Results tagged ‘ Realignment ’
A while back I wrote about how other sports leagues after mergers had to decide which rules to play under. The ABA/NBA merger in 1976 took away the 3 point shot from the four ABA teams that had used it in their former league. It would be just three seasons until the NBA adopted the rule for the 1979-80 season. Similarly, the AFL teams once legally merged into the NFL in 1970 had to take away 2 point conversions after touchdowns out of the playbook, until the NFL brought the play back for the 1994 season.
Now, let’s look at how other sports teams are structured and use that as a way to debunk the argument that it is better to have a less skilled pitcher as a batsman rather than a skilled hitter at the dish. IN early football it was more common for players to take the field both on offense and defense. Today in some very small high schools with limited roster sizes, you may still see a few players take the field on both sides of the ball, but a majority of players are going to play only with the offensive or defensive unit. Could you imagine asking Aaron Rodgers or tom Brady to play defense just because that was how old school football was played? How about asking star defensive cornerbacks to come in and play quarterback. Sure this happens on rare occasions with players moving off a natural position in football, where a receiver or running back plays QB in a wild cat formation, but that is about as common as a pitcher coming in to pinch run for a slow base runner who would then be replaced by the appropriate defensive player when the team went back into the field next half inning.
IN hockey and soccer, the goal tender is never used as an offensive player and all that is contributed from that position is the start of a break out the other direction via a long outlet pass to a skilled position player. In basketball, the point guard would never be expected to be a leading rebounder and the center would never be expected to lead the team in assists. So why then do baseball purists insist that watching a pitcher swing the bat is somehow enjoyable baseball?
I used to be among those who believed that the DH took away a degree of strategy from the game, that it was too easy to just leave the starting pitcher in the game since he would not take a turn at bat. But I now view this differently, because having the pitcher bat could be an easy excuse to use as a deciding factor on when to pull your ace while down a run in the 6th inning or later for a better hitter. In the DH world, you truly have to evaluate when your guy has begun to tire or be figured out by the opposition as he goes through the lineup for the third or fourth time and decide when you then put in that relief specialist. Managers today often go to the bullpen to maximize a winning opportunity based on hitter and pitcher matchups, so why not allow the manager to place a 9th skilled hitter into the lineup against a difficult opponent?
As I have noted before, most modern pitchers do not learn to hit if they have always been a career pitcher since high school. Even those who played a position and converted later when in college or the minor leagues often did so because they were viewed as more capable on the mound than in the batter’s box. IN the minor leagues below double A, pitchers never bat and in double and triple A, pitchers only bat if the game is contested by a pair of NL affiliates. Even when an NL affiliate is at home against an AL affiliate, the DH is still used, thus these pitchers have very limited batting experience as professionals. It would be like asking the quarterback to suddenly double as a kicker or defensive safety with very limited training or experience. In other words, given the practices of professional baseball today, such expectations on pitchers being able to take what would even be considered a quality turn at bat in the majors can only be described as asinine.
If you ever here the reason for not making a change in your business practice that goes like this, “we have always done it this way because it is our tradition”, then you should already have your BS detector raised to the maximum. For centuries, women had no voting or property rights and this was even true for more than half of this nation’s history. Only in the last century have our modern democracies encouraged literacy for all citizens. Many arguments against changing things, interracial marriage, same sex marriage are all steeped in some form of religious and political tradition. Baseball has many rich traditions but how many famous plays, important games, hall of fame worthy moments are tied to a contribution with a pitcher at bat? Can you name one? I’m waiting. Sure it is cool when a pitcher comes up and jacks one out of the park, but how many of those hits decided a critical game, much less a post season game and I’m talking any type of a hit by a pitcher at bat, not just homers.
