I have some thoughts about the—almost certain—pending realignment of Major League Baseball. This includes expanding the playoffs to five teams from each league as well as possibly moving a team from the NL to the AL1.
First, let me say that although I am for both realignment and expanding the playoffs2 I have some concerns. They stem from the fact that there would be fifteen teams in each league—an odd number. If every one plays—as happens on most nights—then there must be at least one interleague game between the odd-teams-out from each league. This would happen most nights of the week for the entire season. The only way I could see to avoid that would be to extend the season and/or play a lot more double-headers. Neither is very practical.
Some would then say, ‘Ok, what is the problem with more interleague play?’ Well, I’ll tell you. In a nutshell: the designated hitter. Love it or hate it, it has to be reckoned with.3 It doesn’t really matter whether it’s AL or NL, either. The away team always gets screwed. It’s a fact of the modern game that teams base lineups, pitching rotations and even scouting and business decisions on the fact that either they will or will not have a designated hitter for the majority of their games. If, all of a sudden, the number of interleague games a team plays jumps from around fifteen to around fifty, that will have a profound impact on the game.
I have a possible
solution band-aid that might help. A little.
Consider that the away team always gets screwed by the DH problem. Let’s try to level that disadvantage out a bit. Counter some of the normal home-field advantage by playing interleague games according to the DH rule of the away team. So when Milwaukee comes to Boston, as is occurring this weekend, they would play without a DH.
It’s not a likely solution. It would probably anger purists on both sides of the DH divide. And it’s just dealing with a symptom of a problem that hasn’t even occurred yet. But I think it would be an interesting way to help the away teams from always being at such a disadvantage during interleague games.
The other obvious solution is to just pick one set of rules for all of Major League Baseball. But the pull of history and powerful franchises in both leagues would fight that decision until the bitter end.
I just hope that Bud Selig knows what he’s doing and comes up with a solution. It doesn’t have to please everyone. It just has to be fair.
Most likely either the Houston Astros or the Arizona Diamondbacks. ↩
Within reason. Going from eight to ten teams is fine. Expanding toward the ridiculous playoffs the NFL and NBA have is decidedly not fine. As for realignment, I suppose I am only for it in that I don’t think that in and of itself moving a team from the NL to the AL is bad. Indeed, giving a struggling team like the Astros a fresh start in a new league—with the designated hitter—could be a very good thing. ↩
As both a Red Sox and a Dodgers fan, I actually do love it and hate it. ↩