Rob Manfred is no friend of the fans right now, but what if he could shake things up for the better? Spring Training games have already been canceled due to MLB’s lockout and we’re still waiting to see when Opening Day will be. This is a disaster for the league as they started to build momentum with younger fans. So what could the commissioner do to revive that interest? Realign the divisions to re-establish a more competitive balance.
With universal DH coming up, the entirety of Major League Baseball will be operating under a single set of rules. This means that the league has the freedom to realign the divisions to create a more competitive balance. A move like this is not entirely unheard of: in 2013 the Houston Astros moved from the NL to the AL West and made the playoffs in 6 out of the 9 total seasons since then, winning the 2017 World Series in the process. That’s a recent move that reverberated throughout the league, creating a far stronger team (that sells tickets).
As it stands right now, the MLB’s six divisions could use a bit of a shakeup to create some competition. To put it gently, the NL East is pathetic. Not to take anything away from the Atlanta Braves and their amazing World Series run, but in the 2021 season, the champs would not have made the playoffs in any other division. It could be argued that they took a playoff spot from a more deserving team. Much of the same could be said for the AL Central and the Chicago White Sox. Would the White Sox have been able to maintain a 90+ win season if they played in a division wherein any other team played above .500 on the season?
There are currently 30 teams in MLB, with two leagues, three divisions in each. How can we maintain this familiar structure while balancing the divisions?
Without further ado, here’s my pitch on how to realign the divisions. We’ll start simple with the AL and NL East (in alphabetical order by city name).
Boston Red Sox
New York Mets
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
We’re simply trading the Mets for the Orioles. For the NL East, this won’t affect much change. Baltimore last made the playoffs in 2014 when they last won the AL East. If anything, this would boost Baltimore’s chances at another division championship. Or, more likely, the other teams will have a chance to beat up on a struggling O’s franchise.
For the AL East, this means more ticket sales for the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite having an incredible team, winning 100 games last year, the Rays have a significant issue selling tickets. The last time we saw meaningful tickets sales for the Rays brings those terrible cowbells to mind. Most of the baseball fans that live in the area are transplants from the northeast. The Red Sox and Yankees fans always seem to outweigh the number of Rays fans, regular season or otherwise. I can’t help but feel that some Mets fans are living on Florida’s west coast that would like to see their team a little more often without having to make the 200+ mile (one-way) drive. I’d love to hear from some Mets fans about how they would feel about making a regular trip to the Trop.
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals
St. Louis Cardinals
We see a little more of a mix-up here, trading the Reds and Pirates to the AL and the White Sox and Royals to the NL. The AL Central would still mirror the NL East in terms of competitive balance with a set of teams that can be described as “usually okay or trash but will sometimes have a surprising run” like how the Royals made back-to-back World Series appearances. The best part of this proposed division is that any of these teams would stand a legitimate chance at making the playoffs.
For the NL Central, this goes from a 3-team race to a 4-team competition, provided the Cubs can rebuild after last season’s trade deadline fire sale. Much like the Mets and Yankees subway series, the Cubs and White Sox intracity rivalry could generate more interest in Chi-Town.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
How could you not be excited about this NL West? With four very talented teams and Mike Trout, what’s not to love? As an East Coast fan, the Dodgers-Giants rivalry gave us some nice highlights, but it still was not enough for me to justify staying up that late. With this realignment, I wouldn’t be able to ignore it.
There is no possibility the Rockies and Diamondbacks could compete with the current NL West considering how much money the Padres and Dodgers have spent in recent memory. A move to the AL West would give these two teams a better shot at the division, or at least staying relevant. Despite the Rangers recent spending spree, there would be no clear run away in this proposed AL West. The only further change I could see making here would be to swap the Angels back into the weaker AL West for the surging Seattle Mariners, who could give the Astros a run for their money this season.
What would this do for your team? Would it help or hurt? Would you be a little more tempted to make a road trip? How would you realign the divisions? Let me know what you think!