Wednesday, June 29, 2011

11 comments Jim Bowden Has Some Realignment Ideas To Share With Us

Every baseball season MLB starts to float the idea of realignment as sort of a testing the waters and saying, "Hey, does anyone have any feedback they'd like to give about this," while providing few specifics on what type of realignment would exactly occur. Baseball writers, even guys like me, start to jump on this idea. Without specifics, this leaves baseball writers with the idea of creating the new divisions and realignment themselves, which is always a dangerous situation. You never know what these suggestions will entail and which teams will be moved around, but there are two general rules I have noticed:

1. The Red Sox-Yankees will still be in the same division. Always.
2. The realignment usually evens out to 15 teams in the National and American League.

Jim Bowden has some ideas about realignment which not surprisingly stays true to these two rules, but he adds his own geographic twist to it as well. All together, a geographic realignment isn't the worst idea I have read, but I'm not sure how I like the fact the divisions are put together purely for rivalry reasons while breaking up other minor rivalries. Thanks to Martin for putting the link to this article in the comments. I felt like I had to cover the entire blog post/article by Bowden.

With Major League Baseball and the Players Association considering some form of realignment,

This happens nearly every baseball season, the owners and players considering realignment. I feel similar to this situation as I feel about the NFL lockout. Update me when you actually have an idea, rather than using the press as a way to float the possibility of an idea. In this article linked by Jim Bowden, here are the quotes that show both sides are considering realignment.

According to a highly ranked executive, one consideration that has been raised in ownership committee meetings is eliminating the divisions altogether, so that 15 AL and 15 NL teams would vie for five playoff spots within each league.

I'm not completely sure I would be against this. It is an interesting idea and depending on how MLB decided to design the season schedule I think this idea could work. If the schedule involves 20 Mets-Phillies games, compared to 10 Mets-Padres games then I may not like this idea as much. The schedule has to be balanced in some fashion.

A source who has been briefed on the specifics of the labor discussions says that the players' union has indicated that it is open to the idea of two 15-team leagues, but that the whole plan still hasn't been talked through or presented to the owners.

Sources say the talks are serious,

How can we call any talks serious until the idea has officially been presented to the owners? No idea will go through without the approval of the owners, so nothing can be serious until they have at least officially heard the idea.

and while one executive believes the odds of change are less than 50-50, another says this is the type of discussion that can gather momentum and become a reality.

So in summation (and this is why I wish we as a public would get updated when there is an actual idea):

1. There may be realignment.
2. There are serious talks about realigning the National and American League.
3. The owners haven't officially heard the proposal for realignment yet.
4. The odds are against there being realignment...but there could be at some point in the future...but not now probably...but it could happen.

So there's no real idea, even if there was an idea it hasn't been presented to the owners yet, even if it had been presented to the owners it probably wouldn't pass, but it could pass in the distant-not-too-distant you're telling me there's a chance?

A sticking point involves interleague play. Because of the odd number of teams in each league, it is possible that a team in contention late in the season will have to be playing its final games in interleague play.

That would be terrible! How could this happen? We wouldn't want a division winner to be decided based on two teams from different leagues playing each other during the final games of the season. Deciding which team gets homefield advantage in the World Series based on an exhibition game is perfectly fine of course. That makes sense...but having the final games of a season be interleague games is just unimaginable.

"There are still a lot of details that would have to be discussed," one source said.

Which is why this is the typical summer realignment discussion that doesn't ever appear to go anywhere. When it may actually end up happening, notify me then.

So that's the background on why Jim Bowden wrote his realignment idea blog post. It goes slightly downhill from here when it gets to Bowden's playoff structure idea, where he fails to realize an odd number of teams moving to the second round could create problems.

I would suggest geographic realignment, with six divisions of five teams each.

Geographic realignment? Sounds like a great idea then and it doesn't at all sound random. What happens if the Florida Marlins move to Los Angeles or Nebraska? What happens if two big rivals aren't in the same geographic area? For example, the Reds and Cardinals are in different divisions in Bowden's realignment suggestion. They don't get to be rivals anymore?

