Former Miami Marlins President David Samson made his weekly appearance on the Miami only hour of the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz (currently available only on podcast) last Thursday and the conversation turned to a major overhaul in Major League Baseball.
Despite the current landscape of the game with proposed rule changes and debating stadium netting, neither topic was broached. Rather, the conversation was directed toward MLB expansion to 32 MLB teams, complete league realignment, and Wild Card expansion. This is an extreme yet encouraging talking point given the typical doomsday talk about the state of baseball that typically graces radio airwaves. Samson briefly touched on the topics and said none would happen until the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays each sort out their stadium current situations.
That being said, I want to have some fun with the ideas of MLB realignment and expansion and throw around some ideas I have about what new divisions might look like that include two new MLB teams. We’ll save Wild Card expansion for another day.
Current MLB Division Alignment
For the sake of anyone who isn’t immediately familiar with the current MLB division alignment, here’s an image that shows the present landscape.
For the sake of fun, the two expansion teams I’ve included are my dream expansion cities (highlighted in red): Montreal, Quebec and Portland, Oregon. You read those right. We need the Expos back so we can see those fantastic hats on a regular basis and, as a native of the Pacific Northwest, I’m biased toward MLB expanding to Portland.
So, there are two approaches I took to this little exercise. The first you’ll see is division realignment within each league. Rather than the three divisions that we have now, I’ve broken the American and National Leagues into four divisions. The second approach scraps league affiliation altogether and puts all of MLB in four divisions. Here we go.
MLB Division Realignment
I chose to realign the leagues using four divisions with inspiration from the NBA and NFL. MLB is very heavy in the northeast, so it worked out to name the divisions Northeast, South, North, and West. This is the first major difference from the current MLB model with East, Central, and West divisions.
I tried to group teams together within geographical regions to minimize travel, because we know that a 162-game season is grueling and travel catches up with a lot of teams over the course of a season. This should help to cut down on some of that wear and tear that happens in August and September.
One of the major changes you’ll notice is that the Houston Astros are grouped in the South division with the likes of the Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves, and Tampa Bay Rays. I chose Houston as the Texas team in this division because it’s geographically farther south and east in the state than Arlington, so it felt like it fit in a South division better with the likes of those teams.
By adding a fourth division, travel is cut down within each division. The West divisions are tightened up a bit geographically and limited almost entirely to states on the west coast, with the Arizona Diamondbacks as the only exception in the NL West.
MLB League Realignment
This version of the MLB league realignment is essentially the same as the previous, but the league affiliations are removed entirely. This would require MLB to make a sweeping declaration regarding the designated hitter, re-think playoff structure, and overhaul division scheduling. It’s a lot of effort, but it can still work.
The benefit of giving the axe to league designations is that we’ll see more matchups that look like the LA Dodgers vs. the LA Angels, the New York Yankees vs. the New York Mets, and San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland A’s. Not only will we get to see more of these intrastate rivalries, but travel is cut down dramatically.
The second half of the season will be easier on teams as they likely won’t have to travel quite as much as they would have had to with previous league designations. There will be more division games on the schedule with double the amount of teams to play within a given division. Yes, the Colorado Rockies get the short of the stick in the South with the likes of the Braves and Marlins, but it’s more fitting to have the Rockies in that group than the Diamondbacks.
These are just two of a myriad of possibilities that we could see with expansion and league realignment. There are some kinks that need to worked out, so we’ll leave the official realignment to MLB.
What are some things that you would like to see happen with MLB realignment? Let us know in the comments.