Should Baseball Get Rid of Divisions, Instead of Realignment? Maybe Not.

A month ago, we had a spirited argument over the idea of “floating realignment” — a basically impossible-to-implement notion by which teams would be able to choose which division they wished to play in. It signaled that Major League Baseball recognized the current alignment of teams is flawed, particularly because of the Yankee/Red Sox domination in the AL East.

Now, courtesy of Yahoo’s Jeff Passan and NBC’s Craig Calcaterra, we have a new idea: “unalignment.” Delete all divisions. Eliminate unbalanced schedules. The top four teams in each league advance to the postseason. As it was before the advent of the division era in 1969, playoff placement would depend entirely on won-loss record, not on who shares your division.

The plan has a few obvious things to recommend it, simplicity and fairness chief among them. Unbalanced schedules have been controversial since they were introduced, an attempt by Bud Selig to nurture baseball rivalries and boost revenues — and of course nothing boosts revenues more than a few more Yankees-Red Sox games every year. They also are patently unfair: the Blue Jays play 50-60 games a year against the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays, while the Tigers play 50-60 games a year against the Royals, Indians, and White Sox, and the Cubs play 50-60 games a year against the Astros, Pirates, Reds, and Brewers. It’s a lot easier to win games when you can beat up on the weak, whether you’re the Yankees or the Twins.

And it’s a lot harder to win games when you’re trapped in the same division as baseball’s two wealthiest teams, as recently measured by Forbes. As Joe Posnanski writes, “The Yankees’ revenue stream is so enormous, it will give them a gigantic competitive advantage that should make them the favorites to win every… single… year.” So it seems doubly unfair to punish the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rays for the Yankees’ structural advantages by forcing them to try to leapfrog the richest team in baseball, every… single… year.

The plan’s main drawbacks? The thing is, the divisions and unbalanced schedule aren’t all bad, as many of Calcaterra’s readers point out. Because the divisions are generally geographically aligned, the unbalanced schedule means that teams play a greater number of away games in the same time zone as their home city. It does make for a more exciting stretch run for each team to have to play its division rivals more than others. Getting rid of divisions might increase fairness, but it’s not clear that it would make the stretch run more exciting: “No one wants to watch a tenth place team,” writes David Pinto. Because of their infinitely deep pockets, the Yankees and Red Sox will still be at the top of the heap, and it likely won’t be any easier for small-market and mid-market teams to make it to the playoffs. The ones left at the bottom, meanwhile, will be depressingly further down.

The thing is, any realignment solution is bound to be unsatisfying, because ultimately they’re all workarounds for the real problem, which is baseball’s underlying asymmetry of revenue. The Yankees will always be richer than everyone else, no matter what. Passan defends his own plan by saying that it’s the best solution “short of a salary cap, to which the players’ union will never agree.” This is a workaround solution that doesn’t address the true structural problems of baseball’s revenue, all in order to benefit the Orioles and Blue Jays while possibly adversely affecting teams in the other five divisions in baseball. It just doesn’t seem worth it.




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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.

74 Responses to “Should Baseball Get Rid of Divisions, Instead of Realignment? Maybe Not.”

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  1. Kevin S. says:

    Meet half – two divisions, two wild cards. This isn’t difficult, people. The scheduling even works out with a limited interleague schedule, if we insist.

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    • OTerry says:

      It’s useful to point out that the actual in-flight part of a trip is probably the least time consuming. Getting to and from airports, hotels, etc, take more time. The notion that you can’t have teams playing in different time zones because it’s too far, and too time consuming is is outdated.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Right, they aren’t flying to Japan multiple times a year.

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      • max says:

        Sleep schedules must still be affected though, right?

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Right, but it doesn’t take too long to adjust to that, and series almost never open with day games, so you can play with it a bit.

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      • JRoth says:

        The Pirates are making 4 separate trips to the Pacific time zone this season (they made 5 last year); are you seriously claiming that this is about the same as making 4 trips to Philadelphia (where they go once a year right now) would be?

        Because, uh, it’s not.

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  2. Futbol says:

    London has 6 soccer teams. Why shouldn’t NYC have 6 baseball teams.

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  3. R.A. Wagman says:

    This is exactly what I was thinking? What tangible difference does having divisions provide the game?

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    • philkid3 says:

      The fun of individualized units of competition within a greater whole, the fun of rivalries and the fun of getting to claim at least a division pennant more easily than a league pennant.