This, of course, would include the eradication of the American and National Leagues, as we know them, as well as the designated hitter rule.

So why would it get rid of the designated hitter rule again? Couldn't this realignment idea just as well have the designated hitter rule instituted throughout the majors? I don't like the DH that much, but I don't get why this realignment means the DH automatically goes away. There is still a National and American Lea---check that "Conference," (because apparently leaving the word "League" wouldn't represent enough change and there would now be a "National Conference" and an "American Conference"...which would ensure both leagues sound like they are just large business meetings) so why would the DH go away?

In "old school" terms, I realize my proposal would be considered radical, but here are my recommendations:


Eastern Division

Boston Red Sox

Southeast Division

Atlanta Braves
New York Mets Baltimore Orioles
New York Yankees Florida Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays Washington Nationals

Central Division

Western Division

Cincinnati Reds

Arizona Diamondbacks
Cleveland Indians Colorado Rockies
Detroit Tigers Houston Astros
Minnesota Twins Seattle Mariners
Pittsburgh Pirates Texas Rangers

Midwest Division

California Division

Chicago White Sox

Los Angeles Dodgers
Kansas City Royals Oakland Athletics
Milwaukee Brewers San Diego Padres
St. Louis Cardinals San Francisco Giants

My first observation is about these division names...are these serious?

The "California Division?"

"Southeast Division" with a team in Baltimore and Washington? I know the names of divisions aren't ever going to properly represent the location of the teams in that division, but if the entire point of the geographic realignment is to put teams in the same area together, shouldn't the name of that division also accurately reflect where those teams are located?

What the hell is the difference in the "Midwest Division" and the "Central Division?" Shouldn't we put Toronto in the "Canada Division?"

Here are my nit-picky problems with this realignment division by division:

Eastern Division: We are going to put the Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox in the same division? I know there has to be long-term thought put into this, so long-term these may not be three of the most dominant teams in baseball, but this seems like an overloaded division. I would imagine Toronto wouldn't be pleased at having four of the highest spending teams in their division. Also, other than the Yankees, why would it make sense to take the Mets away from all of their rivals? I enjoy watching the Phillies and Braves play the Mets.

Central Division: Pittsburgh is not "central" geographically. Not even close.

Midwest Division: Other than the separation of the Cardinals and White Sox from their current rivals, it doesn't seem so bad. This sort of gets to the heart of what geographic alignment is about. It is about essentially fostering local rivalries more than anything else, even at the expense of rivalries that are more regional than necessarily local (i.e. White Sox v. Tigers). I feel like this geographic realignment focuses too much on certain rivalries and just hopes other teams in the division will develop rivalries based on the fact they are located close to each other.

Southeast Division: Other than the fact my Braves team would be losing nearly all of their current rivals to the "American Conference," (Mets, Phillies) I am still concerned about Baltimore and Washington being in the Southeast. If we are going to do this geographically, at least change the name of the divisions to reflect this accurately. I'm sorry, as a Braves fan I don't want to be in a division with the Orioles, Rays, Marlins and Nationals. No fucking thank you. Another interesting part of the way this division is aligned is the subject of attendance at games. This division contains the teams that are 15th, 21st, 25th, 29th, and 30th in home attendance. That doesn't bode well when no team in the division seems to be a draw.

Western Division: This isn't the "California Division," of course. The teams in that division are all in California. These are teams that are solidly in the West, like the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers. This division is essentially put together just so the Rangers and Astros can have rivalry games. Which apparently is all that matters because adding Seattle to this division to play the Diamondbacks, Astros and Rockies doesn't make sense because the Mariners don't have much of a rivalry with these teams since they aren't located in geographic proximity to them nor are they even currently in the same league as these three National League teams.

California Division: See, these teams are all in California. That's why it is called the California Division. Other than the name, I don't have a huge issue with this realignment. Maybe some of these teams wouldn't leave the state of California for an entire month while Seattle will have to travel to Texas to play, but this realignment is all about geography so the amount of travel isn't something Jim Bowden is worried about.

Geographic rivalries would increase attendance, revenue and excitement in the region where each team is located.