To underscore the point, during the history of the league championship series, only three pitchers have homered for the winning team at any point during the series and one of those was Mike Cuellar for the Orioles in 1970 before the AL brought the DH into existence. The other two, Don Gullett for the Reds in 1975 and Jeff Suppan for the Cardinals in 2006. How many world Series winners have had a pitcher go deep during any point of the series, not many. That list features only 8 names, Jim Bagby of the 1920 Indians, Jesse Haines with the 1926 Cardinals, Bucky Walters of the 1940 Reds, Bob Gibson with the 1967 Cardinals, Mickey Lolich with the 1968 Tigers, Dave McNally with the 1970 Orioles, Ken Holtzman of the 1974 Athletics and Joe Blanton with the 2008 Phillies. IN fact, no pitcher homered in any post season game from 1976 through 2005. The best baseball played is when the best pitchers face the best hitters with capable defensive players in the field, so why not have a universal DH?
Modern baseball is starting to evolve in a way that also would debunk the argument that says, the DH is not contributing to the team as a defensive player. Some teams now are using the DH as a way to rest another wise capable defensive player from time to time. So as more and more teams want to focus on having a versatile roster of players who have high defensive value, from time to time one of those players may need a day off from play in the field, but they would still be capable of swinging the bat for four or five turns during a particular game at DH. Finally, give me Edgar Martinez any day over Randy Johnson as a hitter, give me David Ortiz over Pedro Martinez and give me Jeff Bagwell in 2005 instead of any Astro pitcher during that World Series when the Astros were still an NL team. Oddly, had Houston been an AL team, Bagwell might have been able to continue as a hitter who would have been limited to DH only.
A universal DH brings about other potential implications for the good of the game. While this piece won’t be an extensive overview of potential realignment, another topic I have written about before, clearly having one unified Major League Baseball playing under unified rules makes for a more seamless transition from one division to another. When the Brewers went from the AL to the NL in 1998, they had a team that was built with a DH in mind and on the roster under contract, with only the 1997-98 offseason to adjust. When Houston needed to transition from NL to AL, the franchise had a year notice and could begin planning accordingly, even before the 2012-13 offseason arrived. Such a unified system would allow for more geographic realignment which would make it possible to create new divisions and organize franchises in ways that would in some ways remind fans of the reported but never considered radicle realignment detailed in media reports in August 1997.
IN closing, MLB needs to deal with this situation once and for all. You never saw the AFC playing under different rules from the NFC after the 1970 NFL merger. Baseball I have argued needs to settle on one common rule, DH or no DH for all teams. My vote clearly has evolved, as I now think given today’s game structure, the universal adoption of the DH is the only proper way to go. The only time we should ever see another pitcher at bat, is if the existing DH gets put into the field as a defensive player.
Fans who want baseball to return to Montreal have circled March 28 and 29 on their baseball calendars, the two dates when former MLB ballpark Olympic Stadium (using the ballpark term loosely), will once again play host to the great game which was last on display on its artificial surface for the final Montreal Expos home game on Wednesday September 29, 2004, a loss to the Florida Marlins. Nine and one half years will have passed between that final Expos game and the two-game exhibition series between the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets. For its criticisms, at least the Big Owe did not turn into a sewage dump like the Oakland Coliseum and if the Athletics ever did leave the Bay Area, the one city that thinks it has a suitable temporary stadium big enough for Big League ball is Montreal. Of course such a relocation would be tied to a new stadium that would eventually become home to the new Expos and sadly one of the great logos and team names tied to the long and glorious history of the Athletics would be lost. That is assuming that the Athletics moved to Montreal.
ON those same dates of March 28 and 29, San Antonio is trying to sell baseball on its viability as a future home to a Big League franchise such as the Athletics. San Antonio managed to transform its white elephant known as the Alamo dome into a temporary baseball park, as the stadium built in 1990 was intended to bring football and keep the NBA Spurs in town, but it was never even considered for baseball. IN fact, baseball was the only major North American sport that the venue genuinely could not hold under its original configuration and design. Yet a year earlier in 2013, the stadium hosted a two-game exhibition series between the Texas Rangers and San Diego Padres, a series that drew 35,000 the same night the Spurs were in town and then pulled in another 40,000 the next afternoon. This year while the Jays and Mets are playing in Montreal, San Antonio plays hosts to the two existing Big League teams from the Lone Star State as the Rangers face the Houston Astros. The Alamodome too would be just a temporary site if San Antonio were to obtain a team in Major League Baseball, as a stadium designed truly for baseball would have to be built.
