Be The Commissioner: How Would You Realign MLB?

Yesterday the St. Louis Cardinals faced a familiar foe in spring training: the Houston Astros (and had a good day, which you can read more about here). Yet despite the familiarity, things are of course different with the Astros in 2013 with their move to the American League and the now-balanced 15 teams in each league.

mlb-logoAll of that led to our question for the latest United Cardinal Bloggers roundtable: We’re giving you the ultimate baseball power and making you the MLB commissioner. As such, you can completely start over with the current 30 teams and align them into the American and National Leagues however you wish, and into as many divisions as you wish. What are your two leagues and your divisions?

And if you want to develop a new playoff structure as well (not a fan of the second wild card — or the wild card at all?) go for it. You also are welcome to eliminate the designated hitter. You’re the commissioner, after all.

Daniel Solzman, Redbird Rants

I would move Houston back to the NL and place Miami on probation.

As for the wild card game, I would make it best of three.


Matt Whitener, Cheap Seats Please

Wow, quite a question. Let me see how I would tackle this …

First of all, the DH has to go, period. I’m a fan of the current playoff alignment, as I think last year was one of the more suspenseful and overall relevant years I can recall.

As for alignment, it’s pretty good right now. I think baseball has done a good job with the last two major realignments. There’s still a few leftover squads that are in their places because of the old NL East/West days (such as Pittsburgh in the NL Central), but overall it’s fine the way it is.

For kicks, and geographical accuracy, I’d move the Braves to the NL Central and move the Pirates to the East.


Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At the Bat

These are always fun. Give me this power and I’d be on this immediately.

American League
East
Boston
New Jersey*
New York
Toronto

Central
Chicago
Cleveland
Detroit
Minnesota

South
Baltimore
Kansas City
Tampa Bay
Texas

West
Los Angeles
Oakland
Portland*
Seattle

National League
East
New York
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
Washington

Central
Chicago
Cincinnati
Milwaukee
St. Louis

South
Arizona
Atlanta
Houston
Miami

West
Colorado
Los Angeles
San Diego
San Francisco

Yes, I expanded baseball by two teams. Much of the issues of the game today are due to the imbalance 30 teams can cause. Plus a New Jersey team would be about the only thing that could cut into New York’s media prominence, at least eventually.

No interleague play. If the AL wants to keep the DH, fine, but I’d probably push to get it completely abolished. The schedule would work out so that you played your division 21 times, one “designated rival” 12 times (say Houston for St. Louis or Pittsburgh for Cincinnati) and every other team six times. You’d be sure to earn your divisional title that way.

No wild cards. Four divisional champions playing out in best of seven series. Best record plays worst record.

And the All-Star Game doesn’t mean squat.


Wes Keene, Keene on MLB

First I would bring the All-Star game back to the old DH rule. While the NL has done very well under the new system, it isn’t right. In normal interleague play, we use home field rules. The same should apply to the ASG.

The alignment of the leagues is basically correct now. Although I’m not in favor of everything west of the Potomac River being a candidate for the AL west, at least we’ve got divisions with the right number of teams now. However, the idea that we had to have perpetual interleague play now is incorrect, in my opinion. There was another option that was never considered: Have teams take more days off. It’s a grueling 162 game season. Couldn’t playing fewer games and having more off days even be considered? I’m not math wiz, so I’ll have my scheduling guys figure out the details and tell me how many games we can now play in a season without resorting to the unbridled evil that is interleague play.

There won’t be any more TV revenue sharing between teams. If no one watched your games because your team stinks, then you won’t get as much money — sorry. However, I won’t have teams with a payroll three times some other teams payroll. I’m not in favor of anyone telling me what I can pay someone, but as commissioner my job is to field a competitive league, not to make a great capitalist business environment. Therefore, some sort of team maximum payroll will be enforced. It won’t be optional like it is today (or in 2014). You won’t be able to pay a penalty to get out of it, because the Dodgers will just pay that penalty. Then we’ll be profiting from rule-breakers. It will be enforced. League minimum and league maximum are the wave of the future. Don’t like it? Go play for the NBA. Oh wait, they have the same thing.

