An Opening Gambit On MLB's Eventual Realignment

With the announcement that the Houston Astros will be moving into the American League West in 2013, discussion of further baseball realignment is going to happen. It's something I've been thinking about for a while, because it presents some unique challenges. And it's definitely a situation where, no matter what decisions are made, not everyone is going to be happy.

Below is my realignment for Major League Baseball. It's massive. After the jump I'll offer what I can in way of explanations and reasoning.

Mlb_realignment_medium

First off, here are your divisions:

AL West Coast AL Midwest AL East Coast
Seattle Mariners Minnesota Twins New York Yankees
San Francisco Giants Chicago White Sox New York Mets
Oakland Athletics Chicago Cubs Boston Red Sox
Los Angeles Dodgers Kansas City Royals Philadelphia Phillies
Los Angeles Angels Milwaukee Brewers Washington Nationals
NL South NL South East NL North East
San Diego Padres Atlanta Braves Detroit Tigers
Arizona Diamondbacks Miami Marlins Cleveland Indians
Colorado Rockies Tampa Bay Rays Toronto Blue Jays
Texas Rangers St. Louis Cardinals Baltimore Orioles
Houston Astros Cincinnati Reds Pittsburgh Pirates

Now, my rationale.

  • My over-riding goal was to make the divisions more regional. With division teams playing each other so often, it makes more sense to cluster teams together to reduce travel times and costs.
  • To that end, clustering teams fosters rivalries. Every city that shares two teams now has both teams not just in the same league, but in the same division. I tried to get the Cardinals and Royals together, and the Phillies and Pirates together, but it threw off my ultimate goal of regionalizing the divisions.
  • Just as the divisions are now more regional, I thought about making one league out of the West Coast, South, and Midwest divisions. This would essentially have split the country in half. This became less of an issue when I ultimately decided on 15-team leagues, which will result in interleague play everyday. So teams will be travelling across the country from time to time.
  • I don't like interleague games. I certainly don't like interleague games everyday. But here's what I like even less: uneven divisions, uneven leagues, expansion, contraction. Baseball is big enough, I'm not about to take a team away from a city, and each team should play in a division with the same number of teams. I believe in a balanced schedule. Some divisions (like the AL East Coast) may be more stacked than others, but that's an issue beyond realignment.
  • An alternative would be to reduce the season from 162 games to something closer to 156. Each team in the league would receive three days off approximately every 14 weeks, in addition to regularly schedule rest days. For example, the AL Midwest clubs could be travelling to the AL East Coast clubs to play round-robin away series (each Midwest team plays an away series in every East Coast park, again reducing travel costs), while in the AL West Coast the Mariners would have a series off while the Angels played the Dodgers and the Giants played the Athletics...and then rotate.
  • That alternative would result in longer road trips, of potentially up to nearly three weeks, but I believe that would be off-set by closer divisional games, the inevitable home stand that will be longer as well, and a couple of longer breaks spaced throughout the season.
  • I've done away with the traditional East, Central, and West titles for the divisions, because it's time we stop pretending that baseball splits itself easily into those three categories. Instead I've called each division something unique to its region.
  • Some teams (the Rockies, Cardinals, Reds, Royals) were key cogs in how divisions aligned. I had incarnations where either the Rockies or the Cardinals, for example, ended up in the Midwest division. But that inevitably threw off something else.
I realize this isn't perfect, but think of this as a conversation starter. How would your realigned MLB look?
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