      You can argue all of this is illogical, but you can’t argue no one cares about it, and this is, in the end, entertainment.

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    • Reuben says:

      the joy of not having the red sox, yankees and rays go to the playoffs every year

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    • Jason B says:

      Having divisions keeps a team like Texas, Detroit, or Milwaukee in the playoff chase a lot longer than they otherwise might be. (Not picking on those franchises, just plucked a couple of examples from the air as they floated past.)

      That is one of the key benefits of smaller divisions of 5(ish) teams. When you stack up the entire AL or NL top to bottom, its a lot harder to stay in the chase into late August-early September. The Tigers or Rangers might find themselves dead and buried at that point, and like Passan said, no one really wants to watch a 10th place team. But with divisions in place, you’ve got a 3rd place team, only 4.5 GB in mid-August? Hey, we’ve got a chance – let’s play two!

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  4. Russ says:

    I know it’s nitpicky, but it seems weird to put the Twins in the same category as the Yankees, unless I’m missing what you were saying about the Twins. The Indians have been in the ALCS, the White Sox have won a WS, and the Tigers have been in the WS within the last few years. How have the Twins been beating up lesser teams?

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    • Matt H says:

      Because the central division is perceived nationally as weak and the Twins has won several (i wanna say five or six) division titles since 2001. The Indians and KC have been terrible for years and Detroit lost 100+ probably five years ago.

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  5. PhD Brian says:

    Hartford, CT and Newark, NJ should have their own baseball teams then nearly all of this problem is fixed.

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    • Torgen says:

      Then you have the problem of getting people to watch the Hartford and Newark teams instead of just cheering for the Yankees that they’re already fans of.

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      • JRoth says:

        You know the Devils and Islanders are (relatively) new franchises, right? I can certainly testify that lots of New Jerseyites would be thrilled to be able to root for a non-NYC team.

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  6. Rob says:

    Can Passan explain how a $175m salary cap solves any problems? Anyway MLB has a soft cap right now, the Yankees just don’t care. MLB needs revenue sharing and that has nothing to do with the player’s union, enough owners don’t want it.

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    • Hank says:

      MLB already has revenue sharing.

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      • JRoth says:

        I think he means a common pool.

        But as an article pointed out the other day, even if you zero out all the other factors, you can’t plausibly distribute gate revenues, and the Yankees gross more in 10 games than the Pirates do all year.

        I guess that, in a revenue pool league, the Pirates can be as competitive as the Steelers or Penguins, and so their gate receipts are at least comparable (although NYC teams will always be able to charge higher ticket prices than lower cost of living cities).

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  7. Paul B says:

    The only way to fix things seems to be to adjust team locations such that there are no teams that have a metro area that is too much larger than the others.

    In other words, something like put another team near New York.

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  8. Dave I says:

    Kevin S, I agree 100%. Two divisions, two wildcards. You could even have an unbalanced schedule based on previous year’s record if you want to continue to give the illusion of competition to teams that aren’t really that good (see NL Central, AL Central).

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  9. PL says:

    I’ve been a huge proponent of this idea for many years. Simply do away with divs and just let the top 4 teams (or 5 if you want to let the best team earn a week off to rest) into the playoffs. MLB just hasnt been the same ever since Selig unbalanced the schedule. The only people who will be disappointed are ESPN, who will have less Yanks/Red Sox games to grossly fawn over.

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    • Paul Thomas says:

      No they won’t– they’ll be playing every other year in the postseason, because they will NEVER NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS.

      This is an astoundingly terrible idea for baseball. I’d probably quit following the sport if it happened– that’s how bad it would be. Small and mid-market teams would be completely shut out of having even a puncher’s chance in the postseason. It’d basically turn MLB into the English Premier League, which is boring as f**k because the same three teams win every time.

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  10. Sulli says:

    I say they throw out divisions, but instead of eliminating unbalanced schedules, you change the way that the schedules are balanced. Basically you look at the historic records of teams, maybe look at the last 5 years, and make it so the best teams play each other more and the worst teams less. The bad teams play the other bad teams more. This would keep a lot of Yankees v. Red Sox games, but allow the Blue Jays to play the Royals more.

