Do you like baseball the way it is? Probably. Its popularity has steadily increased since the strike of 1994, but that hasn’t stopped Bud Selig, the MLB commissioner, from toying around with different ideas like interleague play and the wild card addition to the playoffs. Due to the success of these ideas and many others, consideration has been given to realignment of the two leagues and expansion of the playoffs. As a longtime fan, I’m skeptical, but ultimately, I think baseball could be made better with a few tweaks.
The current proposal sent down from the MLB offices would eliminate the divisions(East, West, and Central), leaving only the two leagues(American and National) as distinct entities. The top five teams at the end of the season would advance to the playoffs. Many would claim that this takes away the celebration and pride that comes with being a division champion, but I think there’s a way to implement the new system without taking away the pageantry that is owed to a playoff team. In each league, every playoff team would be seeded one through five, therefore at the beginning of the next season, the playoff honorees would unveil a giant numeral that represents the previous year’s playoff seed. Imagine the pageantry of the third seeded Seattle Mariners hoisting a forty foot, neon green number three in left field as the fans are chanting “Three! Three! Three!”. For years, fathers would bring their sons and daughters to the games and would proudly provide the answer to their child’s queston, “Dad, what’s that giant three out there?” and he will regale them with memories of the baseball warriors from the Pacific Northwest who took on the world in the month of October, only to fall short in the Divisional Series due to lack of depth in the bullpen. You can’t write poetry that good.
Does this mean that I want this realignment to happen? Hardly. I’m a big fan of the current structure, and while it has its flaws, it has worked pretty well. If anything, I propose that we take the benefits we have discovered with the current system and expand upon them. Don’t get me wrong. I have a proposal for MLB realignment, but I doubt that most “traditionalists” would be ready for it.
One thing that has worked very well in the current format is the unbalanced schedule. Divisional opponents play each other more than those teams outside their division, and with this familiarity comes contempt. Rivalries have formed between teams where none had been present prior to 1995. Bad blood between St. Louis and Cincinnati, Boston and Tampa Bay and Colorado and Arizona, have added spice and raised the stakes of mid-season games. I have several changes that would further breed contempt in an unprecedented manor and elevate baseball to being just shy of a bloodsport.
1) Take the existing thirty teams and split them into fifteen leagues comprised of just two teams. These teams would play each other 162 times.
2) The two teams in a division would share a five bedroom, two bath townhouse with no internet, television, or outside communication. The jacuzzi would be first come, first serve, but would always seem to smell.
3) Every Friday night, each team would be forced to participate in an inter-divisional wife swap, which would last for three days and end in the wife selecting the better lover.
4) Whenever a player reaches first base, he must tell a “Your Mama” joke to the first baseman.
5) Every first baseman must be sensitive to “Your Mama” jokes.
6) At the beginning of each game, a coin flip will determine which team will be humming “Firework” by Katy Perry all night. Try getting that out of your head.
Now I know what you’re thinking. If there are fifteen division winners, that would mean fifteen teams make the playoffs, thereby extending an already lengthy process into early winter. In order to allow such a large number of teams into the postseason, a unique playoff system would have to be implemented. The first round of the playoffs would have the least popular division winners(as chosen by the FOX network) playing a seven game series in two days and repeating this process until only four teams remain. The most popular teams(again, as chosen by Fox) would not participate in the first round and would go straight to their league championship game. Joe Buck and Bob Costas would call every game of the playoffs and would be required to use the phrase “Most historic game, ever!” at least three times a night. The league championship series would last the usual seven games, while the World Series would be nineteen games. All nineteen games would be played even if a team had already won ten. Each game would have a four day break between them so as to let the pitching aces of both teams pitch every game. Imagine the ratings. Consequently, the Simpsons Halloween Special would air in early February.
This may sound like some radical changes to our American pasttime, but when the game first started in 1971, players still believed that small men lived inside their bats which granted their homerun wishes. I’m pretty confident my changes will someday be commonplace, but we should do it now and enjoy the entertainment before the robots overrun the game.