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3rd Inning: Radical Realignment

Editor’s Note: Doug believes baseball is broken and would like to fix it. He plans to discuss an issue a week for the coming weeks. Read here for the topics he plans to help baseball fix.

It’s the third inning and we’re still trailing in the ballgame but we’re making a comeback.

Baseball is losing to pro and college football. The NBA is having a phenomenal season. The opportunity for MLB is very tangible. The NFL could be headed to disaster. The NBA is staring down the same problem after the NBA Finals. This is the time to strike. Follow “Doug’s 9 innings to save baseball.” You’ll never see it with Bud Selig but put Larry Scott in that position and this is exactly what you’d see.

If MLB filled the NFL void this year by letting it slip they are considering these changes, the buzz would be enormous. Inning 1 gave baseball back to Brooklyn to divide the pot within the city of New York. Inning 2 expanded the game to Brooklyn and Portland to put more money into the game without affecting competitive balance. Inning 3 will tie the score with the other professional leagues by bringing complete competitive balance without a salary cap.

It’s time to scrap the American League and National League. Sure we’ll keep the names but the teams will be completely different.


New York Yankees
New York Mets
Brooklyn (Expansion)
Boston Red Sox

Philadelphia Phillies
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
Pittsburgh Pirates
Cincinnati Reds
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Chicago White Sox

Florida Marlins
Atlanta Braves
Tampa Bay Rays
Washington Nationals
Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals
Minnesota Twins
Milwaukee Brewers

Kansas City Royals
Colorado Rockies
Texas Rangers
Houston Astros

Oakland Athletics
San Francisco Giants
Portland (Expansion)
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim
San Diego Padres
Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Dodgers

Every division now stands alone. Almost every division is made up of four teams of similar market size. It will be easy to generate great regional rivalries. The owners will be thrilled because travel costs will be cut almost in half. Every divisional game is worth even more when you’re only competing with 3 other teams for the division title.

Divisional realignment is a Grand Slam. What is baseball’s number one problem? It is the perception of a lack of competitive balance. Everyone screams at how much the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets can spend on payroll while it’s not fair to the “small market” team (I put small market in quotes because the term has become a catch phrase for teams that don’t spend money). With these divisions, the three big dogs of spending can now fight it out between the four of them.

Creating divisions based primarily on geography dramatically changes the game. The Yankees dominance under the current system can only be changed by moving the Yankees from New York. As I explained in the first inning, it’s the number of eye balls and ears in New York that give the Yankees their power. Putting a team in Brooklyn divides market share but radical realignment does even more.

Now, the Yankees are competing against Boston, the Mets and Brooklyn for the playoffs. Although the new American League East might win more World Series than other divisions, there won’t be a run of consecutive Worlds Series championships by the Yankees as there have been in year’s past.

It also forces Brooklyn to pay homage to the big dogs. The new expansion team in Brooklyn may have hit the jackpot by getting a team in one of the world’s largest markets but they immediately have to play ball with the biggest dogs on the porch.

New divisions also pumps life back into some great baseball cities. Baltimore, Cleveland, Houston, Kansas City and Pittsburgh have been either dead or rarely relevant for far too long. Radical realignment saves those teams by placing them against teams in similar markets. They’ll compete with teams that have similar budgets.

Radical realignment keeps the resurgence of great baseball cities alive like Milwaukee, Detroit and Cincinnati by not trampling on their success. Tampa Bay also gets new life moving into a division that more reflects what they can do and rewards one of the great organizations.

Of course there are winners and losers. Philadelphia is the big winner. Smaller markets like Pittsburgh and Baltimore replace big market teams like Atlanta and the Mets from the old National League East. Baltimore is a huge winner by trading two behemoths in their division for just one. Cincinnati wins by finally being able to develop real rivalries. Since the Reds were in the NL West from 1969 until the mid-1990’s, they’ve never had a real rivalry with Chicago, St. Louis or Pittsburgh—all teams in the NL Central now that used to be in the NL East. Now Cincinnati is in a division where they can consistently compete and their fans can drive 5 hours to see road games in the division.

The biggest loser is the Chicago White Sox. The Sox don’t really have a true rival. Any of the teams in the new American League Central are perfect for the Sox. The problem for them is they’re not in it. The White Sox would have a major problem with not getting one of the big three for them (St. Louis, Milwaukee or the Cubs). Their fourth choice would have been Minnesota and they lost them too.

The screaming from LA and SF would be very loud. I say get over it. The LA/SF rivalry is nothing like the Dodgers-Giants rivalry from the New York days. Los Angeles only cares about winning. They don’t care about their teams unless they’re winning anyway. Although Giant fans would have a major problem with it, winning their division as often as they will, they’d soon get over it.

The goal of “Doug’s 9 innings” is to never ask for a hard salary cap while improving the game on the field. I also want to increase fan excitement and belief in their team. Radical Realignment makes money less relevant than any other plan. Inning 3 goes the farthest in saving money, creating new and exciting rivalries while eliminating the threat of New York and Boston money destroying the hope of every fan.

If MLB made the announcement of the first 3 innings being implemented during the All-Star game, all of the focus on the NFL labor situation would evaporate and baseball would rule every sports page. More importantly, MLB would be right on the NFL’s heels going into inning 4. Next week we finally eliminate another money-grab position that creates one more line between the haves and have nots.