    Also I read something on ESPN a few weeks ago on this topic. One suggestion made there that was cool was to expand the playoffs to 6 teams with the best win-loss record in the AL/NL. Then have the 6 vs. 3 and 5 vs. 4 play a 3 game series all at the higher seeds home park on consecutive nights. This gives 2 more teams a shot at the playoffs, and the 1 and 2 teams a 4 day rest to set up their rotation for the second round.

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    • Byron says:

      Slightly smaller version I like: Each league, have your three division winners and a wild card, but then have a sub-wild card who plays a 3-game series against whichever of the other teams has the worst record, be it the wild card or the winner of the AL Central. Then seed the 4 surviving teams.

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  11. xeifrank says:

    No improvement over what we already have, plus it is very dull. I know it will never happen, but I prefer a three tiered relegation system with the top 5 teams advancing to the playoffs from Tier 1, the top 2 from Tier 2 and the winner of a one game playoff between the top two Tier 3 teams, for a total of 8 playoff births (just like we currently have).

    The bottom two teams from Tier 1 and Tier 2 get moved down a tier and the two top teams from Tier 2 and Tier 3 get moved up a tier.

    For 2010 it might look like this

    Tier 1
    x-NYA 11-3
    x-TB 11-4
    x-MIN 11-4
    x-STL 10-5
    x-PHI 9-5
    FLA 8-7
    SF 8-7
    DET 8-7
    LAA 8-8
    LAN 7-7
    COL 7-8
    BOS 6-9

    Tier 2
    x-OAK 9-7
    x-SEA 9-7
    TOR 9-7
    ATL 8-6
    MIL 8-7
    CHN 6-9
    CIN 6-9
    HOU 5-9
    TEX 5-9
    CHA 5-10

    Tier 3
    y-SD 9-6
    y-WAS 8-7
    PIT 7-8
    CLE 6-8
    NYN 6-9
    ARI 6-9
    KC 6-9
    BAL 2-14

    This gives the smaller market teams a horse in the race and you are still looking at the same 8 teams that would be in the playoffs if the season were to end today, minus the fact that 5 AL teams would qualify and 3 NL teams – but there would be no AL and NL then (home team decides DH or not). There are still likely a few things to iron out.

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    • ingeindahouse says:

      i really like this idea but would there be an unbalanced schedule based on the tiers?

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      • xeifrank says:

        I think there is flexibility to go either way. I didn’t want to pin down too many specifics as I usually am not too good at covering the minutiae. I am open for suggestions on those. :)

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      • JRoth says:

        I was fiddling with an idea like this a couple weeks ago. I think that you basically play mostly within your Tier, with annually alternating home-or-away with the other 20 teams. Maybe you fiddle with the total number of games to make it work, but it seems pretty workable.

        Except for the part where it would never, ever happen.

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    • JackWeiland says:

      This would be cool but like half the country would have a heart attack is MLB said they were doing this. We’ve barely gotten people onto OPS for Pete’s sake.

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  12. JR says:

    1) I totally disagree with the wording, “…workarounds for the real problem…” Is the implication: workarounds for the real underlying cause of the continuous disparity of outcomes that result from asymmetrical revenues? Because many people, not just Yankee or Red Sox fans, would dispute the idea that revenue asymmetry is a problem. Many would consider it a fact of life that MLB cannot alter.

    1a) How far does MLB go in to a team’s sources of revenue (television networks, merchandise, stadium revenue, etc)? I don’t know the what MLB can draw from for revenue sharing, but there will always be a limit. Sharing more revenue may help create fewer 100 loss teams, but it likely won’t create NFL-style parity.

    2) A salary cap will only benefit the owners, as it will never be high enough to allow the full benefits of increasing revenues to reach the players.

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  13. George says:

    Why do so many people care about whether the players benefit? Unless you are related to one it ought to be of no concern…unless, of course, you are a NY or Boston fan. Then you want to retain your monetary advantage.

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    • JoeyO says:

      because they would rather their money go to the people they actually watch for entertainment then for it to go into owners pockets.

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      • George says:

        Any fan who is not a fan of NY or Boston is a fool to have that attitude.

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      • philkid3 says:

        I would much rather the money go to the people who run things, especially if it improves the entertainment of the league.

        Really, I don’t care who gets the money that much, I care about the product.

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      • JR says:

        If the players’ don’t receive what they perceive to be fair compensation, it’s going to dilute the product. Even now, players who could be effective role players in MLB go play in Japan. Look at what has happened in the NBA: when young players don’t get the contracts they want they go play in Europe. The same thing will happen in baseball with either a salary cap or more revenue sharing, and young talent will be lost overseas.