With my additions, baseball will return to its former greatness and even beyond.

[In response to Daniel Shoptaw’s proposal above]

This is beautiful. I want your league alignment now. Here I was thinking inside the box and not just inventing teams. I wish I had done that. Good work.


Daniel Solzman, Redbird Rants

[Also in response to Daniel Shoptaw’s proposal]
I was THIS close to sending Milwaukee back to the AL and expanding MLB to include to more teams. I can see Portland … they do have the NBA after all.


Mark Tomasik, RetroSimba

Even though the system benefited the Cardinals greatly in 2006 and 2011, the notion of wild-card teams and multiple division champions has watered down the crowning of true champions and doesn’t credit enough the teams that build the best regular-season records.

So, even with 30 teams, I’d build a system that rewards regular-season play and the ability of those who achieve the best for the length of a grueling 162-game schedule. Thus two leagues, two divisions in each, with a playoff structure that greatly rewards the regular-season champions.

NATIONAL LEAGUE
CLASSIC DIVISION (the originals)
Cardinals
Cubs
Braves
Phillies
Pirates
Dodgers
Giants
Reds

EXPANSION DIVISION
Diamondbacks
Padres
Brewers
Mets
Marlins
Nationals
Rockies

AMERICAN LEAGUE
CLASSIC DIVISION (the originals)
Yankees
White Sox
Indians
Red Sox
Orioles (old Browns)
Rangers (old Senators)
Athletics
Tigers

EXPANSION DIVISION
Astros
Blue Jays
Rays
Royals
Mariners
Angels
Twins

Only the champs of the four divisions reach postseason. Team with best record in each league gets five home games in seven-game league championship series. Team with best overall record gets five home games in World Series.

DH banned forever.


Corey Rudd, StlSportsMinute.com

If you guys don’t think I am crazy, you will after this.

1. Get rid of the DH

2. Scrap American and National leagues completely. Create four new divisions based off of geography, eight teams a piece (East, South, Midwest and West)

3. Expand to 32 teams. Give Charlotte and either Nashville or Oklahoma City a team.

4. Each team plays two games outside of their divisions. It will rotate who you face at home and in the road every other year. This also means only one West Coast trip of eight games, East Coast of eight games, etc. This equated to 48 games.

5. This leaves 16 games to be played against each team within your division. This equals 112 games, for 160 total. We could add two more games against a “division rival” every year to keep us at 162 (either Cubs or Royals).

6. Midwest and East will play the South and West in the All-Star Game and the game means nothing.

7. No wild card teams. Only division winners make the playoffs.

8. Playoff teams are seeded by wins. Most wins equals home field.

9. World Baseball Classic would be played after the World Series, which would actually end in October because there would only be two rounds of playoffs.

Division breakdowns
East: NY Yankees, NY Mets, Philadelphia, Boston, Toronto, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland

Midwest: St. Louis, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Nashville/Oklahoma City (expansion)

South: Texas, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, Tampa, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Charlotte (expansion)

West: LA Dodgers, LA Angels, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Colorado, Arizona


Bob Netherton, On the Outside Corner

Excellent question. I love “Commissioner for a Day” 🙂

I am going to eliminate two teams and bring it back to 28 per league with two divisions each. The two that get the boot are the Florida teams, Miami and Tampa. Miami needs to go because it is becoming an embarrassment to the sport. Tampa is a bit harder to defend as it could just as easily be Oakland or Cleveland. I give the nod to Tampa since it is a newer franchise. I do understand the stadium location issues, but if people are going to stay home and watch a team, they can just as easily watch Atlanta or whomever places a minor league team in the area.

My divisions are:

NL East                  NL West
New York                 St. Louis
Philadelphia            Houston
Washington             Colorado
Pittsburgh                San Diego
Atlanta                      San Francisco
Cincinnati                Los Angeles
Chicago                    Arizona

AL East                  AL West
New York                 Minnesota
Boston                       Milwaukee
Baltimore                 Kansas City
Cleveland                 Seattle
Detroit                       Oakland
Toronto                    Anaheim
Texas                         Chicago

That can set up an interesting 20 games in division (a 3-3-4 in each city) and six against the other division (three home and three away) schedule. To quote John Houseman from those old Smith Barney commercials, any team winning their division will uuuuuuuuuhrn it.

