MLB Playoff Expansion? Team "Redistricting"

Due to the MLB trying to push more teams into the playoffs here lately, it got me thinking about how this could possibly work. As of now, MLB is the only major professional sporting outlet of the big four (MLB, NHL, NFL, & NBA) to have uneven divisions, which in and of itself is really going to make the entire idea of such a thing very awkward and probably even more confusing.

As you can see now, the Cardinals are in the most lopsided division and the AL West is the one getting the short end of the stick. The Brewers moved over to the NL Central in 1998 because the league and the city felt they have long been a National League city as the Braves were their long standing tradition before moving to Atlanta. That left the current grid of the teams to look as follows:

With all of that in mind, it makes you wonder shouldn’t they take action regarding having uneven grounds for each league first?

So what is the solution? Can we add more teams like the have been wanting to do in recent years? If so, where would we even put such clubs? The only interesting places I can begin to entertain at this time are following the NFL to the Carolinas (I bet a team would do quite well over in Charlotte), maybe looking into New Orleans or an Oklahoma team, or maybe even Puerto Rico like they have long discussed.

The thing that makes the most sense to me personally is simply redistricting the leagues first and evening every side to 5 teams. 30 teams, 2 leagues, and 6 divisions at 5 teams a piece; that to me is what makes the most sense. Working in a law firm in a state that has undergone massive redistricting proposals as of late really helped stick this in my mind as a perfect solution.

What I propose is this:

While it is mainly the same, there are some very major differences here. In this thought process, I used the town in general to base my decision on what team should go where. The NL East and West are the only two divisions that are left completely untouched.

The Pirates belong in the East, they’re on the Eastern seaboard and need to be placed in such a division. That puts both the Phillies and Pirates in the NL East automatically, but as the MLB and NFL have taught us, each given state should have one NL and one AL team in a two team state. The Pirates made more sense to me to make the switch. Look at the NFL, the Eagles are in the NFC and the Steelers are in the AFC. Based on that and according to need I figured the Pirates seemed a much better fit in the AL East.

Speaking of AL East, this kicks one team out and Toronto seems the best fit. Toronto to the AL Central seemed very logical to make room as they were the farthest West of the Eastern seaboard teams and would not even have to switch leagues, they clearly still fit the AL persona.

That leaves six teams in the AL Central and now still four in the West.

I say the Kansas City Royals are that team. While Houston may be a little farther west, the AL NL in any given state rule would take effect as there is already a Texas team in the AL West, the Texas Rangers. The Chiefs are in the West with the AFC, so should the Royals in the AL.

What a mess! Honestly though, I believe this truly might be the answer they would look for if expansion was not the option. Look at the last expansion teams, I don’t believe that would be the best answer in any case:

* Washington Nationals were not expansion, they were the Montreal Expos. They are a team in hiding that seems to finally be emerging however.

* Arizona Diamondbacks – Decent team, won the World Series in 2001. Not the strongest fan following.

* Tampa Bay Rays – Great team the last couple years, still virtually NO fan support unless they’re in the playoffs.

* Colorado Rockies – Great team, made it to the World Series just a few years ago and a terrific fan base.

* Florida Marlins – Great team, year in and year out. Known widely for selling off great players before they demand major contracts. Won the world series twice now, virtually no fan base.

It seems teams are a hit or miss, but even more so it shows we need no more teams in Spring Training states (Florida or Arizona). Florida was #28 out of 30 last season, barely nudging out Oakland and Cleveland averaging 18,953 fans a game. Tampa Bay was 22, Arizona 21, but Colorado was 10.

Take this for what you will. With the league looking ahead I think they should merely be trying to even the playing field instead of adding on more teams that may be a major risk as well.

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  • http://[email protected] Going Yard

    Nice site but misguided comments. I wrote in my blog on February 16th that baseball does NOT need another round of playoffs.
    You can find it at http://[email protected] to see my rationale.

    Yes the league divisions are staggered but I would not want any more teams to even it out…the talent pool is too shallow as it is. Nor would I want to change divisions.
    The Pirates are a charter member of the NL and you are suggesting they move to the AL?????

    The playoffs are fine as they are with one exception, the four teams with the best records get in regardless of Division.

    • Nick Zell

      Pennsylvania is the only state with two teams in the same league, everyone else has one NL and one AL, it’s merely a suggestion. Even the NFL seems to have that unwritten rule. Misguided however is your opinion, as I have my own expressed right here.

      This is the only major sport that has such awkward, uneven boundaries and it makes sense to think you have 30 teams and 6 divisions, it just so happens to break up evenly where each can have five teams, so why don’t we.

      The playoffs are fine, I agree, notice the question mark after Playoff expansion. This was just something I think they need to do IF they decide to forgo that route. Top four teams go, that has always been a much better philosophy to me as well.

      This is not a stab at them either, but the Pirates lost 105 games last year. They are around 100 loses every season, haven’t been to the playoffs or even had a winning season since 1992. I know they have the tenure, but that hardly sounds like a baseball “institution.”

  • Dathan

    Interesting ideas. But, how would you handle the fact that your new ALE could very easily have two teams with 100+ wins each year, two teams with 100+ losses each year, and then whatever the Rays do. You think PIT has a longshot of making the playoffs in the NLC? Put ‘em up against the Yanks & BoSox, and watch win totals, attendance, interest, revenues…etc dwindle. They’d eventually contract or move to a different city. I don’t have a better suggestion to offer, just an observation.

    • Nick Zell

      Very true, it warrants major concern of course. Even with the Pirates in the NLC right now Pitt ranks 27 out of 30 in attendance as I mentioned above. They already have the lowest payroll in baseball, their team salary went from $48.6 M in 09 to $34.9 M in 10 with the average player pulling in about $1.3 M.

      I am not sure losing more games is really going to be a factor they will probably end up around the same average percentage. Interestingly enough though I think teams like the Yanks and Red Sox are just what they need though. For a team struggling with money, those are the two highest grossing teams and fans might come just to see them at PNC Park a few times a year.

      No matter what league they are in however I feel they are always going to be in troubles and I am sure they have had to discuss possible options regarding their future on a few occasions, that is not a very healthy franchise currently.

  • http://[email protected] Going Yard

    Nobody here is taking the fans into consideration. Being an original team in the NL carries much cache and fans/community would not want to go to the AL. Changing Leagues for the purpose of increasing attendance is faulty too. Put a winning team on the field and the fans will be back. The club is making some positive moves this year and need to show the fans they are serious by locking in McCutchen, Tabata, Alvarez and Walker into long term pre-free agent deals. This is a good nucleus from which to build.

  • http://[email protected] Going Yard

    Let’s make the redistricting simple: Move San Diego to the AL West and Houston to the NL West.

  • Dathan

    This blog post has inspired me. Good content, comments, and no lack of opinion has made for a very good discussion. As to not jam up the comments portion, I’m going to blog my own take on some of these issues, and post that link here–I hope that’s ok. There’s a lot that I want to say on the topic, and hopefully this discussion will continue–great conversation so far!!

    • Nick Zell

      Absolutely Dathan, be sure to send us a link.

      Feel free to clog up the comment board too though if you want to, that’s what we got it here for! I would love to get your full take on the topic.

  • Dathan

    Finally got around to it. The flame was rekindled by a few tweets this morning.