With Universal DH, MLB Needs Radical Realignment And Postseason
With the institution of the universal DH, MLB has officially killed off National League Baseball. As such, the only real difference between the two leagues is their names. One just happens to be the American League, and the other just happens to be the National. Why are we even bothering anymore?
It’s not like changing up divisions and leagues is unheard of in this sport. Tom Seaver led the Mets to the first ever NL East title in 1969. Prior to that, there were no divisions in either league. Fast forward to 1994, and the Montreal Expos would have won the division led by players like Moises Alou, Cliff Floyd, and Pedro Martinez. Of course, that season didn’t reach completion because of the strike.
As a result, the first World Series with a Wild Card in the postseason was won by the Atlanta Braves with Tom Glavine taking home World Series MVP honors. The Braves would win the NL East as part of their journey. An interesting fact here is the Braves won the first ever NL West title, and they actually played the Mets in the inaugural NLCS.
Baseball has moved and changed teams and divisional structures as they have seen fit. When baseball expanded in 1998 to include the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Milwaukee Brewers were moved from the AL Central to the NL Central. In 2013, the Houston Astros, who were an expansion team the same season as the Mets, were switched from the NL Central to the AL West because baseball wanted six five team divisions.
Things change according to the random whims of the commissioner. We see that has happened with the institution of the universal DH, and we are likely going to see it again with MLB trying to increase the amount of postseason teams from the current five per league to seven per league. That is again completely radical, and it cries for the need for another correlative move.
Before delving further, one of the reasons for the push for an expanded postseason is increased revenues. It should also be noted the reason for revenue sharing and compensation systems is to address the (laughable) assertions owning an MLB franchise isn’t profitable and costs need to be reduced. One major cost which can be cut is travel fees.
To do that, you can more geographically align the divisions of baseball like it is done in the NBA and NHL. After all, we see MLB trying to more align their sport like those, so why not take a look at what that would look like:
- Baltimore Orioles
- Boston Red Sox
- New York Mets
- New York Yankees
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Washington Nationals
- Atlanta Braves
- Cincinnati Reds
- Houston Astros
- Miami Marlins
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Texas Rangers
- Chicago Cubs
- Chicago White Sox
- Cleveland Guardians
- Detroit Tigers
- Kansas City Royals
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Minnesota Twins
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Colorado Rockies
- Los Angeles Angels
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Oakland Athletics
- San Diego Padres
- San Francisco Giants
- Seattle Mariners
Yes, this does call for the inclusion of two expansion teams. Let’s face it. It is well past time for MLB to expand. If the NHL can support 32 teams, MLB certainly can. There are markets in the United States and Canada which have been relatively untapped, and to a certain extent, the minor league retraction has created a void in many communities for baseball. At least geographically, the southeast with cities like Raleigh and Nashville makes sense, but MLB can look elsewhere and align differently if it makes more financial sense.
As for the blowing up of some rivalries, well, that’s a consequence. That said, it wasn’t a concern when the Brewers and Astros changed leagues. There is also the important consideration the geographical rivalries will be off the charts, and there will certainly be the development of new rivalries.
Now, the next step is especially radical, but then again, so was the death of National League baseball. Before delving further, we first need to acknowledge baseball’s crown jewel is the World Series. Baseball needs to do all it can endeavor to create the best possible World Series matchups to generate more fan interest. The best way to do that is to actually set up the best possible match-ups in the World Series.
For that, just eliminate the AL and NL in its entirety. Instead, just have the four divisions. If you want to keep an AL and NL for nostalgia stake and create new names for the other two divisions, fine. That said, the World Series should abandon the concept of the AL against the NL. Instead, it should be the two best postseason teams.
This is where MLB can borrow a bit from the NHL. Since MLB wants an expanded postseason, they can have the top three teams in each division make the postseason. After that, the next eight non-automatic qualifying teams, regardless of division and division rank, can play a one game Wild Card Game to qualify for the Division Series. The World Series will instantly become increasingly more interesting.
The potential match-ups can radically change. For example, one year, the Mets and Cardinals could meet in the World Series, and the next, they could meet in the Championship Series. As a bit of added intrigue, under this format, MLB could get their biggest dream to come true with a Yankees-Red Sox World Series. The ratings and revenues from that may set records never before seen.
Overall, MLB has been forever changed with the death of National League baseball. As a result, instead of trying to hold onto some vestiges of the NL, it is time to just let it go away entirely and focus on what would create the most interesting and exciting baseball. Creating a four league format would be refreshing, and it would create the best possible postseasons. From there, genuine interest (and associated revenues) would grow putting baseball in the best footing it has been in a century.