As much as I’d love to go back to a single best of seven LCS, that won’t get past the sponsors. I’m willing to cave a bit here. Take the top two teams from each division with the leader getting the home field advantage. Play cross court for the LDS (top East plays 2nd West), just for fun. Do a best of 5 LDS and two winners are re-seeded by record to play in a best of 7 LCS.

No inter-league play which means the DH isn’t the factor it once was. Go back to home field advantage alternating between AL and NL. Play the All Star Game with a DH but the World Series doesn’t have it.


Mark, Cardinals Fan in Cubs Land

Lots of good ideas being thrown around.  Here are my thoughts:
1. The DH must go. Since the MLBPA will not like it, agree to add one more player to the active roster for 26.

2. Expand by adding one team to each league. Las Vegas, Portland, OK City, New Jersey are all good options.

3. Go with four divisions of four teams, with each division winner making the playoffs (no wild cards).

4. If you are going to do interleague, you’ve got to have a balanced schedule. Four games each (two home/two away) against ALL teams from the other league (64 total). Then 18 games (nine home/nine away) against each team in your division (54 total). Then four games (two home/two away) against teams in other divisions in your league. 166 game season and no one can complain about a team in their division having an easier schedule.


Kevin Reynolds, Cards ‘N Stuff

Wow. Big question. I’m sure lots of people will go with very reasonable and realistic answers … so I’ll go with pure fantasy! Let’s get extreme:

I would throw all the teams in one pot, then divvy them up by two Leagues (American and National) and then divvy them up within leagues by three divisions each. Division of teams would be 90 percent based on geographic location. A super-focus on establishing geographic rivalry between all teams in a fan’s division and therefore engendering geographic identity for a division would drive most decisions/changes. We would do away with this notion of trying to play all teams in MLB and instead play 75 percent of a team’s games within their own division — and only divisional games in August and September. Let teams really battle it out for divisional titles. Yes, there would be teams in a league (National or American) that wouldn’t play each other every year … but so what? And … NO INTERLEAGUE PLAY. The only time a team from another league would face teams from the opposite league is in the World Series. It preserves wild card race integrity while enhancing interest between teams facing each other for the first time in the World Series.

Then, playoffs would include each division champion and go back to one wild card team for each league. After that, the playoffs would largely resemble the format used before adding the second wild card spot. I would consider shortening the NLCS and ALCS to a five-game series to A) make the World Series format unique again and B) shorten wait time a team who sweeps the LCS series has to experience to reduce “rust” going into the World Series while also C) slightly reducing the chance of playing games in extremely cold weather.

So … divisions would look like this:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

1. New England Division – Boston, New York Yankees, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals (6)
2. Great Lakes Division – Toronto, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Milwaukee (5)
3. Rocky Mountain Division – Colorado, Seattle, Minnesota, *Portland, *Winnipeg (5)

NATIONAL LEAGUE

1. Mid-America Division – St. Louis, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City, Cincinnati (5)
2. Southern Division – Texas, Houston, Tampa Bay, Florida, Atlanta (5)
3. West Coast Division – San Francisco, LA Dodgers, LA Angels, Oakland, San Diego, Arizona (6)

Changes involved:

1. Abolish the DH. Discussions about this are endless, so I won’t rehash here, but make both leagues 100 percent uniform in all ways and get rid of that disgusting DH.
2. Rekindle the Canadian experiment and add a team to Winnipeg. Bring in the heads of the successfully run franchises located in difficult markets (Tampa Bay, Oakland, etc.) plus a few of the better run organizations like St. Louis — establish a committee with those individuals and task them with “mentoring” new owners/execs and establishing a team in Winnipeg to give the Canadian team the best chance for success.
3. Give Portland a team. Locating a team in Portland creates local rivalry for the Seattle market, something they’ve needed to ramp up that franchise/area for a while.
4. Immediately convene a committee to discuss moving Tampa Bay out of Florida and into one of the following states: Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, or Louisiana. The Florida market can barely support a team, much less two, and locating a team in one of those states could serve as a bridge between Atlanta, Florida and the Texas teams. Too bad for the Tampa area, but it just is what it is.