It would increase those things in divisions where there are geographic rivalries and between the teams that are rivals. I guarantee you in certain divisions revenue and excitement would be decreased. I am thinking selfishly of the Southeast Division where the Braves are in the same division as three teams that have been in their respective cities for less than two decades. I can't speak for all Braves fans, but I would hate being in this division.

For example, the following series -- Reds-Indians,

I'll give you Reds-Indians, but what about Indians-Pirates, Tigers-Reds, Reds-Twins? Are those big draws?


We already have Braves-Nationals/Marlins and those are not well-attended games. How about Orioles-Rays, Braves-Rays? You get my point. Would they be well-attended? I just don't know if well-attended interleague games are a reason to change the divisions around. We could be trading one well-attended series for other series that are question marks.

That's all nitpicking, here is the REAL problem with Bowden's expansion idea. He has an idea on how to do the playoffs as well.

Along with geographic realignment, my proposal would call for expanded playoffs that would increase the number of teams making the postseason from eight to 12.

Would every round, including the World Series, be a one-game playoff? Would the 12 teams that made the playoffs be shuffled around to play each other, not based on each team's record, but geographic area? We could be guaranteed a Yankees-Red Sox playoff nearly every year! Is there anything better than that?

In each conference, the three division winners and the three teams with the next-best records would be postseason-bound.

A playoff system where the three winners of the previous series move on to the next round. What could go wrong? Other than it is impossible, outside of a round robin tournament, for three teams to play and determine which of those teams make the World Series. One team would have to have a bye in the second round of the playoffs. That's not good.

The division winner with the conference's best record, the No. 1 seed, would play the No. 6 seed; the team with the second-best record, the No. 2 seed, would play the No. 5 seed, etc. The first round of the playoffs would be a best-of-five series.

Right now, this doesn't sound terrible. Outside of the whole "how are three teams going to advance to the next round problem," of which I eagerly await a resolution.

Spoiler alert: I won't get a solution. Nothing is given. These are the people ESPN hires to discuss baseball on their web site.

The next rounds would be best-of-seven series.


The regular season would begin around March 24, which would shorten spring training. During the first few weeks of the regular season, the games would be played in the National Conference,

I'm sorry, did we ever decide which hotel we were having this National Conference at? What are some of the available programs available at the National Conference?

where the weather is normally dryer and warmer, resulting in fewer rainouts and postponements.

I'm glad Jim Bowden is working hard to resolve the huge issue we have been having with snow postponements and rain-outs. I thought there would never be a person bold enough to investigate this non-issue, but I guess I underestimated Jim Bowden. I've always argued doubleheaders and snow are not ruining baseball, it's good to see someone willing to adjust the entire playing schedule to fix a non-issue like this.

Basketball and hockey have 16 playoff teams, so there is no reason Major League Baseball can’t increase its postseason teams from eight to 12.

Good point other than the basketball and hockey playoffs are fucking interminable and I am ready for them to end in late May, but they don't. Other than the fact I feel this way, this is a great idea. Maybe I have a short attention span, but I don't need the MLB playoffs to be too much longer. It's unavoidable if another layer of the playoffs is added, so I will have to accept this.

This would create more pennant races and more excitement in more cities come September.

I'm not a traditionalist when it comes to baseball. I am also not closed-minded enough to think more pennant races is a bad thing. Still, for some reason I have an issue with creating more playoffs teams, not because there are still qualified teams who get left out, but because it will create excitement in more cities during September. It is like a band writing two slow songs on their album just because it will cause their album to sell better. If the slow songs (teams) are good enough to make the album (playoffs) that's fine, but don't put them on the album (playoffs) unless they are really good enough. Otherwise you are forsaking quality for mass appeal.

It probably is true if the playoffs were expanding there would be more interest in cities during September, but I don't know if this would result in better ratings on television or during the playoffs. I am not sure I like the idea of the inclusion of more teams just to appeal to more people in more cities. The NFL has 12 playoff teams and that seems to work out well for them, so maybe it wouldn't be so bad. I am opposed to a playoff solution that results in playoff games that aren't competitive and any more than 12 teams would probably go that direction in my mind.