A second franchise though will closely be watching the unfolding of events in Montreal and San Antonio; the Tampa Bay Rays WHO HAVE PLAYED IN A LESS THAN IDEAL BASEBALL SETTING SINCE THEIR 1998 INCEPTION. From almost the beginning, the Rays ownership groups found out a hard lesson in baseball real estate, its location stupid and it’s also about having a truly available local fan base that didn’t already have a team to call its own. Tropicana Field when it was built was supposed to be the modern baseball domed stadium, only it was built before the region even had a chance at a team, built before the new modern take on ballparks in Baltimore, Cleveland, Arlington and Denver forever changed the way a ballpark is designed. Worse, the stadium was built in a location that lacked desirable fan experiences outside the ballpark and it was a night mare to travel to the facility from Tampa by public transit. Even with its problems though, fan attendance more than anything showed how the Tampa area was not ready for Major League Baseball. Average attendance in the expansion season of 1998 was around 30,000, dropping sharply to 18,000 the next year and average attendance has never again touched even 20,000 despite the Rays posting winning and contending seasons now for six straight years. Montreal averaged more than 25,000 a game during its high point from 1979-1983 and for several other seasons between 1984-1997, the Expos averaged more fans than what the Rays have drawn since their second year in St. Petersburg. As much as Florida fans are rightly criticized, Miami had an excuse in that the stadium was not truly built for baseball when the Marlins moved into Joe Robbie starting in 1993. Miami drew 37,000 that season, 32,000 in 1994 and even after the strike, they drew over 20,000 in 1995 and 1996, peaking at 29,000 in 1997. If ownership didn’t tear down a championship franchise, Marlins attendance would not have been ruined as it would be for years to come, a situation only further inflamed by the breaking down of the 2012 team after the new ballpark opened in south Florida. The Miami fans can be forgiven for not trusting their local team’s ownership to do right by the fans, the same cannot be said for Tampa. Miami for its first 19 years had a genuine issue of not knowing if the rain would wash out the game, Tampa fans did not have that problem to deal with either. Comparing the Rays fans to the Diamondbacks and Rockies fans in their franchise history is an insult to the fans of the Rockies and Diamondbacks, though one can argue with some truth that those teams both quickly rose to successful heights.
What the Rockies and Diamondbacks have though is something the Marlins lacked and something the Rays truly lack, a genuine local fan base with local roots. Many Arizona and Colorado fans did not have teams of their own to cheer on growing up, they watched and listen to games play by teams far away. Many of the fans in Florida though did not grow up in Florida, but rather in cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, and thus those fans cheer for their favorite home town nine when their heroes pay a visit to Miami and especially to St. Petersburg.
Could baseball expand again to 32 teams and perhaps give those franchises to San Antonio and Montreal, sure it could, but this season marks 16 years since the 1998 expansion and next season will be year 17; 16 years was the previous record time between new franchise additions from 1977-1993. Thus, the more likely result for San Antonio and or Montreal is to obtain and relocate an existing franchise and the Athletics and Rays are both primed picking.
The loss of the original Athletics name would not of course be a new thing for baseball, because while the Braves, Giants, Dodgers and Athletics have maintained their team names following relocation, the Browns changed to the Orioles when they transferred from St. Louis to Baltimore and both of the franchises that left Washington took on new names as the Twins and Rangers. So while Montreal could bring back Le Expos, San Antonio’s team would also probably take on a local flavor in its identity and the top candidate would be Missions, in honor of the long time minor league team name that is inspired by the cities long history with the old Mexican missions and presidios.
