First, contract two teams. Baseball almost did this a few years ago and it might be time to look at it again. We're back to "less is more." Which two teams go is an entirely separate issue, so let's not get bogged down in that argument here. For the purposes of this discussion, we contracted the two Florida teams -- so, Marlins and Rays, you're gone. That leaves 28 teams, which Buck has organized into four, seven-team divisions. There is no more American League and National League. That idea is archaic and goes away as well.
By Steve Berthiaume, ESPNSick and tired of Yankees-Red Sox? So am I, and I grew up in Boston going to Fenway Park. Every game is four hours long and they play each other 18 times a season. It's too much. It's way too much. The rivalry has become overblown and watered down. It's exhausting. Let's apply the less-is-more philosophy here. As Duane Thomas once said, "If the Super Bowl is the ultimate game, why are they playing it again next year?" So, yes, 18 regular-season Super Bowls is overkill, and it's taking the fun out of it. There is an answer. The NFL realigned its structure before the 2002 season, reassigning 11 teams within eight new divisions. That's worked out pretty well. The integrity of the MLB schedule could use an overhaul. Think the current schedule is fair or balanced? Go ask the Orioles. Because of the current format's emphasis on divisional play, the Orioles have to play the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays 18 times EACH. That adds up to 54 games against those three teams, meaning Baltimore is forced to play one-third of its schedule against three of the best teams in baseball. That's ridiculous. You think the Brewers or the Astros or any NL Central team faces a divisional schedule even remotely as difficult? The balance is completely out of whack. This isn't just an AL East/Red Sox/Yankees problem, either. Here's the other, perhaps uglier side of baseball's unbalanced schedule. Let's use the NL Central as the example again. Going into last weekend, we on "Baseball Tonight" came across the somewhat depressing reality that Friday night's Reds/Pirates game was the first of 13 more scheduled meetings between two teams that have already combined to lose 140 games. Why, going into the second-to-last weekend of August, would we want a system that has the Reds and Pirates scheduled to play each other 13 MORE times? Ugh. We need to fix this. For that, we need the man with the plan, Buck Showalter. Buck has been kicking around his own realignment plan for a while now, and this weekend we talked him into explaining it on "Baseball Tonight." If you missed it, here's the short version … First, contract two teams. Baseball almost did this a few years ago and it might be time to look at it again. We're back to "less is more." Which two teams go is an entirely separate issue, so let's not get bogged down in that argument here. For the purposes of this discussion, we contracted the two Florida teams -- so, Marlins and Rays, you're gone. That leaves 28 teams, which Buck has organized into four, seven-team divisions. There is no more American League and National League. That idea is archaic and goes away as well. Every team plays every other team six times per season -- three at home and three away. There's your 162-game schedule. The idea embraces baseball's current love affair with interleague play; fans see every team, every year. It also gives you a uniform DH policy. You can decide for yourself if you want it or not; DH in or out. Either way is fine, but make a decision, everyone plays with it or no one does. The Showalter Plan realigns as follows, with four divisions of seven teams each, arranged geographically to keep all divisions as much within the same time zone as possible -- another simple, common-sense idea. Gee, how novel. Here it is: <!-- begin table -->
<!-- end table --> Here's the No. 1 goal -- integrity of schedule. No team travels any more or less than any other. No team plays another good or bad team more or less than any other. Every team plays by the same rules, and every team plays every other team six times a season -- three home, three away. Every fan sees every team come to his or her ballpark every year. Buck's plan also creates true regional divisions with true regional rivalries. Let's get back to Red Sox-Yankees for a moment. You think it's a big rivalry now? Imagine how true a big-event feel the games would have if they only met six times a season? Now THAT would create a big buzz. That's a big deal, the true event that the games are supposed to be when they aren't watered down by the current 18-times-a-year overkill. The realignment also eliminates the 10 more times we still have to watch the Reds and Pirates play each other this season. You can set up the postseason any way you want. The four division winners and two wild-card teams get in, with the two division winners with the best records getting first-round playoff byes. Best record gets home field for every series, which also eliminates the All-Star Game deciding World Series home field if you're not yet sold on that idea. If you want to make an argument for four division winners and four wild card teams in the postseason, that's fine. The networks would probably like that. Time to rest now. Realigning baseball's divisions is exhausting. Almost as tiring as watching the Yankees and Red Sox play 18 times every year. Enough already.
Buck Showalter Realignment Plan Babe Ruth Division Jackie Robinson Division Roberto Clemente Division Hank Aaron Division Yankees Dodgers Cubs Royals Mets Angels White Sox Cardinals Red Sox Padres Indians Rangers Blue Jays Mariners Reds Astros Orioles Giants Twins Tigers Nationals Diamondbacks Brewers Braves Phillies Athletics Pirates Rockies