        As it is, look at the way players try to game the draft system. If they’re picked by a team that does not want to go over slot, they’ll play independent ball for a year and hope to get better luck in next year’s draft. That will go from an anomaly to commonplace because a salary cap will affect both majors and minors (the owners have always wanted a minor league operating cap), and therefore the draft.

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  14. JoeyO says:

    The game needs full revenue sharing, not this partial nonsense if a team spends so&so much on its club stuff.

    Pull all the money from TV/Merch/etc, divide it evenly and put a cap and (soft)floor on salaries.

    (Cant have a true floor as it might create some bigger issues of overpaying just to meet expectations. Instead a soft floor should be present, where teams can get away with spending under cap for a year or two max as long as it can be shown to be in the best interest of the club. This would, of course, be the teams that are doing a quick rebuilding and have traded star players for prospects. Maybe two years max under cap before you begin receiving a smaller portion of the revenue comparable to the money not spent for each subsequent year you are under would work.)

    Seems an easy enough fix to me.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Right, then anybody who’s taken Econ 101 watches revenues fall off steeply, because the Yanks, Sox, etc. have significantly less incentive to continue opening up revenue streams, since they’re now getting a thirtieth of what they got before. Well done, you’ve just destroyed baseball.

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      • JRoth says:

        “Continue opening up revenue streams”? What fresh hell of managementspeak is this? Perhaps if the owners would just get on the same page, they could synergize their competitive strengths while implementing best practices; at the end of the day, I think this could really incentivize win-win solutions.

        It’s fucking baseball. They’ve played it for about 150 years, and the ability of the New York Yankees to own a TV network and sell hats in Beijing hasn’t been closely correlated with the game’s popularity or level of competition.

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      • George says:

        Oh, please. What’s destroying baseball is the revenue disparity.

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      • JoeyO says:

        didnt destroy the NFL

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      • Kevin S. says:

        The NFL earns it jointly through its national TV contract. Splitting all local revenues evenly is stupid. So is saying that the game’s being destroyed right now. It’s healthier than it’s ever been, despite the finger-wagging of the steroid era.

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  15. Mark says:

    It seems to me that in order to fix the underlying problem (disparity in revenues), we would first need everyone to agree that there *is* a problem.

    Despite the Yankees’ triumph last season, it’s still hard to get people to agree that more revenue sharing is necessary. They will trot out the 06 A’s, or the ’08 Rays, or any number of other mid-to-small-market teams that have experienced postseason success. They conveniently neglect to mention that such occurrences are largely dependent on the division system and the inherent nature of short playoff series.

    By switching to a two-league, no division format, it would become apparent very quickly that the disparity in revenue is a big problem when you have the Red Sox and Yankees in the playoffs every year. The Blue Jays would likely have it much, much better, as well. Being able to play the weaker divisions more would only benefit these teams.

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  16. Rick says:

    Until we can get a clear definition on what ideal competitive balance looks like — and what it looks like now — all of these conversations are merely degrees of chasing our collective tails. What’s the right measurement of competitive balance?

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  17. philkid3 says:

    I think this honestly makes more sense than the other realignment, and may make really good sense in the interest of fairness.

    But divisions are fun.

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  18. Dean says:

    I like the current divisional alignments by and large. Six teams in NL Central and four teams in the AL West is a bit silly, but otherwise it is a good system.

    What folks appear to want more of is balance. MLB would probably not benefit from an NFL-style model, but a more level playing field is desirable. The star players would be spread around a bit better and the various teams would have an incentive to promote their young talent.

    What about unbalanced revenue sharing?

    Each division gets an equal share of the pie that comes from the luxury tax. Teams that are in the tax do not get a share. So, a team playing in the AL East splits those monies three ways, but a team in the has to split their payment five ways. It moves the Os, Jays and Rays closer to the Yankess and Red Sox.

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  19. max says:

    I think that the way the divisions are currently set up is fine. What I am reading is that the problem is the current setup is unfair towards the AL East teams, who could have a better record than other teams but still finish 3rd in their division, while 2 of those other teams would make the playoffs. Moving to 2 divisions per league or eliminating divisions altogether would not really solve this problem. The orioles and jays would still have to leapfrog NY, Boston, and TB in order to make the playoffs, so would it really be that different?