How would this impact alignment? Montreal would be a natural fit in the AL East with Boston, the Yanks, Baltimore and Toronto. If the Rays go to Montreal, it is just a natural progression, while if the Athletics went to Quebec, the Rays would be moved to the Central and the Royals would have to shift west. An Athletics move to San Antonio would require no change in division alignments and Texas would have three teams in the same division, I would recommend a flip of Houston or the new San Antonio franchise to the NL and a transfer of Arizona or Colorado to the AL. If Tampa moves to San Antonio and Oakland stays put on the west coast, that franchise would have to move into the AL West with Texas and Houston, thus pushing the Astros to the NL Central, moving the Brewers to the AL Central and moving the Tigers back to the AL East, so that your divisions would be as follows: AL West: Seattle, Oakland, LA Angels, Texas, San Antonio…AL Central: Kansas City, Minnesota, Chicago Sox, Milwaukee, Cleveland…AL East, Detroit, Toronto, Boston, New York Yankees, Baltimore…NL West, San Francisco, LA Dodgers, San Diego, Arizona, Colorado…NL Central, Houston, St. Louis, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh…NL East, New York Mets, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Miami.
March 28-29 will mean a lot to observers in many cities, in New York at the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, in Oakland, in St. Petersburg. But it will mean more perhaps to those in Montreal and San Antonio than anywhere else, as they make their case for expansion or relocation into Major League Baseball. They won’t have Spurs basketball or Canadiens hockey to compete with, the former plays a road game on Friday and will be home Saturday night after the 1:05 start for baseball in San Antonio, the ladder is off Friday and plays a Saturday night road game after the 1:05 start of baseball in Montreal.
Given the unlikely chance that two different franchises would relocate at the same time, Montreal and San Antonio will be competing in one major column that shows up in the boxscore and it is not runs, hits, errors, or runners left on base, no its that very last number on the page, ATT. Which stands for attendance.
From 1901 to 1960, 16 teams called Major League Baseball home. Between 1961 and 1977, a period covering 17 seasons, 10 franchises were added. It would be 16 more seasons until the Rockies and Marlins joined in 1993, followed by the Diamondbacks and what were then known as the Devil Rays five years later in 1998. While the Devil may be out of the Rays, there is no doubt that the devil is always in the details, or in this instance, those details that are not yet known as to baseball’s future expansion potential. But whereas it seemed possible in 2002 that contraction would occur, there are clearly no arguments in my view that support future contraction and yet several arguments that support future expansion.
Every time expansion takes place, there are those who say that the talent is watered down further in the Major Leagues, but can anyone genuinely say that our baseball of 2013 is more watered down than it was during the golden age? During the golden age, blacks were just beginning to be allowed to play in our highest level of pro ball and the concept of international players, much less international scouting and the draft were ideas that only the brightest outside the box thinking types could have conceived. Now look at where our game is today, the Great American Pastime has become the great global game and all signs are that it will only continue to grow all over the world. Sure there have always been the baseball hot beds like Venezuela and the Dominican, but look at what developments have taken place in nations like the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Mexico, South Korea, all who have contributed a great deal of talent to our top level of baseball. I have not even mentioned Japan, which had 0 MLB players in 1994, now you are likely to find a player from Japan on every single organizational roster and more than just one in some cases. Then there are the many Cuban players who have defected and come to the US to play. If and when relations are ever more open between the two bitter rival governments, there will be a flood of talented players coming across the Florida straits seeking big league money and big league exposure.
Then there is Europe, which many baseball experts who follow the international game believe is the future growth spurt of an even deeper international talent pool. It would not be surprising at all to see nations like Italy, Germany, France, and Spain get to where the Dutch are today and that can only mean one thing, even more big league capable players seeking work.
What does this mean for the future of MLB? It simply means that the game which is expanding globally will eventually have to expand to meet fan and player demands if our professional baseball circuit is to maintain its clear status as the world premier league of top notch professional competition. Now, I present my big and bold expansion proposal.
