MLB Realignment


The Houston Astros are heading to the American League in 2013 and will compete in the West Division.  The people in Oakland, Anaheim (Los Angeles), Seattle and Texas won’t be blamed if they’re overjoyed at picking up an automatic 10-12 wins every year against an Astros team that probably won’t contend for a division crown for at least the next five years.

While he’s at it, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig should take this opportunity to realign all six divisions and allow National League teams to use the DH (allowing for traditionalists, at a competitive disadvantage, to continue allowing pitchers to hit).  The discrepancy between the AL and the NL would essentially disappear and bouncing a few teams from league to league would not be such a big deal.

Geographically, the MLB is heavily weighted by teams on the East Coast and in the MidWest.  There is another nice cluster of teams out on the West Coast, but Between Kansas City and California there is pretty much a baseball wasteland.* I know there are a lot of reasons why there are no teams out there, but it seems like a missed opportunity to add two more teams and have two 16 team Super Conferences, but I digress.

  *If a metro area of at least 1.5 million people is what’s needed to support a MLB franchise (That’s what they have in the Milwaukee area, the smallest metro area that is home to a team), then you should add a team in Portland, Oregon and Las Vegas, Nevada; maybe even stretch to get a team in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Salt Lake City, Utah; if you were really trying to expand to “western markets.”  

In the unlikely event that Bud Selig and the owners adopt such a strategy, here are the 6 new divisions they should adopt. 

American League

West

  • Seattle Mariners
  •  Oakland Athletics
  • Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  • San Diego Padres
  • Arizona Diamondbacks

The distance between Seattle and Phoenix is pretty substantial, but Seattle is out on an island to begin with so it isn’t a huge issue.  Arizona makes sense to come to the American League West because they’re right down the road from San Diego and Anaheim, so there should be some solid regional rivalries brewing there, especially if they’re playing 18 times a year.  As with all divisions, teams occupying the same metro area are split between leagues, and those rivalries will continue to exist through the constant inter-league play.

Central

  • Minnesota Twins
  • Milwaukee Brewers
  • Chicago White Sox
  • Saint Louis Cardinals
  • Houston Astros

The AL Central will remain the home for the Twins and the White Sox.  The division cuts a geographic slice down through the heart of American, grabbing the Brewers up north, the Cardinals from the middle of the country, and the Astros anchoring the division down in southern Texas.

East

  • New York Yankees
  • Boston Red Sox
  • Philadelphia Phillies
  • Toronto Blue Jays
  • Detroit Tigers

This will not be good news for the Blue Jays, adding in the big spending Phillies to an already top heavy American League East with the Yankees and the Red Sox. But adding in Detroit gives the Blue Jays a rival just a hop, skip, and a jump over the Canadian boarder.  This division is solid top to bottom and with MLBs new CBA the Tigers and Blue Jays should each have a chance to bring down the big spenders through the draft and international signings.

National League

West

  • San Francisco Giants
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Colorado Rockies
  • Texas Rangers
  • Kansas City Royals

The NL west remains anchored on the Pacific Ocean with the Giants and the Dodgers, but creeps all the way over the the middle of America by way of Kansas City.  San Francisco and Los Angeles have enough history on their sides to have fans all over the country, not just out on the west coast.  By adding Kansas City to the West, Texas won’t always have to travel all the way to the West Coast and Colorado picks up another team in the Central Time Zone, getting their highlights into the 10pm edition of Sports Center on the east coast.

Central

  • Chicago Cubs
  • Cincinnati Reds
  • Atlanta Braves
  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Miami Marlins

The Cubs lose out on their long history with the Saint Louis Cardinals, but because of the year round inter-league play, they’ll be able to maintain that rivalry with the Cards, as well as with the cross-town White Sox and their neighbor to the north, the Milwaukee Brewers.   The NL Central now dips all the way down to the southern tip of Florida to pick up the Miami Marlins, and the Reds, Braves and Rays come along for the ride.

East

  • Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Washington Nationals
  • Baltimore Orioles
  • New York Mets
  • Cleveland Indians
Out in the NL East the Pittsburgh Pirates finally find themselves back in a division that makes sense, and they have plenty of regional rivalries with the Nationals, Indians, and Orioles near by.  The New York Mets are the big beneficiary of the new realignment as they will no longer have to compete with Atlanta and Philadelphia for the National League East crown.
It isn’t perfect, but these divisions make more sense geographically and from a competitive standpoint should be pretty evenly matched for at least the next decade.  There will definitely be some griping from teams as they change leagues and divisions are are forced to find a new identity, but over the long haul these moves will pay of for Major League Baseball.  And if they don’t work, you can just blame Bud Selig.
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  • srschriver

    *If a metro area of at least 1.5 million people is what’s needed to support a MLB franchise (That’s what they have in the Milwaukee area, the smallest metro area that is home to a team), then you should add a team in Portland, Oregon and Las Vegas, Nevada; maybe even stretch to get a team in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Salt Lake City, Utah; if you were really trying to expand to “western markets.”

    It doesn’t work that way. First of all, you are undercounting Milwaukee– there are about 1.7 million people there.

    Second of all, Milwaukee is significantly larger than any of the cities you mentioned, besides Portland.

    Third of all, the correct exercise is to find out how many people live within a certain radius– say, 50 miles– of the ballpark. That’s more indicative of market size than population. In Milwaukee, that number is *much* higher than it is for any of the cities you mention.

    Typically, baseball needs larger markets to be successful than any of the other Big 4 sports leagues. It’s a volume thing– baseball teams sell out if they attract 3 million people a season. Hockey/NBA it’s a little less than a million, football too. That’s why we see football teams in places like Nashville, and basketball teams in places like Salt Lake City, and hockey teams in places like Winnipeg and Columbus. We will literally never see MLB in any of those markets…