Recently, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced his retirement and was replaced by previous deputy commissioner Rob Manfred. Often when such moves occur, it signals changes in the makeup of the game. One positive change could be the realignment of baseball’s divisions and teams.
Other sports have used realignment to create natural rivalries. In 2002, the National Football League underwent its first major realignment since its merger with the AFL. The realignment moved ten teams and created two new divisions. One of the moves took Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the NFC North and put them in a new division with natural rivals such as Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans.
I would like to propose an even more drastic realignment for Major League Baseball. It would eliminate the old American and National league and create six new divisions based on geography and natural rivalries. The new alignment would look like this:
Northern Division: New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays
Southern Division: Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Atlanta Braves
Central Division: Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers
Pacific Division: Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Seattle Mariners
Southwestern Division: San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros
Midwest Division: St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins
This alignment of teams would create no less than nine intracity or intrastate rivalries by including Yankees-Mets, Marlins-Rays, A’s-Giants, Dodgers-Angels, and Cubs-White Sox. Yankees-Red Sox has turned into such a great rivalry because both teams are in the same division, and each of these would get the chance to approach the same intensity.
We do see these rivalries happen a few times a year, and while it’s nice, it is hardly meaningful. The Rays and Marlins only play each other four times these days, and each game, one of the teams is playing by a different set of rules than they normally do. By putting them in the same division, bragging rights could finally be achieved and it would be quite fun for all of the fans involved.
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This proposal would save the teams money on travel. Tampa Bay would no longer have to go to New York for eight games and Houston would not have to take the flight of over four hours to Seattle too often. And while we are thinking bold, why not finally resolve the designated hitter conflict? With new leagues in place, let the major league owners finally decide if the dh is good for the game or not.
Of course, none of this is probably going to happen. The commissioner’s job is to make rich owners even richer. If an idea happens to benefit the owners and game and does not upset the players union, that’s fine, but if it is at all controversial, it’s dead on arrival. Mr. Manfred has some ideas, such at raising the strike zone, but something as extreme as this is not in the cards.
So if you are a Tampa Bay Rays fan, you will continue to see them play 18 games a year against teams in the American League East, who have salary budgets two or three times bigger than the Rays’. There will be no natural rivalries between the Rays and Atlanta or Miami, at least not yet.