Divisional Realignment And Other Suggested Changes To MLB

Another MLB season has come and gone.

Since Commissioner Rob Manfred stepped into the role in 2015, he has been looking for opportunities to grow the league and rules to make the games more efficient and ultimately more enjoyable.

In the last few years, the league has made rule changes with the objective of improving the overall pace of the game (shortening commercials, time between innings, fewer pitching changes). Starting in 2020, pitchers will be required to face a minimum of three batters in a game, thus diminishing the bombardment of pitching changes in the second half of games.

But now, I will make some additional suggestions to Mr. Manfred for future league expansion opportunities, divisional realignment, and scheduling, and playoff format.

Expansion

The MLB has not expanded since 1998 when Tampa Bay and Arizona joined. The current 21 year expansion drought is the longest one in the modern era.

Expansion is a matter of when not if. Once the A’s and Ray’s lock up new ballparks (which I think they will do instead of relocating), the expansion whispers will get louder.

Options include: Montreal, Vegas, Portland, Charlotte, Austin, Vancouver, Nashville, and more.

I think the league should add two teams, bringing the total to 32. I think those two teams should be Montreal and Charlotte.

Yes – the Expos’ attendance was extremely low in their final years. However, I think that is more driven by a bad owner and poor timing (1994 strike when they were a great team) than the city’s interest in a team. Let’s give Montreal back their team and they can even keep the team name.

Currently having two other professional teams, Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing areas of the East Coast. Additionally, this addition would fill a big gap geographically between D.C. and Atlanta. They currently have a AAA team (the Knights) with a stadium in downtown Charlotte that definitely could be expanded to meet the needs of a major league audience.

A (Potentially Far Fetched) Divisional Realignment

By adding two teams, this calls for a rearranging of the divisions. I am proposing the creation of eight separate divisions with four teams each. This many teams switching leagues may be too weird, but being too logical wouldn’t be much fun here. This goes without saying, but I am assuming that by this time there is a universal DH. Sorry pitchers who rake.

I created the divisions by primarily emphasizing the geographic regions. I hope that this would add and enhance some rivalries between divisions. Additionally, I think this realignment would act as a natural competitive balance by having the coastal cities/larger markets grouped together for the most part.

Some notes on the divisions:

  • The more divisions, the more potential division races and interest down the stretch. More fans and intrigue.
  • Yes – I know the Brewers and Twins aren’t south in any definition of the word, but I wanted these two teams together for rivalry purposes. At least all four teams in the AL South are in the same time zone.
  • I like adding the two Chicago teams to the same division. I thought about trying to do this with the LA and NY markets, but I couldn’t find a good and balanced way to make this happened.
  • AL Central is super rust-belt and midwestern.
  • Not too many changes to either of the West divisions.
  • Added the expansion teams in divisions with potential good rivals (Charlotte/Atlanta and Montreal/Toronto)
  • NL East looks fun. Adds Baltimore to the already existing Nats/Phils/Mets rivalry.

Schedules / Interleague Play

In today’s three division format, the schedule is as follows:

  • 76 games played within division (19 games against each of the 4 other teams)
  • 66 games played against other divisions within league (you play some teams 6 times and others 7 times)
  • 20 interleague games

Based off my new divisional format described above, I am proposing the following schedule for a team:

  • 66 games played within division (22 against each team)
  • 84 games played against other divisions within league (7 per team)
  • 12 games against rotating interleague division (3 per team)

I continue to emphasize divisional play (3 more games against an opponent per year) because I think this is key to growth in the game. Regional rivalries are bound to increase fan engagement and growth – especially with heated divisional titles coming down to the final weeks. Look at College Football. Obviously football and baseball are apples to brussel sprouts, but the concept remains similar.

I am also reducing interleague game numbers from 20 to 12. I like the idea of the MLB adopting the NFL method of having rotating schedules for interleague play. (e.g. this year the NL East plays the AL East, next year they play the AL Central, the next the AL South, and then the AL West, and so forth.) Yeah – so the Orioles only come to PNC Park every 8 years. I am okay making that sacrifice.

Playoff Structure

Adding an even number of divisions does require a change of the playoff format. I am limiting the playoff qualifiers from each league to six.

The two division winners with the best record in each league will have a bye. The next two division winners in each league will host two wild cards in a best-of-three play in series acting as a play-in round.

As a way to reward the division winner playing in the play-in game, all three games of this series will be at home for the team who won the division.


That’s what I have for now. Readers – feel free to play commissioner too and let me know what you’d what to change. And Mr Manfred, my DMs are open…

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