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WEEKLY WHINE

Another chance for baseball to ARRRGH!

Recent discussions between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association have brought up an interesting possibility: realigning the teams into two equal leagues. Currently, the major leagues are comprised of 30 teams, 14 in the American League and 16 in the National League. If one team was to move from the National to the American League, each league would be made up of 15 teams. This would obviously make perfect sense.

There are two sticking points, though. First, which team would make the move? The correct answer is: Who cares? Let the teams decide.

The other is more important. With an odd number of teams in each league, there must be at least one interleague series at all times over the course of the regular season. While not being a show stopper [the National Football League and National Basketball Association, for instance, have interconference games spread throughout the season], it does raise the possibility that a team involved in a pennant race must complete the season playing against a team from the other league. On the other hand, because four of the six divisions are currently made up of an odd number of teams, we often see a team involved in a pennant race completing the season playing against a team from another division.

The correct answer here is to mitigate the situation by determining the likely order of finish for each division in the following season. Then, when the schedule is written, the predicted last placed teams are scheduled against each other during the season’s last series. This would create one interleague series and two interdivision serieses, or optionally three interleague serieses. This would free the other four teams in each division to play against one another. On occasion, an unfancied team surprises everyone [eg, the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays], but such a team should take pleasure in the fact that it is actually involved in a pennant race and not complain about the schedule.

Actually, that’s good advice for all teams: Don’t complain about the schedule.

But all of this could have been avoided if the major leagues had implemented the GoobNet Agency for Reintroducing Relegation to Recreational Game Hierarchies’ proposal for establishing promotion and relegation in North American professional baseball. You will no doubt recall that in that scheme, the major and minor leagues were to have realigned following the 2010 season. There would be a single Major League, six Minor Leagues, and three Short Season Leagues. The Major League and the Minor Leagues would each be made up of 24 teams playing schedules of 162 games. The Short Season Leagues would each be made up of 32 or more teams playing schedules of 84 games.

If our scheme had gone into effect, the last six teams in the majors in 2010 – Washington, Kansas City, Baltimore, Arizona, Seattle, and Pittsburgh – would have been relegated to the First Minor League. They would have joined the top six teams in each of the AAA leagues – Durham, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Louisville, Columbus, Syracuse, and Buffalo of the International League; Iowa, Memphis, Omaha, Sacramento, Nashville, and Fresno of the Pacific Coast League; Puebla, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Chihuahua, Monterrey, and Quintana Roo of the Liga Mexicana de Béisbol.

Since each league is made up of four divisions of six teams each, here is how the Major League and the First Minor League would have looked this season.

2011 MAJOR LEAGUE TEAMS
NORTH
Chi Cubs
Chi White Sox
Detroit
Milwaukee
Minnesota
Toronto
SOUTH
Atlanta
Florida
Houston
St Louis
Tampa Bay
Texas
EAST
Boston
Cincinnati
Cleveland
NY Mets
NY Yankees
Philadelphia
WEST
Anaheim
Colorado
Los Angeles
Oakland
San Diego
San Francisco
2011 FIRST MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS
NORTH
Buffalo
Columbus
Iowa
Pittsburgh
Scranton/WB
Syracuse
SOUTH
Chihuahua
Mexico City
Monterrey
Oaxaca
Puebla
Quintana Roo
EAST
Baltimore
Durham
Louisville
Memphis
Nashville
Washington
WEST
Arizona
Fresno
Kansas City
Omaha
Sacramento
Seattle

As you can see, we have already solved all of the problems associated with the realignment proposals currently being tossed around. With the GoobNet Agency for Reintroducing Relegation to Recreational Game Hierarchies’ plan for professional baseball in North America, realignment is decided on the field. In the real world’s 2011 season, Arizona are performing above expectations and are currently within one half game of the NL West lead [prior to San Francisco’s game last night]. In our plan, although Arizona would have been relegated to the First Minor League last year, it would likely be leading the West division right now and would be playing for the right to be promoted back to the Major League next season.

Furthermore, because every division has an even number of teams, there is no need for interdivison games at the end of the season. The last five serieses of the season are against divisional rivals, which guarantees that the top two teams of each division will play at least three games against one another in the last three weeks of the season.

There is, of course, still time for Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association to come to their senses. Implementing promotion and relegation in professional baseball would be a significant undertaking, but it is the only solution that makes perfect sense for all concerned. If the plan is enacted now, we will have promotion and relegation up and running in professional baseball in North America by the 2013 season. Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association, we look forward to working with you to make this happen.

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