Shake and Bake

Remember when the Atlanta Braves played in the NL West?

Seems like so much crazy sauce now, but that’s how it was from 1969 when division play began, until 1995 when baseball (more or less) settled into the current structure. Prior to that, Major League Baseball playoffs were non existent.  The winners of the American League and National League pennants faced off to determine the World Champion.

The NBA baseball is not. Playing in October has always been a pretty big deal.

I like the exclusivity.  I like the long seasons, where a tiny stumble at the end costs a team October.  I love the potential for excruciating heartbreak and drama. I love the romance of a time when “winning the pennant” really meant something and wasn’t a quaint, antiquated term.

Remember Bud Selig’s “radical realignment” idea in the late ‘90s?

It was a geographic realignment proposal that left purists howling.  Naturally, I absolutely hated it.  The thought of not watching the Mariners play in Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium was unbearable to me. Messing up the historic alliance of the National and American Leagues unthinkable.

This was baseball that nefarious car salesman was messing with! As if cancelling the World Series wasn’t bad enough.

In hindsight, I think I objected so strenuously to any changes within baseball (I also hated Interleague Play, the DH, and the Wild Card) because I so desperately wanted the baseball childhood that baby boomers look back on so fondly.  Well, the steroids era thoroughly ruined that for me, so screw it

The current structure just doesn’t make sense in modern baseball.  This realignment plan that baseball has been bandying about is dumb too.  Sure, the AL West does need another team and the AL Central one less team, but interleague play everyday when the leagues have different rules on the DH seems like a boiling cauldron for protests should an AL team lose their DH in a key series toward the end of the season.

And a playoff round in which the top teams are not participants? Players need time to readjust after just 3 days off during the All Star Break. The best teams over the course of the season shouldn’t lose that advantage.

Two leagues with different rules was cute for a while, but let’s get real.  Its been almost 40 years since the designated hitter was introduced.  Every level of baseball uses it except the National League. Good or bad, it’s too late to stop the DH-ification of baseball.

Baseball plays a brutal schedule of 162 games. There are more than two teams on the West Coast now. Maybe limiting the grueling travel isn’t such a terrible idea.

Jim Bowden presented the most logical realignment idea I’ve read, and while I don’t agree with a few elements, namely eliminating the DH, this is an idea that desperately needed to be shared.

I cringe and want to bathe in bleach at the thought of modeling baseball after other sports, but geographic realignment makes sense for several reasons. It allows some real rivalries to develop (other than for the Mariners, of course.  Heyo, Padres!). It would reduce the travel (now THIS would definitely benefit the Mariners, the team that logs the most travel miles in baseball).

It would also allow fans on the East Coast to watch more of their teams’ games.  We don’t think about that much out here, but a 7:00 West Coast game would leave an East Coast fan up until 1:00 AM the following day. People with jobs, and hence money, typically can’t swing that.

Expanded playoffs make sense. If it wasn’t for the weakness of the Angels and A’s, there is no way the Mariners would even nominally be in a playoff race right now. For the most part, there just isn’t a hint of post season action to excite many fans.

So, here are my crazy thoughts:

•    Eliminate the leagues as we know them; they are essentially figure heads now anyway.
•    Restructure geographically
•    Ratify the DH across baseball.  Strategy, schmrategy, no one wants to watch a pitcher hit.
•    10 playoff teams.  A third of the teams seems about right.
•    The first playoff round could be a Round Robin type set up.  Unless the playoff field is expanded to 16 teams, there is no other way to avoid a bye. (Although I have no idea how that would actually work out.)
•    I’m totally on board with shortening the season, but the financial consequences make that a pipe dream.  Instead, shorten Spring Training (mostly because it’s boring) and start the season earlier to accommodate the extra playoff round(s).

Boom. Done. Realignment solved.

You can thank me later, Bud.


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