And then …

The President of the United States, Major League Baseball and Amtrak (and any other railway systems) should immediately convene a transportation committee and partnership to establish a national railway system that is embraced and widely used by Americans. Amtrak would establish specific route packages that pass through MLB cities, MLB would market these packages as “divisional trips” to follow your team as it visits each city in its division on one trip (or “contender” trips that see expected contenders playing each other within a week in the second half of the season), and the government would establish aid packages and tax breaks for all involved! Price breaks from Amtrak would couple with MLB schedule cooperation to create a family fan experience like no other!

A family could purchase a package that includes train tickets, game tickets, sleeping accommodations on train cars and even all-inclusive dining plans on the train. “Bar cars” on the train would include baseball themed sports bars (perhaps even themed for the applicable division) with tons of TVs so fans could keep up with every MLB game while on the train. MLB would arrange for retired players and personalities to accompany train passengers on specially marketed trips and even giveaways like bobbleheads, etc., could be arranged on the train.

For example, Cardinal fans could book a specially marketed trip for two weeks that travels from St. Louis to Kansas City (games between Royals/Cards), then to Chicago (games between Cubs/Cards and games between Cards/White Sox), then back to St. Louis (games between Reds/Cards). MLB would cooperate with scheduling to create a three-game series with Kansas City, fan travel day, then three-game series with each Chicago team, fan travel day, and finish with a three-game series in St. Louis with the Reds. Hotel accommodations where needed would be included, and former players (like at Cards Caravan events) would be aboard for interaction, autographs, etc. Even the package-purchasing interface would allow families to select more or less expensive hotel rooms, seats in stadiums, etc. What family vacation!!!

In the meantime, the President would get his national railway system re-established with incredible marketing through MLB in exchange for generous tax breaks for Amtrak and MLB. 😉

Ok … I feel silly, now, so I’ll stop here. 🙂

Oh … and notice each league has a “super division” with six teams … let those big market teams really battle it out with each other.

One last thing … Force the Marlins to change their mascot. Who the hell every thought a fish for a baseball team was a good idea, anyway?!


John Nagel, CardinalsFarm.com

Wow what a great question! I know that I am in the minority, but I would like to see the DH added to the NL. Do we really want to see this?

I get the strategy part but I want to see offense! Again I know this is not the majority opinion but I’ll just throw it out there.

I think we should just have two leagues and no divisions with no interleague play. Everybody plays everybody equally (if possible) and the top four teams in each league advance.

Look at the AL East this year. All the teams are very solid and they shouldn’t get penalized just by playing in a strong division. In 2012, Tampa Bay and the Angels missed the playoffs but had better records than Detroit who won the AL Central.

Just a thought …


Dustin McClure, Welcome to Baseball Heaven

Nice question. For starters I suppose I’ll go over what I would push to change.

First, the DH but not necessarily eliminating it. They just need to get both leagues on the same page regardless of if they eliminate it or have it in both leagues. My vote is to eliminate it but it’s ridiculous that the leagues play with different rules and this shines brightly during interleague play. The other thing I’d push for would be more video review. My thought is having a replay official either onsite or at a centralized location similar to the NHL.  The second piece would be having one of the umpires (doesn’t matter which just not home plate) wear a two-way microphone (secret service-style) of some sort so close calls could be corrected quickly via that communication. To go along with this I would eliminate managers being allowed to come out of the dugout to argue a call, which has become more of a novelty act than anything. Not sure how I’d determine which plays get reviewed but I’d figure that out later. And lastly the All-Star Game goes back to being a fun exhibition like it should be.

That’s really it as far as changes I would make in the short term. I honestly have no issues with interleague play and also have no issue with expanding it. *ducks* I know I’m probably in the minority again but here I am. In reality teams playing across leagues/conferences is nothing new to professional sports and gives variety. MLB just like all pro sports is a business and ratings and attendance decide the direction of the sport.

