If I Ruled Baseball

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Baseball is my favorite sport, but it’s far from perfect. There are plenty of things about it that I would like to fix, and in this post, I’m going to do just that.

I’ve had ideas about changes I’d make to Major League Baseball for years now, and for the most part, they’re ideas that I don’t see MLB ever actually considering, or give serious consideration to, anyway.

That doesn’t make them bad ideas, though.

In fact, in my opinion, they’re great ideas. I may be biased, but I’m also right. So let’s put reality aside for a little bit, and just accept the fact that I am now the King of Baseball. What I say goes. The owners and players have no choice but to do my bidding.

Here is how I’d fix baseball in five easy steps.

STEP ONE: Just make everybody use the designated hitter. One of the stupidest things about baseball is that it’s the only sport in which teams in the same league — and I’m not talking American or National, I’m talking MAJOR — play by two different sets of rules. Maybe you think it’s cute, that’s great. If you think stupidity is cute go listen to or watch Zooey Deschanel be incredibly annoying instead. I bet you’d be into her.

I just think it’s stupid. So fix it. While I’d be all right with both leagues ditching the DH as well, I prefer making the DH universal simply because it will mean less bunts, and bunting is something that I’m not going to ban, but something we want as little of as possible.

And for every Bartolo Colon at bat — which are hilarious — there are thousands of every other pitcher standing there looking like he has something better to do with his time until there’s a third strike.

Plus, I may be King of Baseball, but I’m not even sure I’m powerful enough to convince the MLB Player’s Union to get rid of the DH. That’s jobs, man.

STEP TWO: I’d bring in two new franchises. Having 15-team leagues, meaning there’s always an inter-league game going on, is stupid. That’s not the only reason I’m adding two teams, but we’ll get to the other — bigger — reason later.

Where do we put the two new teams? Well, there are plenty of cities that I’m sure would welcome an MLB franchise, but I also have an ulterior motive here — again, I’ll get to it soon enough — and aside from the market size to support a team, location is a key factor as well.

Which is why I’d give Charlotte and Portland new baseball teams. Congratulations, you guys.

STEP THREE: I would completely overhaul the divisions and ditch the separate leagues. Yeah, that’s right, baseball. Fuck your hundred years of history. It’s time to enter a new age.

In words that are seldom uttered in the world of sports, I would follow the NHL’s example. Yes, I said that. The NHL and Gary Bettman did something right.

While they aren’t perfect, here are what my four new divisions would look like.

THE NORTHEAST

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Cleveland Indians
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. New York Mets
  5. New York Yankees
  6. Philadelphia Phillies
  7. Pittsburgh Pirates
  8. Toronto Blue Jays

THE SOUTHEAST

  1. Atlanta Braves
  2. Baltimore Orioles
  3. Charlotte Knights
  4. Houston Astros
  5. Miami Marlins
  6. Tampa Bay Rays
  7. Texas Rangers
  8. Washington Nationals

THE MIDWEST

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. Chicago White Sox
  3. Cincinnati Reds
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. Kansas City Royals
  6. Milwaukee Brewers
  7. Minnesota Twins
  8. St. Louis Cardinals

THE PACIFIC

  1. Arizona Diamondbacks
  2. Los Angeles Angels
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. Oakland Athletics
  5. Portland Beavers
  6. San Diego Padres
  7. San Francisco Giants
  8. Seattle Mariners

That’s right, by realigning the divisions based on nothing but geography, you create regional rivalries while maintaining the ones you already have. Plus, even if I’m tired of interleague play, it’s still popular with fans. So why not have games between the Cubs and White Sox really mean something? They could decide a division title or a playoff spot. Also, this will greatly reduce the cost of travel that teams have to pay since they’ll be spending the majority of their time within their region of the country.

Now, I mentioned these divisions aren’t perfect. Texas and Houston aren’t really in the southeast, but I had to balance the divisions, and if Texas A&M can be in the SEC, then so can these two.

My other problem was splitting Cleveland and Cincinnati. Simply put there wasn’t a way to create these divisions without separating a regional rivalry of some kind, but I think both teams will do just fine with their new old rivals.

STEP FOUR: I would lop six games off the 162 schedule and go with 156 games. Would this mess with season and career records? Yep, it would. Oh well. The baseball season is too long as it is, but going to 156 games allows us to stress the importance of divisional play, and really drive up the regional rivalries.

Here’s how the schedule would be broken down.

  • Twelve games per season against divisional foes (84 games)
  • Three games per season against non-divisional foes (72 games)

Now, here’s how it’d work in greater detail. Obviously, if the Cubs are only playing the Dodgers three times a year, they can’t split those three games between LA and Chicago. So what I’d do is, if the Cubs spend three days in LA playing the Dodgers this year, the Dodgers come to Wrigley for three games next year. You just rotate it. This would also cut down on travel costs, which would get the owners to stop bitching about losing three home dates from the schedule.

Stupid owners don’t even realize that the majority of the money will be from television anyway, and those television deals will be even better now that we can choose regional matchups for each part of the country.

This schedule is also better for fans. Think about it, let’s say you’re an Orioles fan. Right now the Orioles play at least six games a year against AL West teams, four of which are in the Pacific Time Zone. So that’s 12 games on the west coast per season, and it could be more depending on how interleague schedules work out. Theoretically, the Orioles could play 18 games on the west coast during a given season.

That’s 18 games that could be starting at 10pm local time, though let’s say with weekend day games and getaway days, that number is probably more around 15. That’s a lot of late games, and I guarantee you TV ratings on MASN aren’t very good for games starting at 10pm.

In this set up the Orioles would play 12 games every year on the west coast. Maybe nine or ten of them will be 10pm EST starts. You can’t avoid these games altogether, but this setup limits them.

As for the divisional games, not much would change. You’d play four three-game series against each of your divisional opponents, six at home, six on the road.

STEP FIVE: Okay, this isn’t as much of a step as it is an explanation of how the postseason would work. It’d be pretty simple, really. The top two teams from each division make the playoffs, with the division winner being assured of homefield advantage against any non-division winning opponent in any round. In series featuring two division winners or two “wild cards” regular season record would decide home field. Should the two teams have the same record, the tiebreakers would be head-to-head (everybody plays everybody now!) or record against division.

Also, the teams would be seeded. So, for the sake of example, here is how last year’s playoff bracket would have looked.

1. St. Louis vs. 8. Cincinnati

2. Boston vs. 7. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Atlanta Braves vs. 6. Tampa Bay Rays

4. Oakland Athletics vs. 5. Pittsburgh Pirates

Now, in this instance, none of the “wild cards” won more games than the division winners. But let’s just say that Pittsburgh’s 94 wins were more than Atlanta had in the Southeast. Even if the Pirates got past Oakland to take on Atlanta in the second round, the Braves would get homefield because they won their division, and I want to emphasize winning the division.

Also, all three rounds will be best-of-seven series. You’ve taken games off the regular season schedule, and that leaves more time for the postseason. You know, that time of the season when television ratings will be better.

And THAT is how I’d fix baseball if I were running the show.

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2 thoughts on “If I Ruled Baseball

  1. The only thing I would change would be having the first round of the playoffs just be divisional match ups and then moving on as seeds from there. Everything else is fantastic because it just makes sense.

    So it’ll never happen.

    • I considered that, but eventually you run into a situation where a 100-win team is playing a 98-win team in the first round because they were in the same division. While I want to stress divisional play in the regular season, and reward teams for it in the postseason, I also want to reward excellence.

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