely paid off. Football is a bit more even-keeled, as each 16-team conference sends 6 teams to the playoffs.

The road to the World Series is much more difficult, however, and  I've always loved that. When I was a kid, you could only win the West by clambering over six other teams. But as baseball expanded, adding a whopping four teams in the '90s, it also evolved, splitting the game into the current formation, which is nothing short of bizarre. Divisions with varying team counts, leagues with a 2-team difference, and the Wild Card, a playoff role not native to baseball. You don't have to be the best team in your division to make the playoffs, after whcih all bets are off anyway in the microscopic 5-game series that tests a team's 3-man rotation and hot streaks more than a team's overall depth. By adding two teams, baseball could go to an NFL-style split with a baseball-style playoff system. Split divisions into North, South, East, and West, and give each division a champion who moves on to the playoffs. Forget this Wild Card thing, which only serves as a playoff footnote (like when the Angels and Giants played in the WS, when their status as Wild Cards got more play than anything else, save Barry Bonds and the Rally Monkey).

Maybe I'm crazy, but divisional and league symmetry, as well as crowning champions only, sounds best to me. Baseball likes the Wild Card, though, because it extends the validity of the season for many teams that would otherwise have faded away (like Milwaukee). By keeping more teams in the "mix", baseball gets more games on prime TV slots, more butts in seats, and more of that playoff chase glow when many division races just wouldn't be that interesting.

Baseball should get back to crowning champions, not second-place teams. Go 4x4x2 and have a representative team from each region. You may have more jockeying for home-field advantage and less for real playoff spots, but you're almost guaranteed to represent more areas of the country (though baseball did pretty well on that front this year, especially in the AL), and when two teams meet in the World Series, the greatest of championships, they both arrive as winners, not second-bests who underdogged their way to a championship game they would have had no place in 20 years ago. Restore champions to baseball, and stop giving second-place teams a ticket to the playoffs they only earned because baseball didn't know what to do with 30 teams (since keeping an interleague series going at all times was apparently some kind of nightmate). Get it done now, before the wild card settles in too much more as some kind of "tradition." If a team here or there has to move (say, out of Miami), you don't even have to change the alignment. And t'll even tell you how to do it, Bud, just so you can agree with me.

NL East
Mets
Phillies
Pirates
Nationals

NL South
Braves
Marlins
Cardinals
Astros

NL North
Cubs
Brewers
Rockies
Reds

NL West
Dodgers
Diamondbacks
Padres
Giants

AL East
Yankees
Red Sox
Orioles
Blue Jays

AL South
Royals
Rays
Rangers
Oklahoma City/Nashville/Louisville/Des Moines Franchise

AL North
White Sox
Twins
Tigers
Indians

AL West
Angels
A's
Mariners
Portland Expansion

There. Done. Fix baseball like this.

This Fan-Post is authored by an independent fan. Tell us what you think and how you feel.

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