I’m in the same boat with the new playoff format as well. The additional wild card not only keeps more teams involved but also rewards the division winners and especially the best record with the assumption they’ll face the wild card team’s best pitcher only once.

MLB is in a good spot regarding the number of teams that make the postseason.  I know some of you want to chop a few teams from the playoffs but again keeping more teams involved longer is good for revenue and the sport. Plus that play-in game is pretty damn exciting. Some say one game is not fair but if you want fair, win the division. There’s probably a tweak or two that can be done to scheduling but no matter what nothing’s ever going to be completely fair for all teams. Regardless of interleague or not, there’s always going to be a few teams who have a tougher road than others and that’s life. It happens in all sports but in baseball there’s 162 games so there’s more than ample time to overcome a tough stretch(es) of games. Balancing keeping the integrity of the game while continuing to evolve is the key.


Tara Wellman, Aaron Miles’ Fastball

I won’t pretend I’ve spent much time thinking about how I’d rearrange the alignment, and the ideas here are far better thought out than I’d provide!

However, I’m all for eliminating the DH. I just don’t like it. So there! 😉

Also, I know our Cardinals have benefited from the wild card changes, but I really don’t like the one-game playoff idea. I’ll admit the end of the regular season was certainly interesting, with all the teams that remained in contention. But, that wild card game is just silly. Intense, yes. Entertaining, sure. But it’s just not how baseball works.

So, I’d likely get rid of the second wild card all together.

I’d also be one of those that sent Milwaukee back to the American League over Houston.

(I will say, though, I’m quite intrigued by some of these ideas, especially those that include teams in new locations like Oklahoma City or Portland.)


Miranda Remaklus, Aaron Miles’ Fastball

My first order of business would be to eliminate the DH rule. That was a huge mistake. Let’s correct that now.

The alignment change I would make would have Houston coming back to the NL Central and Milwaukee returning to the American League. They would go to the Central Division and Kansas City would go to the American League West.

I wouldn’t change a thing to the playoff system. After last season, I really found that I enjoyed the play in game. It gives incentive to teams that, after what St. Louis did, they don’t want to find themselves in a similar position to Atlanta or St. Louis. While it was extremely exciting, you should go after winning your division and go far in the playoffs that way! That really should be the point of the game.


My answer

My first move is for Houston to return to the National League Central and Milwaukee to go back to the American League.

I also would like to expand MLB by two teams and have two eight-team divisions in each league. Going along with the others who have proposed adding teams, I’ll add them in Portland and Charlotte. That would make my divisions as follows:

American League East
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays
Texas Rangers
Toronto Blue Jays

American League West
Anaheim Angels** (They need to use this name. The ballpark is in Anaheim, not Los Angeles.)
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals
Milwaukee Brewers
Minnesota Twins
Oakland A’s
Portland*
Seattle Mariners

National League East
Atlanta Braves
Charlotte*
Cincinnati Reds
Miami Marlins
New York Mets
Philadelphia Phillies
Pittsburgh Pirates
Washington Nationals

National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks
Chicago Cubs
Colorado Rockies
Houston Astros
Los Angeles Dodgers
St. Louis Cardinals
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants

Playoff teams would be the top two from each division. The team with the best record in the league would play the team in the other division with the lower record for the best-of-five division series. The League Championship Series and World Series would remain seven games each.

No DH. No interleague play, although I’ll have to do the math on how often teams within each division play and teams in the opposite division. The All-Star Game means nothing more than an entertaining game to watch.


Dathan Brooks, Cards Tied for First

This is a tremendous question to answer, and one that I didn’t respond to yesterday, because I didn’t want to just crank out some crap answer in two minutes. So many things come into play when you’re talking about this kind of a situation.

Are we commissioner for a day, but still have to get the players’ union to go along with any real changes? Do we run the risk of being ousted by the ownership of the clubs if we start moving teams to other cities, expanding, and taking away games from the schedule? Regular season games are valuable enough to the owners, let alone postseason game revenues. Re-aligning divisions is tricky, and even the best-intentioned moves can have gigantic pitfalls.