Baseball’s present proposal is to increase the playoff teams from eight to 10, by adding a second wild-card team. The problem with that concept is that the division winners would have to sit and wait for the wild-card series to end.

Because first round byes are just stupid? How the hell can Jim Bowden explain his 6 team playoff idea where there are 3 teams that move on to the next round? So a second round bye is perfectly fine, but a first round bye creates a problem?

In baseball, timing is important, and sitting and waiting is a detriment for both hitters and pitchers.


Is it okay to sit and wait during the second round, but not the first round?

The other problem with the current proposal is that the wild-card series would either be a single game or a best-of-three, lessening the chances of the best team moving on.

Agreed when it comes to a one game playoff, but disagree when it comes to a three game playoff. I that would be a somewhat fair system, especially if the "best team" gets homefield advantage in all three games or something similar to this.

And if it takes the weekend before the end of the regular season to clinch a playoff spot, a team's rotation might not be set up to give it a legitimate chance to win a short series.

Who gives a shit? Baseball is a team game. One of my biggest problems with the MLB playoffs is there is too much time between games. Some teams don't even have to use their 4th starter if they don't want to. I don't care if a team's rotation is "set up" or not. This is a time when a manager actually does some managing in order to decide how he wants his pitching staff used. He has to do this during the regular season due to injuries and other variables like that, why can't he do it during the postseason too?

If the Cardinals use Chris Carpenter to clinch a playoff berth then that was their decision. If it results in Jake Westbrook or Kyle Lohse having to start Game 1 then that is the decision that was made by Tony LaRussa. It is a decision that would need to be made by the manager. I just don't either care or have sympathy for teams that would whine they used their best pitchers to win the division so they need more time to "set" their rotation.

The time has come for baseball to go beyond moving just one team to a new league and to discuss a realignment plan that makes sense geographically

Or somewhat makes sense geographically. Maybe I am the only one who thinks Pittsburgh shouldn't be in the Central division under a "geographically correct" alignment plan. Yes, I realize the Pirates are currently in the Central, but the current divisional alignments don't make sense geographically. It is also impossible to do an entire alignment plan that makes sense geographically and not put Seattle with any of the California teams.

and is in sync with the plan to expand the playoffs.

How about this playoff plan, one that isn't overly complicated:

Move one National League team to the American League. Put the Houston Astros in the AL West. They can compete in a rivalry with the Rangers, so they will have a rival since that appears to be hugely important. The regular season will go on as it currently does or be cut to 154 games, which I wouldn't be opposed to.

Expand the playoffs to 12 teams with a three game playoff between the #3 and #6 teams and #4 and #5 teams in each league. The three game playoff will begin with a one day rest after the regular season and then the series will start with the teams having zero off days and all three games will take place at the higher ranked teams field (it can go 1-1-1, but no off days still).

That way the #1 and #2 seeds can set their rotation (since this is important and they have earned it), which they deserved to be able to do based on their record over the 162 game season, and they don't get a long time off to prevent them from forgetting how to play baseball. This apparently is a problem because teams need rest, but not too much rest to get rust. It seems like it is a delicate balance.

The winner of the three game playoff series goes on to play the #1 and #2 seeds. The #1 seed will play the lower ranked team that advances and the #2 seed will play the higher ranked seed team that advances. This is a five game series.

The next two rounds (ALCS/NLCS and World Series) will be seven game series. Great, sounds good.

I look forward to your thoughts and opinions.

Here's a thought. How are you going to resolve three teams moving on to the next round? Give one of the teams a bye? Didn't Jim Bowden just say teams shouldn't get a first round by because it messes up their timing? Shouldn't this pertain to the second round as well?

Here's an opinion. I don't hate the geographic realignment idea, but I don't think it should be done purely to cultivate the rivalries that already exist. Part of what makes the rivalries exist and makes them exciting is some of these teams don't play 20 games against each other during the year. If the Rangers-Astros played each other 20 times there is no guarantee it would turn into a Red Sox-Yankees type rivalry. I don't dislike the way the divisions are aligned now and I think if a more geographic alignment were done it would tear apart some current rivalries and try to force current interleague rivalries that may end up not existing (Marlins-Rays). I am in favor of realignment, but I don't know if teams need to be moved around in the divisions drastically.


