Should baseball scrap divisional alignment?

December 14, 2010

Keep divisions, but …

Bill Shaikin

Los Angeles Times

This idea comes up now and again, this time because the Red Sox just dropped $300 million on Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez — keeping up with the Yankees in baseball's two-team arms race.

How can it be fair, or so the theory goes, for the other teams in the American League East to have to beat out the Red Sox or Yankees — or both — to make the playoffs?

A division championship is more significant in baseball than in any other sport, because the length of the season weeds out fluke teams, so let's keep the divisions intact. Better yet, let's borrow a page from English soccer and relegate the three worst teams in divisions outside the AL East to rotate in and replace the Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays, then rotate again every two years.

No revision required

Bill Kline

The Morning Call

If baseball cared about fans in small-market cities with thrifty owners, it would keep the division alignment as is. Why? Because it's possible to win some divisions, every now and then, with 83 or 84 victories. But if baseball lumps everyone together and advances the top four or five finishers in each league to the playoffs, a team would need 90 or more wins to play in October.

For some small-market teams, that would mean goodbye forever to the playoffs. No way the Pirates ever beat out 11 other NL teams to make the playoffs. But occasionally there is a chance the Pirates can scrape together, say, 83 wins, and beat the other five teams in the NL Central in a down year. Please, baseball, no division revision.

A march to mediocrity

Peter Schmuck

Baltimore Sun

There are many ways baseball could improve the way it determines who makes the playoffs, but scrapping the divisional system certainly isn't one of them — unless Bud Selig secretly wants to turn Major League Baseball into the NBA or NHL.

The division races provide almost all the drama of the marathon baseball season, so recombining the divisions into two giant conferences would create a sport in which the most suspense would revolve around the fight for fourth, fifth or sixth place, depending on the number of playoff teams desired. It would turn the quest for parity into a march to mediocrity.

That said, I think the leagues should go back to a more balanced schedule and get rid of most of the interleague competition. That would create more balance among the divisions and protect the integrity of the wild-card races.

Yes, long overdue

Bob Foltman

Chicago Tribune

A resounding yes and an idea that is long overdue.

The idea behind the divisions was to keep more teams involved later into the seasons. But with three divisions and the combination of Yankee/Red Sox dominance and the weak West, the Orioles, Jays and Rays play at a distinct disadvantage while an 85-90 win team usually wins the West. One single league of 14 teams playing each other 12 times comes to a 156-game season. The top four records advance, or the top five with the fourth and fifth-place teams playing a one-game playoff.

The 16-team NL will need to be a little more creative. But it's an idea that's fair and would inject a bit of hope to some teams.

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