My posts about baseball the way it used to be, including my nostalgia for pennant races, have prompted my conservative cousin from New York to offer what he “modestly consider[s] the best baseball reform since The Agreement of 1903 which recognized the American League’s equality with the Nationals and established the World Series.” Here’s how it would work:
Merge the National and American league. Create four geographic-based divisions. Think of the rivalries Yanks-Mets, Cubs-White Sox, Angels-Dodgers, Pirates-Phillies and yes even Nationals-Orioles. Instead of those artificial inter-league games we’ll bring back the kind of enthusiastic rivalries that I used to see when the Brooklyn Dodgers faced the New York Giants 22 times a season. DH? You decide.
There would be eight teams in each of four divisions with expansion franchises in Northern New Jersey and Charlotte, North Carolina. Each team would play their divisional rivals fourteen times a season. The rest of the schedule would consist of six games with each of the eight teams in one of the three other divisions. The inter-divisional rivalries would rotate yearly. At the end of the 160 game season the four divisional winners would meet in a best of seven divisional series pitting champions of the two divisions that hadn’t met during the season. This would revive the suspense of the traditional World Series format where you had teams that played a completely different schedule facing each other for the first time. The winners would play in the Championship series.
A true World Series would be played at the All-Star break with four teams -the US, Latin America, Far East and Rest of World competing in a round robin tournament. This would replace the farcical World Baseball Classic where players in off-season shape risk serious injury. Many of the best refuse to play for this reason.
Here’s the divisional breakdown. Doesn’t it make you drool at the potential rivalries.
East: Boston, Yankees, Mets, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Balitimore, DC
South: St. Louis, Charlotte, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Florida, Houston, Texas, KC
Midwest: Minnesota, Toronto, Detroit, Cubs, White Sox, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Cincy
West: Colorado, Seattle, Oakland, SF, Dodgers, Angels, Arizona, San Diego
I used to favor something like this in the days when I cared deeply about baseball. As my cousin notes, his plan would create two new teams in order to have numerically balanced leagues. I’m not big on expansions, though I suspect that with the influx of so much talent from so many countries, baseball could accommodate two new clubs. Whether Charlotte and Northern New Jersey are the best places to put new teams, I do not know.
UPDATE: It seems to me that the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry is such that the two clubs should be in the same division.