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Expansion and realignment in the offing?

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Baseball America has posted an article by Tracy Ringolsby about the possibility of MLB expansion and resulting realignment. The article is a bit frustrating because there’s no way to gauge how real it is. Ringolsby points to “a building consensus that baseball will soon be headed to a 32-team configuration,” likely involving Montreal and Portland. He then sets out a fairly detailed outline for realignment, but describes it simply as “one proposal” without giving any hint of where it comes from. It might be something that’s under active consideration by MLB, or it might just be something somebody thought would be cool.

Assuming there’s any substance to it, the “proposal” has some elements that seem like good ideas and some that I think would be terrible. The basic idea is four, eight-team divisions, as follows:

East: Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington.

North: Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Montreal, both New York franchises and Toronto.

Midwest: Both Chicago franchises, Colorado, Houston, Kansas City, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Texas.

West: Anaheim, Arizona, Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.

The Good

  • A 156-game schedule, with a dozen games against each divisional opponent and three against each of the other 24 teams. No more unbalanced schedule.
  • Off-days every week, which among other things would hopefully reduce stress on pitchers, as well as the incentive for teams like the Pirates to go with a 13-man pitching staff for chunks of the season.
  • Drastically reduced travel (due to geographical alignment), with the reduced expenses offsetting the lost revenue from the shorter schedule.

The Bad

  • The playoffs would involve four divisional winners, with the eight remaining teams with the best records holding play-in games to produce an eight-team playoff field. Four one-game playoffs wiping out the results of 1,248 regular season games! No no no no no no no no no.
  • The Pirates and Cincinnati in a division with Atlanta and the Florida teams, and not with Cleveland and Detroit? Incredibly, Ringolsby describes this as “add(ing) to the natural rivalries.”

The Ugly

  • There’s no mention of the DH, but it’s pretty obvious that the realignment would have to include either making it MLB-wide or eliminating it. The union isn’t going to permit the latter, as the DH provides a big salary opportunity for aging sluggers who can’t play the field. So all of MLB would have fake baseball.