The expansion would be a record for MLB, six teams at one time. Some of you are now taking a big gulp and catching your breath, really, six teams? But let’s put this in some perspective. IN 1969 when four teams joined, they increased the size of the league from 20 to 24 teams, or an increase of 20% in size. Each team took 30 players in the expansion draft, meaning each of the 20 existing organizations lost six players to the new kids on the block. IN the 1977 expansion that added just two teams in the AL, they too took 30 players each. Since they only drafted from AL rosters, the impact was similar for those 12 existing AL teams, losing five players each. The impact on existing teams was much less in the 1993 and 1998 expansions because for one thing, more existing teams were available to be picked from. So in 1992, the Rockies and Marlins each added 36 players, six more than in prior expansions, but the impact was just three players from each NL organization, three players from eight AL organizations, and 2 players from the remaining six AL members. The 1997 expansion saw the Rays and Diamondbacks each take 35 players, this time as before, some organizations lost three players and others lost just two. Given the fact that we now have 30 teams plus all of the affiliated minor league clubs that are part of the farm systems, expanding by six teams and letting each team take 25 players would not be asking all that much. If each new team took 25 players, that would mean a loss of 5 players from each existing organization, which would be no more impactful than what we saw in the 1969 expansion. Furthermore, increasing from 30 to 36 teams is mathematically exactly the same as increasing from 20 to 24 teams, in that you expand the size of MLB by 20%.
Where to put these six teams? Now there are several approaches that one can take when thinking of where and how to expand. Fans and critics will take note and offer their own ideas and responses, but when reading this. in my view, what follows is a sound judgment in terms of my philosophy of expansion.
I’ve read a couple articles recently that said if baseball expands, Brooklyn should be considered and I agree, given the history of baseball in that location. But the one thing I would say that would counter this view, is the fact that baseball is in more dual markets than any other sport. The NBA has two teams each in Los Angeles and New York, assuming the Kings stay in Sacramento, they are not too far from Oakland which is home of the Warriors, though Sacramento is not considered part of the Bay Area market like San Jose and thus the reason San Jose is much favored over Sacramento to land the Athletics assuming they do eventually move from Oakland. The NFL has three dual markets, Oakland/San Francisco, Washington/Baltimore, and New York. The NHL has a dual market with Los Angeles/Anaheim and a tri market with New jersey and the two New York teams. Baseball has five dual markets, Los Angeles/Anaheim, San Francisco/Oakland, New York, Washington/Baltimore, and Chicago. Add to that fact that Philadelphia is right between DC and New York, San Diego is not that far from Anaheim, and Milwaukee is not far from Chicago, and you quickly see that 15 teams or one half of all of MLB is concentrated in five geographic regions, more than any other sports league. Those facts which are very strait forward doom the Brooklyn idea.
So where does MLB go? Go west was a phrase heard during the mass expansion of the United States and North America in general, I apply that in part to baseball, which has cities in Portland and Vancouver that both seem ready to support the great game. Vancouver was a candidate for the 1998 teams but was quickly passed over for the Florida Sun Coast and Desert southwest. Portland has also been mentioned for years as a future expansion or relocation site and it is time that baseball put steaks down in a city that has proven it will support a team that tries to put a good product out there for the fans, see the Portland Trail Blazers for that example from pro hoops.
City number three, San Antonio. The Rangers and Padres series at the end of spring training drew 35 thousand on the same night the Spurs were playing at home, then 40 thousand for a 1PM start the next day, at a place that can only be described as the most temporary baseball setting imaginable, the Alamodome, which was never built or intended for baseball of any kind, period! This would provide a third team in Texas and it is crazy that the Lone Star State, home to a population only smaller than California does not have a third team. The Dallas Fort Worth metro is after all much larger in population than Washington/Baltimore and one could genuinely argue that a second team could also go to DFW, though I don’t propose such a move.
My other three teams go in the eastern region of the continent, one back to Montreal which MLB never gave a fair chance and as we now see in Miami, the marlins owner cares nothing about the fans and he was the nail in the coffin for the Expos in 2001 when his ownership forced the clock to strike midnight in Montreal. Remember that there were several times back in the period of the 1970’s and early 1980’s that the Expos were on par with or outdrew their counterparts in new York, both the Mets and Yankees, so history tells us with no doubt that Montreal was and is a baseball town. They should revisit the plans for Labatt Park, because the Big Owe will only serve as a temporary home.
