Baseball’s traditions have been trampled over the years, especially under the watch of Commissioner Bud Selig.
Accommodating the fans, serving the players’ best interests, and preserving competitive integrity have taken a back seat to lining the pockets of his fellow owners.
The start of Interleague play this weekend served as a reminder that not only is it inherently unfair and inequitable (due to unbalanced scheduling), but that there will be Interleague games played every day next year, with the transfer of the Houston Astros to the AL West.
With Commissioner Selig serving as the mastermind of this plan, what could possibly go wrong?
Interleague play has found some appeal, particularly when it involves geographical rivals such as the Cubs and White Sox, Yankees and Mets, Dodgers and Angels, et al.
Where Interleague games lose their appeal is when it involves teams that have no history between them, and where no rivalry exists.
What makes sports is rivalries.
As Baseball struggles to maintain its pretense of deserving to be called The National Pastime, here is an admittedly radical plan to increase interest in the game, improve player performance, and better serve the fans.
---Abandon the current and long-standing tradition of the American and National Leagues. (The DH rule would be adopted for all teams in the sport.)
---Three 10-team divisions would be created.
---The Western Division would include Seattle, Oakland, S.F., L.A., Anaheim, San Diego, Arizona, Colorado, Houston, and Texas.
---The Central Division would consist of K.C., St Louis, Chicago Cubs and White Sox, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, and Toronto.
---The Atlantic Division would find Boston, N.Y. Yankees and Mets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, Baltimore, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Miami.
---As was the case when the leagues expanded in 1961 and 1962 (to ten teams each), each team would play all nine of its divisional opponents 18 times. 9 x 18 = 162. No games would be played outside of the division. The ideal of competitive balance would be achieved.
Most teams would stay in their own time zones throughout the season. Travel would be reduced substantially. It stands to reason that eliminating jet-lag would improve player performance.
Here’s how post-season play would be handled.
---Eight teams would get in.
---The three division winners would qualify.
---The top 5 non-division winners would qualify and be seeded according to their Won-Loss record. In case of ties, head-to-head records (if from the same division) would be used. If teams are in different divisions, than overall Run Differential would be used to break any ties.
---Say the season ends of a Sunday. On Tuesday, Team #8 plays at Team #5, and Team #7 plays at Team #6. One game. Loser out.
---On Wednesday, those two winners play at the higher seed. One game. Loser out.
---That winner plays Thursday at Team #4. One game. Loser out.
---After four games in three days of do-or-die baseball, you then have four surviving teams.
---On Saturday, you start the semi-finals. The #1 team would host the #4-8 survivor in a best-of-seven series, while Team # 2 would host Team #3.
---Winners would then play in the World Series. The higher seeded team would host games 1, 2, 6, and 7.
Here's how fans benefit from this new arrangement.
---Teams stay, primarily, in their own time zone. Evening games that start at 7 PM local time are convenient and make for lots of eyeballs watching games on TV from Monday through Friday. The hard-to-catch 4 PM starts (for us out West when our teams are back East), and 10PM starts (for East Coast teams that come out West) would be eliminated.
---For many fans, it would be easier for them to follow their team on the road - by actually driving to near-by away games.
---Rivalries would, in all likelihood, increase greatly. When teams play 18 games against all their divisional opponents each year, year after year, fans are bound to find other teams (and players) who they can easily learn to hate. Rivalries fuel interest in any sport.
---Fans of contending teams would take keen interest in all the other teams that are vying for one of the top 8 slots. Potential home playoff games would be at stake down the stretch.
---The three Division-winning teams would get the reward of resting up for several days from the end of the regular season until their first playoff series would begin. This would place a much greater value on actually winning the Division than currently exists, as the Division winners would clearly have a competitive edge in post-season play.
---Having only two rounds of seven-game series would mean the season would actually end well before Halloween, when temperatures are more suited to playing (and watching) Baseball, and players can compete in conditions that better resemble those they played in all year.
Granted, this is a radical departure from the tradition of American and National Leagues. But with so many other traditions having gone the way of the Sunday double-header, it might be time to give this one consideration.
There's no question about it.