Perhaps the only thing trickier is writing a schedule. Have you ever honestly tried to do this? I have. Without the aid of software of autism, it’s nearly impossible. I’ve recently encountered modest challenges scheduling a season for a 12-team, three-division (four teams per) fantasy schedule — it’s harder than it sounds.

And I hate the DH as much as anybody, but someone in the thread plainly stated the sentiments of many many fans, particularly the younger fans who ARE the next generation of baseball lovers: “I just want to see offense.” Traditionalists/purists like many of us aren’t alone, but we’re also older than we were yesterday, and while that generally means more disposable income to spend on a baseball entertainment experience (which is exactly what it is), there’s a generation of fans behind us that need something to draw them in. Will we someday see the game drop from three outfielders to two, and add a second DH? God help us, but that’d certainly be one way to generate an offense-thirsty fanbase.

As usual, I digress.

If I were commissioner for a day, I’d just try not to mess things up. That’s my short answer. For a long answer, maybe that’s a series of blog posts, or a month’s worth of podcasts or something.


Pip, Fungoes

I would do the following:

  1. Return to two divisions per league, with four true division winners and no wild card teams (see below): Until someone can explain why a second-place team should have a chance at being the sport’s overall champion, this is the highest priority.
  2. Contract the Miami Marlins and Houston Astros: The Marlins, who should never have begun, are the easy cut. The A’s escape only because of their longer and richer history than the Astros.
  3. Relocate the Tampa Bay Rays to the New York market (e.g., NJ): This would go a long way toward cutting into the Yankees’ Selig-era hegemony.
  4. Repeal the designated hitter: Even with the recent downturn, run environments have been well over 4.00 lately. We’re not living in the ’60s anymore.
  5. Put the day back in Opening Day: The first game of the season would be the Reds, and it would be a day game.
  6. Repeal instant replay: Instead, I would require park designs to be make home runs perspicuous, and I’d reward umpires based on merit instead of tenure.
  7. Repeal Selig’s “This time it counts” rule: No more home-field advantage to the All-Star Game winner.
  8. No November games
National American
East West East West
WSN SFG NYY OAK
CIN STL BAL TEX
ATL LAD NJ LAA
PHI CHC DET CHW
PIT ARI TOR SEA
NYM SDP BOS KCR
MIL COL CLE MIN

4 thoughts on “Be The Commissioner: How Would You Realign MLB?

  1. Some, uh, interesting ideas. I’m all for getting rid of DH and interleague play. No WAY do I want mixing traditionally American League and National League teams in one division. Yuck. Having just 2 divisions per league sounds good. Except I would NOT want the Cardinals in the Western division having to play so many more western time zone games. Living in the east, I have a hard enough time staying up for central time zone games. I don’t care for the 2nd wild card play-in game. And I’d rather see the All Star game as a nice exhibition not counting for anything. I DO want everyone on the team to get a chance to appear. Make it where players can be brought back in, if needed.
    As much as I’d like a major league team in my state, no way could Charlotte support a MLB team.

    • Thanks for the input! I will admit I am not thrilled with my own plan of the Cards in my new NL West, but I couldn’t figure out another alternative at the time I was writing it.

      Good to know about Charlotte too.

  2. Some, uh, interesting ideas. I’m all for getting rid of DH and interleague play. No WAY do I want mixing traditionally American League and National League teams in one division. Yuck. Having just 2 divisions per league sounds good. Except I would NOT want the Cardinals in the Western division having to play so many more western time zone games. Living in the east, I have a hard enough time staying up for central time zone games. I don’t care for the 2nd wild card play-in game. And I’d rather see the All Star game as a nice exhibition not counting for anything. I DO want everyone on the team to get a chance to appear. Make it where players can be brought back in, if needed.
    As much as I’d like a major league team in my state, no way could Charlotte support a MLB team.

    • Thanks for the input! I will admit I am not thrilled with my own plan of the Cards in my new NL West, but I couldn’t figure out another alternative at the time I was writing it.

      Good to know about Charlotte too.

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