Rich said...

First, he seems to move a lot of teams from the NL to the AL and vice versa. I know Bowden was a shitty GM, but he realizes how much of a disadvantage those teams are at?

Second, the Mets, Phillies, Red Sox and Yankees... You have to be fucking kidding me.

He says he wants to expand the playoffs to 12 teams. So six from each division. Three WCs. Would MLB really do something so stupid as to force Boston/Philly/New York to pray for a WC birth while playing probably the best teams in the league? Bud Selig isn't that stupid.

Lastly, the "California Division" would be the new NFC West. Two of them have shitty owners who don't give a fuck, one is in the middle of being taken over by MLB and the other hasn't done shit since they won their last WS. Guess SF gets to go to the playoffs by default the next decade while the Phillies have to change divisions and play the Sox and Yankees.

I'm speechless as to that stupidity.

Martin F. said...

Bowden is just a complete moron. One thing he has talked about and got toasted for on the ESPN boards was how he wanted 6 teams in each league to make the playoffs, but wanted no bye in the first round because it would hurt the team with the bye not playing.

Ponder 6 teams....3 series, 2 teams each. Hmmm, so we'd get....WTF? 3 teams?? So now a team has to take a second round bye? Do we go round robin from here on? WTF are you talking about Jim? And as you might notice, dumb mother just brushes aside anything past the first if 3 teams going to the 2nd round is somehow self-fucking-explanitory in how it's going to work.

No wonder this guy sucked as a GM, he can barely put a thought to paper for a new playoff structure.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, that's a good point I didn't think of. They will have a disadvantage for a season or so b/c of the DH.

There is NO WAY you can put those four large market teams in the same division. It can't happen. Plus, I like being in the same division as the Phillies. The Braves division fucking blows.

That is another good point. As things stand, the Phillies/Red Sox/Yankees would be among the best teams & they may have to play for a WC berth, which won't work.

Any realignment won't be completely fair, but to do it geographically isn't necessarily the best competitive idea.

Martin, that's what killed me too. It's like he got to the part about the playoffs and just said "screw it" I don't care if my plan has 3 teams make it to the next round. We'll figure that out later and just not mention it. That's a HUGE issue. A round robin is dumb and you can't give one team a week off.

I can't believe he proposed this whole idea, criticized the current playoff format and then breezed over the fact his playoff format is a clusterfuck.

Ericb said...

What happened to the Angels?

Ericb said...

Oops, sorry, I see it was just a cut and paste error.

Bengoodfella said...

Eric B, sorry I tried to cut and paste the best I could rather than write it all out. The Angels are in the California Division.

Murray said...

Get rid of the DH. I am sure the MLBPA will be all for giving up jobs

Bengoodfella said...

Murray, maybe those DH's can go back to the minors and become pitchers! What a great idea and everyone wins!

Pat said...

Just a rational thought to resolve a poorly conceived playoff idea. 6 teams would be plausible, but wouldn't a logical playoff system for each be the top two seeds get byes, the first round is a best of three, the second round a best of 5, and the championship and World Series best of sevens? Otherwise the only way Bowden's brilliantly conceived 6 teams no byes would work would be to have the team among the three advancing teams with the best record to bye into the LCS (I beg your pardon the CCS).

Martin F. said...

Part of Jim's reasoning on everything though is he wanted no byes...that's why there would be 6 teams and not 5. The fact that he had completely abandoned even looking at his playoff system after his 6 team proposal is what makes it all so great/f'ing moronic.

"6 Teams! That way each team has someone to play in the first round with no byes! I'm GENIUS!!" ~walks off to get a latte~

Bengoodfella said...

I love that Bowden didn't like byes and then set up a playoff system where there has to be byes used. My favorite, favorite part is he doesn't acknowledge this at all in his article on how the divisions should be realigned.