    Another point, as the season progressed towards September, fewer teams would be in the playoff hunt, because they would be competing against the whole league’s standings. It may be more “fair” towards some teams, but it would also be less fun for many fans, as teams would be eliminated earlier.

    As for the unbalanced schedule that is based on the divisions, I think that it is necessary when we do have divisions. Maybe we could help out Toronto by making the schedule slightly more balanced, but a completely balanced schedule would not work. Intra-division matchups in September make things more exciting, as more teams have control over their own destiny.

    One possible solution would be to add one more wild card in each league, and then have the two WC teams play a short series, and the winner plays the #1 seed. But that would create a week of nothing for all of the other playoff teams. It would also dilute the quality of play from what we currently have. I love the fact that MLB only has 8 of 30 teams in the playoffs (much less compared to the NFL and NBA), because the pitching matchups are top notch almost every night. Everything becomes much more intense.

    As for the AL East, the Yankees-Red Sox domination will not last forever. The Rays broke through in 08 after many years of finishing behind even the O’s and J’s, so I have confidence that the teams will even out eventually. Baltimore and Toronto both have several good young players who will help them compete in the AL East fairly soon. Washington has Strasburg and Zimmerman to build around, and Philadelphia is getting old.

    Those are my thoughts on this matter, and my conclusion is that I like MLB the way it is right now. Tell me if there is something wrong with my reasoning.

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    • George says:

      “As for the AL East, the Yankees-Red Sox domination will not last forever.”

      There is absolutely no reason to believe this.

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    • priv8pete says:

      I agree with a second Wild Card, but I think it should there should just be two Wild Card Play-in games the day after the season ends with Wild Card 1 hosting Wild Card 2 in each league. How great was last year’s Twins-Tigers play-in? And two of those every year? The winner plays the team with the best record in their league regardless of whether they’re in the same division or not.

      This would keep more teams in the race for the playoffs each year, stop a run-away Wild Card team from coasting to the finish, make winning your division mean everything, and not extend the postseason. Plus, we’d get two incredible do-or-die games to punctuate the start of the playoffs.

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  20. George says:

    I’m still trying to get my head around how having the AL be NY + Boston +2 every year forever is a good thing for the rest of the league. It’s already BS that the wild card doesn’t have to play the team in its own division.

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    • whitty says:

      Except that it wasn’t NY + Boston + 2 as recently as two years ago (as well as four years ago) and is reasonably likely to be something other than NY + Boston this year as well.

      I’m a fan of the tiers idea. But then again, I’m a fan of a whole bunch of other radical ideas as well… I think it would be awesome if the home team got to choose whether or not to apply the DH rule for every game.

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  21. Dann M. says:

    I’m with Kevin S. and Dave I. Two divisions with the divisional winners guaranteed a playoff berth. Then the teams with the top two records who didn’t win a division, either the two 2nd place teams or a 2nd and 3rd from the same division, make the playoffs.

    They could also go real crazy (and really fun for more pretty-good teams and deserving fan-bases) and guarantee berths to division winners, but have the next four teams by record play best-of-three as a play-in round.

    The National League and American League would each break down into pretty good geographic and historic divisions:
    AL West: Oakland, LAofAnaheim, Seattle, Texas, Kansas City, Minnesota, and Chicago
    AL East: New York, Boston, Toronto, Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay

    NL East: Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New York, Philadelphia and Washington
    NL West By South: San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Arizona, Colorado, Houston, Atlanta and Florida

    Swap Cincinnati and Florida, if you wish, for “historical” purposes. But basically, revert to the old 2-division format with minimal changes. The Brewers are in the NL, the Braves are permanently in Georgia, and the Ohio River floodplain is no longer the Wild, Wild West.

    Seattle will complain no matter what because their nearest opponent, Oakland, is 800 miles away, and only three other AL teams are within 2,000 miles. Oh well. Anyhow, the main complaint about travel is from the team’s perspective, as it costs a lot more to fly cross-country than make shorter flights to most divisional opponents.

    And yes, Hank, there is some revenue sharing. But not that much, and not in a manner that has a direct effect on competitive balance (or the on-field product in any way, really). The Royals picking up Jose Guillen and Scotty Pods rather than promoting replacement-level Joe Outfielder from Triple A is like a washed-up act taking stage at the biggest venue in Branson, MO. Congratulations! You’ve beat out Yakov Smirnov for a gig.