Finally, the fifth and sixth franchises go to the southeast US, no not to Florida which has sadly been baseball’s worst experiment for the simple fact that unlike Phoenix, Denver, and other cities mentioned here, Florida cities are full of transplants who could give a damn about a local team because they root for their team from back home. While one of these two slots could instead go to Brooklyn, I have instead chosen Charlotte and Nashville. Both have had success with new franchises and only ownership issues caused concern for Nashville’s NHL franchise and ruined fan interest in Charlotte’s first NBA team. Both cities are solid distances from the nearest markets of St. Louis, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Washington, certainly further away than San Diego is from Orange County and further than Milwaukee is from Chicago.
So now to the question of alignment, how will this all work? My proposal calls for Charlotte to join the existing teams in the AL East and for Nashville to join the AL Central. Portland and San Antonio would both go to the AL West, while Houston would transfer back to the NL Central. Vancouver would join the NL West and Montreal the NL East, plus Pittsburgh and Atlanta would flip divisions, Atlanta to the NL Central and Pittsburgh to the NL East. Now that I’ve made everyone grab for their maps, here is the easy to digest version of alignment.
AL East, Toronto, Boston, NY Yankees, Baltimore, Charlotte, Tampa.
AL Central, Kansas City, Minnesota, Chicago Sox, Nashville, Cleveland, Detroit.
AL West, San Antonio, Texas, LA Angels, Oakland, Portland, Seattle.
NL East, Miami, Washington, NY Mets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Montreal.
NL Central, Houston, St. Louis, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Atlanta.
NL West, Colorado, Arizona, San Diego, LA Dodgers, San Francisco, Vancouver.
Time table for expansion, award franchises in 2015, franchises can begin participating in the amateur draft and international free agency process in 2016, new MLB teams take the field opening day, April 2, 2018.
In March of 1995, while baseball was mired in what seemed like a never ending labor dispute that brought us replacement players, no Orioles team, and the prospect of Blue Jays games played at a 6000 seat stadium on the Florida gulf coast, MLB announced that in 1998 a pair of new teams would join the circuit. We learned of the future teams that would be called the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays and immediately there was talk of which leagues the teams might play in. While the Devil was taken out of the Rays following the 2007 season, the devil in the details of realignment was seemingly dealt with in October of 1997, when the Brewers were moved from the American League to the National League. Some thought this was the best move that could be made, others though felt baseball took the easy way out, baseball was afraid to make any big and bold changes some said. Changes like having interleague games on the schedule every day of the season. Interleague play after all was a brand new experience for the fans, 1997 was the first year of such games and we were lead to believe that no fan in his or her right mind could accept the fact that the Yankees might play a series against the Pirates on the season’s final weekend, because that somehow would ruin the purity of the pennant race, it would somehow create some artificial form of unfairness to the other AL East teams. Of course anyone who truly followed baseball, realized that argument held water like a civ, because it would have been no different than the Yankees playing any team from the AL Central and given the alignment at that time, at least one Eastern team had to play a Central team every day on the schedule that the four Western teams faced one another.
The result from this silly idea was that the two leagues would not have the same number of teams, of course baseball justified that by reminding us that from 1977-92, we had two extra teams in the AL. The argument against 15-15 also was this odd idea that the AL West would have to take a second team from the Central Time Zone, or move the Rockies or Diamondbacks to that division and slide a Central Time zone team from the NL Central to the NL West, likely the Astros. Hmmm, so it was good enough for the Rangers to be in a western division but no one else? The arguments were to some including me, filled with a lot of hot air that was fouled by the aroma of arguments that failed a simple smell test.
IN 1995 while attending Texas A&M, I personally wrote the then “Acting Commissioner of Baseball” and I did receive a reply from Mr. Selig. My proposal was a detailed realignment that featured interleague games starting with the 1998 season. My alignment was simple, Kansas City would move to the American League’s Western division joining Texas, Oakland, Seattle, and the then California, now Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels. Detroit which at the time was in the AL East would move to the Central and Tampa Bay would go into the East. Baseball instead opted to leave Kansas City in the AL Central and shove Milwaukee over to the NL Central, an idea I thought was silly. Arizona of course went to the NL West as I proposed and no other changes took place in the senior circuit. The main difference from my proposal was what happened to the Royals and Brewers. To me, sure Milwaukee was an NL city for 13 years with the Braves, but for 28 years with the Brewers, they were an AL city and the AL was where the Brewers belonged.
