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Old 11-19-2010, 03:48 AM   #1
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Default Dear MLB: Don't Just Expand The Playoffs ...

If baseball is in the mood to fix things - which may or may not actually be broken - then why not fix everything, all at once?

First, there is the "Texas Rangers Problem" - which for those who don't follow baseball that closely, is so named because the 2010 AL champs, who make their home in the Central time zone, find themselves marooned in the same division - the American League West - with three teams from the Pacific time zone, two time zones away (the Angels, A's and Mariners).

Second, there is the problem of the South being palpably underrepresented in Major League Baseball - certainly compared with the NFL, the NBA, and even the NHL.

Both of these situations can be remedied - by the creation of two expansion teams, both in the American League, with the concomitant realignment of both leagues into four four-team divisions.

Obviously, to solve the Texas Rangers Problem, one of the new teams will need to be in a Mountain or Pacific time zone city - and three logical candidates stand out: Portland, Vancouver, and Las Vegas (if the latter is chosen, Pete Rose should be immediately reinstated by MLB and enshrined in the Hall of Fame, to fend off the inexorable accusations of hypocrisy - but that can be debated in some other venue). And the cities leading the parade for the Southern expansion team are Charlotte, and the two major Tennessee markets, Nashville and Memphis, with New Orleans an intriguing - and sentimental - possibility.

And now for the realignment:

American League East: Baltimore, Boston, N.Y. Yankees, Toronto (the present AL East minus Tampa Bay).

American League North: Chicago White Sox, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota (the present AL Central minus Kansas City).

American League South: Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Texas, Charlotte/Memphis/Nashville/New Orleans (and if the Royals or Rays feel like complaining, well, someone has to step up to the plate, no pun intended, and do the right thing).

American League West: L.A. Angels, Oakland, Seattle, Las Vegas/Portland/Vancouver.

National League East: N.Y. Mets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington (the Pirates never wanted to leave the East when the leagues realigned into three divisions in 1994, so there should be no problem here).

National League North: Chicago Cubs, Colorado, Milwaukee, St. Louis (true, the Rockies might not be terribly happy with this, but the same applies to them as to Kansas City and Tampa Bay).

National League South: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Florida, Houston (from the advent of the two-division format in 1969 through 1992, the Braves, Reds and Astros were not only together in the original NL West, but also hosted and visited the same opponents together during periods of inter-division play).

National League West: Arizona, L.A. Dodgers, San Diego, San Francisco (the present NL West minus Colorado).

As for the proposed expansion of the playoffs: It could go on as planned, except that in this scenario the playoff qualifiers would be four division winners and one wild card, rather than three division winners and two wild cards, in each league (and 10 out of 32 major-league teams reaching the postseason, instead of 10 out of 30). In most years, the division winner with the worst record in its league would finish with a poorer record than the wild-card team, and sooner or later such a team would win its division with a sub-.500 record - so making the worst division winner face the wild card in a play-in series can easily be justified on fairness grounds.

The postseason can begin with the worst division winner and the wild card meeting in a best-of-three mini-series, the former getting two of the three games at home unless they finish below .500. The team with one home game hosts the first game, followed by a doubleheader at the other team's park (if both such games prove necessary), with a day off for travel in between only if the teams are at least two time zones apart (the idea being to save time and to put both teams at the maximum disadvantage possible vis-a-vis the top three seeds). And flexible scheduling can be implemented throughout the playoffs; that is to say, the next round, up to and including the World Series, begins no more than two days after all of the winners from the previous round have been determined, rather than have one or more teams potentially sit idle for the better part of a week.

Last but not least, the regular-season schedule: Let's say baseball decides both to add a new wild-card series and extends the Division Series to best-of-seven. In that case, the regular season will clearly need to be shortened - most likely being rolled back to the "traditional" 154 games. Under this alignment, teams can play their three division rivals 18 times each (18 X 3 = 54), play all four teams from one of the other three divisions in the same league nine times (two three-game series in one team's park and one three-game series in the other team's park), the assignments for this rotating every three years (9 X 4 = 36), and the teams in the other two divisions six times apiece (6 X 8 = 48). That accounts for 138 games (54 + 36 + 48 = 138). The remaining 16 games would be inter-league games, entire divisions being paired off on a four-year rotating basis, three games per individual matchup (3 X 4 = 12), with the other four games being Yankees-Mets, White Sox-Cubs etc., played in most cases as a single series, with two games in one team's park followed immediately by two games in the other team's park, ideally on the Memorial Day or Labor Day weekend, or Fourth of July weekend in years where one occurs (and in years where such teams' divisions are scheduled to meet, these teams would merely play each other seven times instead of four). Note that under this format, non-three-game series, which the players' union simply love to hate, are entirely eliminated, except for the four-game sets matching up designated inter-league rivals.

All problems solved - in one fell swoop.

Last edited by Anthony; 11-26-2010 at 09:13 AM.
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