    The MLBPA does need to introduce a better idea for player compensation. Why not a higher rookie base (bump it from $400k to $600k) and 20% increase from 1.0 to 2.0 years of MLB service time? Have arbitration start after year two rather than year three and maintain the Arb-1, Arb-2, Arb-3 structure. Have a veteran (>5 years MLB service time) minimum of $1mm/year prorated. Ask the owners for an opening day salary floor of $50 mm in guaranteed (non-performance incentive/bonus) money.

    What the MLBPA needs to do at the higher end, though, is to work with the owners on revenue in a manner similar to the NFLPA. Have x% of all league revenue be guaranteed to the 1,200 players on 40-man rosters. Once the year’s revenue is analyzed for the following season’s cap/floor, a luxury tax would be determined in retrospect. This would be the revenue sharing model. Any team unable to meet a payroll of the floor plus slop for scale/arbitration raises would receive revenue-sharing money pooled from teams whose payrolls were less than the league-wide salary/revenue percentage.

    Here’s an example using Bill Cosby’s Monopoly money:
    MLB takes in $200 of revenue in Year 1. The players are guaranteed 45% of that revenue, or $90. Teams A, B, and C alone pulled in 20% of that total revenue, or $40. Meanwhile, Teams X, Y and Z operated at break-even levels, generating only $3 from their local TV deals. Now, teams A, B and C will have no trouble making the payroll floor of $3 apiece ($90 divided by 30 teams) in Year 2. But Teams X, Y and Z will each be $2 short. A, B and C would be on the hook for their payrolls, whatever they may be ($3 or $10) as well as bolstering X, Y, and Z with $6 and loose change to meet their floor.

    It’s a 10-minute revenue model from a non-businessman. But hey, the Red Sox are still paying Julio Lugo $10 million, and the Cubs have Aaron Miles and Luis Vizcaino technically on payroll. I think the Yanks are paying Kei Igawa, too. So this model, instead of sharing money with *teams* would share it directly into *player budgets* and couldn’t be pocketed as so often it has been. They couldn’t. They’d receive enough to sign the players. If they remain incompetent and insolvent, then make them sell and/or move.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      There’s a lot to like in this. I’ve also got a sliding-scale “franchise player” payout idea that I’ll spring after my workout, but I like how you think.

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  22. Ebessan says:

    The people voting for teams to move to the New York CSA are probably sociopaths.

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  23. Icrywolf says:

    I don’t think unalignment solves the problem. Instead of one clogged division out of six (and really, the AL East is the only division that has this problem), an entire clogged league. Letting the Blue Jays play the Royals a few more times per season isn’t going to wipe out the domination of the Yankees and Red Sox.

    But let’s all calm down about the Damn Yankees and Bloody Red Sox. They’ve had good runs. A good decade. It will fall apart. It always does, and always briefly. Re-aligning to somehow get “other” teams into the playoffs (without increasing the number of teams in the playoffs) is as silly as figuring out a schedule that will finally guarantee the Cubs a World Series win. Talk of realignment based on outcome is essentially talk of rigging the game. Isn’t that the sort of thing that keeps Joe Jackson out of the Hall of Fame?

    Revenue disparity is a shame, but it’s a separate issue that no shifting of divisions will solve. And, while I hate to be a one-note singer, I still firmly believe that the AL is victimized by unequal revenues because it employs the DH rule, which shifts the balance of risk to the wealthy. (Much easier to sign a sure-fire high-priced DH than to figure out which ace SP on the free agent market is a wise investment.) If the Phillies and Mets wind up winning every division and wild card from now until 2018, then maybe I’ll believe that division alignment and unbalanced scheduling is responsible for competitive woes.

    Until then, the baseball season and postseason are equally exciting, exactly long enough, and we’ve had a good mix of ballclubs winning pennants since the last round of expansion. If we really want to fix things the answer is … and nobody wants to entertain this because we’re running out of markets … EXPANSION.

    Drop new AL teams in San Antonio and Las Vegas (gasp!) so that the West and Central divisions have equal crowds in the AL and NL. Have an expansion draft in which the amount of contractable talent available is proportionate to payroll (i.e. every team has to earmark 20% of its current major league payroll as eligible) with the teams drafted from paying the remainder of the contract. The two new AL teams will raid the Yanks/Sox closets and dilute the pitching prospect pool even further.