Now all these years later, baseball finally figures out that 15-15 is not so bad, yet the thought of simply moving the Brewers back to the AL and sliding KC to the Western Division was not even thought of, at least that is the view that I hold. Nor was any consideration given of moving Colorado or Arizona to the AL, teams which did not have the long history of being in the NL like say, the Houston Astros. No, instead baseball’s reaction is to move Houston, which had been an NL team for nearly half a century over to the AL, focusing on the now in-state rivalry with the Texas Rangers.
I have three points to make as it relates to this argument for moving the Astros to the American League, again seeing how baseball officials want to underscore it seems the ability of fans to see through their collective smoke screen. For starters, this rivals argument is again a leaking civ. The Phillies and Pirates have always been NL rivals and in the same state, the only situation that was like this until Houston joins Texas in the AL next season. How important was the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh rivalry? It was so important that the Pirates were put in a different division from the Phillies with the move from two to three divisions in 1994. Following the advent of the new schedule that was more focused on divisional games starting in 2001, the NL Pirates and NL Phillies sometimes played each other no more frequently than the Yankees and Mets, or Cubs and White Sox, or Angels and Dodgers in interleague games during the same season. So the evidence clearly shows that the supporting arguments for the mythical intrastate rivalry, fails the smell test badly and if this were a legal case, lawyers making such arguments would have been run out of court faster than a mouse that was chased out by a hungry Siamese cat for producing such easily refuted statements.
Second, if the rivals argument is the source of how to align, insisting to align based on geography and this state rivalry notion, then the following argument must be made and followed through on by baseball executives. Pittsburgh must move back to the Eastern Division of the National League and Atlanta is thus moved to the Central Division. A good map or GPS system is all it takes to realize that Pittsburgh is a good bit further east than Atlanta, Pittsburgh is just east of the 80 degree meridian of longitude and almost due north of Miami, where as Atlanta is past the 84 degree meridian and nearly due south of Cincinnati. To make the rivalry argument, then this approach to realignment is a slam dunk to borrow a phrase from another sport as geography clearly shows that Atlanta should be with Cincinnati, the Cubs, Milwaukee, and St. Louis, while Pittsburgh joins the Mets, Washington, Philadelphia, and Miami.
Lastly, the new alignment will have completely removed a large part of the southern US from National League exposure, as fans in Texas will now have to go to St. Louis, Denver, or Atlanta to see National League games on a regular basis. Growing up in Texas, one of the great things about having a team in each league, was the ability to at any point in the season, go to Houston or Arlington and know that every other team in baseball would be making an appearance in one of those cities. Now given how baseball does interleague games, it is a safe bet that the same teams would be put on the Astros and Rangers home schedule and allow for less exposure to the other half of major league teams during the season. Texas fans we must not forget are not like Pennsylvania fans, where Philadelphia fans are an hour 20 minute train ride from Yankee games or just under two hours to Orioles games. Similarly, Pittsburgh fans are roughly a three-hour drive from Cleveland games, thus giving them much easier access to see teams from the other league if they so desire. Texas fans now will have to drive more than half a day to get to an NL city with the move of Houston to the AL in the 2013 season.
In conclusion, baseball gets it right by going to 15-15, this should have and could have been done prior to 1998 when the Rays and D’Backs came into existence. Baseball’s ultimate solution though came up way short, because what could and should have been done was never considered and now the fans of the south central US and Texas in particular, find themselves left out in the cold, not to mention fans of other NL teams who through 2012, knew they could go to Houston and see their home town team roll in for a game in the Space City.
Baseball needs to get it right and consider leaving Houston in the NL and moving Milwaukee back to the AL where the Brewers called home for their first 28 years in baseball, following their 1970 flight from Seattle.