May 24, 2005 [LINK]

Realigning leagues (and divisions)

My May 23 "modest proposal" of moving the Diamondbacks to the American League and the Astros to the NL West elicited some thoughtful responses. Ken Levin found my idea "intriguing" but cautioned:

Unfortunately, there is a perfectly good reason there are two more teams in the National League than the American League, and this is for the sake of getting every team to play every day. If each league had 15 teams apiece, it would be necessary for at least 2 teams, one in each league, to have several days off every once in a while except when interleague play is going on. The even number of teams in each league deals with this by allowing every team in both leagues to be able to play another team in their league every day without forcing a day (or 2 or 3 or 4!) off. The contraction proposals were an elegant, albeit destructive, way to even out the leagues. Adding two teams to the AL would also deal with it, but with the current state of things in baseball, such as both Florida teams being in big trouble regarding stadiums and attendance, the climate is not right to add two teams to the league. If there's anything to be learned from the NHL, it's that 32 teams is too many for a league having attendance, popularity, and affordability issues in many of its stadiums. It may not be a bad idea to drop some unsuccessful, upstart franchises (Tampa Bay, for example) and realign the leagues somewhat for the good of the game. Regardless, there must be an even number of teams in each league for scheduling to work..

That's a good point, which I should have acknowledged more explicitly. As I wrote on my MLB franchises page, "To keep schedules balanced, sports leagues must have an even number of teams, but they could have achieved the same result by assigning the Devil Rays to the National League." In other words, by addressing the problem of unequal number of teams in each league, you create another problem. To get around that, I would suggest that the two "leftover" teams (which would change from one year to the next) in each 15-team league should play each other, getting more interleague exposure than the other 28 teams. I also think that there should be more games with teams from other divisions in each team's own league.

Then, from Christopher Jackman:

I believe it would be difficult to move the Diamondbacks to the AL as they resisted the idea just prior to 1997. They stated that they were told by MLB that they would be an NL team (at the time Phoenix was awarded a franchise) and were going to sue MLB is they tried to move them. Selig backed down, so they must have had a case. The reason they wanted to be in the NL was to have a rivalry with the Rockies and the large # of Dodger fans that relocated to Sun Valley.

My idea would be for MLB to grant permission for the Marlins to move to Las Vegas if they are willing to switch leagues. Pittsburgh would then be moved to the East, re-establishing their rivalry with Philly. Maybe in a few years Florida will miss having MLB and agree to build a stadium if they are awarded a franchise. MLB could then expand to Miami (AL) and Portland (NL). Expansion right now is a far fetched idea, but a possibility in 5-10 years.

If the Diamondbacks resisted a move to the AL, I'm sure a suitable financial inducement could be arranged. They need the money. From MLB's perspective, Christopher's proposed conditional offer to the Marlins might be an expedient way of putting pressure on Miami and/or Florida to cough up more stadium dough. Whatever the original intent of the 1998 league switch by the Brewers, it seems to me that the current league alignment was not expected to be permanent.

Shea Stadium

Newest diagram update: Shea Stadium, sponsored by Eric McErlain. It has a dynamic diagram that shows the reconfiguration for football, when the Jets played there. Also, the Memorial Stadium diagrams have been reoriented with center field at top, to conform to the new standard.

Nats fall to Reds

After pulling even in the top of the ninth, the Nats just dropped another close game to the host Cincinnati Reds, 4-3, and this time the game lasted fourteen innings. Ouch. Brad Wilkerson is back in the lineup, but his bat, and Vinny Castilla's, have turned ice cold. Cristian Guzman has fallen back into a terrible slump as well, and Nick Johnson and Jose Guillen seem to be the team's most likely All Star candidates at this point.