    Follow that scheme up with media contract revenue sharing and the abolishment of the DH rule, and I believe we will all live in a utopia with ice cream and beer.

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  24. The Bunk says:

    In terms of temporary solutions, I think the option that makes the most sense is adding an extra wild card, sure it dilutes the competition and the extra team coming out of the NL is going to be ugly but you don’t have to disrupt scheduling or rivalries within divisions and the extra fan interest in towns like Toronto and Baltimore would be worth it.

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  25. valuearb says:

    Three wild-cards. Two to the best records among non-division winners, and the third to the remaining team with the best 2nd half record. The doldrums of August and September are swept away for all but the very worst teams and their fans, no matter how bad their first half was they still have a chance, their games still have meaning.

    And the playoffs start with two first round series, one between the 1st and 2nd place wildcards, and the second between the worst division winner and the hottest 2nd half team. The winners of each series advance to face the best division champs. Playoff baseball is the best baseball, and this provides more of it.

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  26. Reuben says:

    I agree that the real solution is probably adding 4 more teams in the Northeast. It may take a little time for them to grab a foothold on the market, but splitting some of the viewership/fandom of the Red Sox and Yankees is the best way to balance baseball.

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  27. scaryice says:

    Passan is 100% right. Divisions are pointless, they just:

    #1 – give an advantage/disadvantage to teams based on geography
    #2 – allow bad teams to stay technically alive for longer, and in worse-case scenarios allow barely above average teams into the postseason (82 win Padres, 83 win Cardinals)

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  28. DW0304 says:

    Another team in NY looks like the way to go.
    I don’t think the Rays would knock it back if you offered it to them.

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  29. Dann M. says:

    Who would be the potential market demographic for a third NY team? Obviously they pulled it off 60 years ago with the Dodgers and Giants. But would the goal be to attract baseball fans native to areas other than NYC who need someone to cheer for, but instinctively hate the Yankees and Mets on principle (but at the same time feel alienated by distance from their team)?

    Or would it make more sense to make the Mets find a new Triple-A affiliate and begin to transition the Bisons of Buffalo into a MLB franchise? Their home stadium has a capacity of over 18,000, which speaks to a decent base for baseball that they’d need that many seats (twice the potential of what the O’s were really getting in paid attendance 10 days ago). Between their Coca-Cola Field, Ralph Wilson Stadium, and UB’s University at Buffalo Stadium, they could probably work out something until a full baseball stadium could be built. Obviously, in Buffalo, they’d be in more dire need of a retractable roof for April and October than anyone.

    And then a second team wouldn’t be up there, but it would be east: the Knights of Charlotte. According to their Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_Stadium), their current park only holds around 10,000, but was built to MLB specs in case they were chosen for expansion. There are on-hold plans to build a stadium in the heart of Charlotte, while the team currently plays in a suburb. Charlotte looks like a perfect expansion spot. Charlotte is growing and, unlike basketball up the road and football down it, the Knights are the only real baseball game in town. The area is growing as well one can at this point in time.

    Other realistic options would be Norfolk, Toledo, Indianapolis, and Portland (OR). I’m not sure if MLB would want to have a big league team in Vegas. San Antonio could probably pull it off. I mean, is there anything they can’t play in the Alamo Dome? Because there is no freaking way MLB players would want to play in San Antonio outdoors in July or August. I’ve lived there. Toweling off after a shower is a waste of time.

    Of course, there are probably a couple MLB teams like Tampa and Oakland that are ready to up and move right now. The A’s will likely find a 4th home by 2020 (San Jose, Portland, San Antonio). Lots of things can change in a short time.

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    • Paul Thomas says:

      … or baseball could put a team in the metro area with 20 million people, instead of one with like one-twentieth as many!

      There’s more than enough appetite for baseball in NYC for people who live on the west side of the city and don’t have a gazillion dollars to attend Yankees games. I’d put a team in Manhattan too if I could figure out where to put the stadium.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        They could put one in Brooklyn and pilfer the old Dodger fans who think the Mets are a joke. The could put one in Secaucus (there’s nothing there except a hub for every rail line in NJ, and it’s right next to the Turnpike). I think a team within the actual city is fairly unlikely right now, since there’s no way in hell NYC is ponying up for another stadium.

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  30. rfs1962 says:

    I’d like to see five divisions of six teams each. Teams would play 90 games in the division and 72 out. Each division would play two of the other divisions each year on a rotating basis, six games each against 12 teams. Five division champs, three wild cards, with one of the wild cards to the second-place team in the strongest division.

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  31. Josh Wheeler says:

    I have an idea get rid of Interleague play and add those games back to playing the other divisions. What seemed like a novel concept 13 years ago has instead turned the All-Star Game meaningless and has allowed for the Yankees and Red Sox to face lesser opponents way too many times by unbalancing the schedules.

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  32. mdz says:

    2 leagues… no divisions…
    Why can’t we just have a balanced schedule that gives us a fair return (the top 4 regular season teams in each league) resulting in 6 (7 game series) match-ups to determine who will play in the World Series. Bud Selig is responsible for creating the most ridiculous league structure in professional sports history!!!!

    30/2 = 15… You can even divide 15 by 3 to get 5 (if you want 3 divisions), haha…

    Create 2 leagues with 15 teams each and take the top 4 records in each league for the playoffs… This will give each team a fair shot to get in (so the Tampa Bay’s of the world can’t get blocked because of being in a playoff dominant division).

    Divisions are out of date and disrupt the goal of allowing the top teams to compete in a playoff.

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  33. JoelQ says:

    My brilliant idea – instead of the general revenue sharing system, make all revenue sharing be within the division. I.e. the Blue Jays and Rays get more revenue than the Marlins and Pirates because they have the big spenders in their own division.

    So many comments, mine will probably never be read.

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    • youreNOTgood says:

      Terrible, terrible idea and i’ll explain why in one example.

      The Florida Marlins made $144m in Revenue in 2009 after revenue sharing. They ended up spending only 68% of that total amount on baseball operations. Now I known that the Marlins are always an organization that is criticized for how they go about their business, but this is deplorable.
      Baseball needs to implement a league wide standard of what MUST be spent. Not saying that a team must spend it on payroll, scouting, or baseball academies in particular, but standards must be set.

      If the KC Royals spent nearly $146m of the $155m (94%) they made, including revenue sharing, then so can every other team.

      Every team can be like the Tampa Rays and Oakland A’s(or attempt to be) if they follow their proposed budgets and allocate percentages of their gross revenue to specific baseball operations. Not every team needs to be like the Cubs and spend over 50% of their revenue directly on payroll. This is basic accounting procedures and every team uses them, some better than others.

      For the record, I believe every team should should be made to following certain procedure:
      -> Minimum of 35% of final revenue must be spent of MLB payroll.
      * According to Cot’s, the Marlins spent a little less than $35.5m on their entire MLB payroll at the end of the 2009 season. They spent less than 25% of their entire revenue on their payroll, a number that is ridiculous – the Rays spent 41.6% while the league average was 46.6%.

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    • Scott says:

      Make you a deal..i read yours, now you read mine..by the way, i don’t like yours…it does make some sense, but it takes away motivation from certain owners (Peter Angelos) to try and win..he actually starts getting more money to be other teams’ punching bag? Angelos is a terrible awner, by the way….started out great (i used to go when he first took over..they had THE BEST team one year but lost in playoffs to Cleveland (I think) when Mussina had something like a .5 era in postseason but the hitters (Yes, you CAL Jr.) didnt come through and the closer (Armando Benitez) sucked..they had a strong, strong team that year..after they lost in post season he fired the manager (Davey Johnson, who won manager of the year) and got rid of all the players..it was sad.

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  34. Scott says:

    I like the idea of eliminating divisions but also understand the arguments against. “You mean the Royals are 35 games out of first place?” My solution, which has a very serious flaw, is adding two teams to the National League (that would make 16 teams in each league, right?) and having each league have 4 4-team divisions with only winners getting in. Would there be under .500 teams in playoffs? You bet. But I don’t like the wild card..OR THE DH!!!!. The obvious flaw, obviously (too redundant?) is, well, where do the 2 teams go? And the answer is..I have no frickin idea, but, I’ll throw out a few possibilities….New Orleans, Portland, Las Vegas (ha ha), somewhere in Tennessee, Pittsburgh (or do they have a team already? I know they once did, but are they still around?), Japan (that would be cool), Indianapolis, and finally, Hibbing, Minnesota, cause that’s where Bob Dylan is from, and I’m a fan.

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