As we take a quick look back to “Commissioner for a Day Part 2″, my take on the salary cap in the NFL, is not the reason why one’s perception is that the league has parity. It’s actually the way the make the schedules. All last place teams play half of their games against teams with similar records. In my opinion, this is the reason why teams can go from awful to the playoffs in one calendar year. Obviously I am not discounting the draft, free agents, and players returning from injuries. But, have a draft where you get a couple of immediate impact players, sign a free agent or two, and have your quarterback come back from an injury that cost him the previous season, combined with a 4th place schedule, and you go from 5 – 11 to a division winner.
So let’s see how this type of scheduling would benefit MLB. The first thing that I would have to do, is balance out the number of teams in both the American and National League. Currently, the NL has 16 teams, and the AL has 14. Since, I still am in favor of interleague play, moving to two, fifteen team leagues is a must. This will result in at least one interleague game every day, which, I do not see as a big deal. I’d much rather have that, then the current schedule where you take 2 weeks and play the opposite league in June.
In order to realign the divisions and leagues, MLB’s Central Fund will have to take a hit. I will take 100 million dollars, 50 million over 10 years for the Arizona Diamondbacks for moving to the AL West, and 50 million over 5 years for the Houston Astros, who will move to the NL West. The teams will argue history in the NL (the D-Backs) and the Astros will argue about lost television revenue because of the later start times because a larger majority of their games will start two hours later from the west coast. However, money talks, and by giving them a head start and 5 years to recover, they could and should be willing to go back to the division in which they were in prior to realignment in the 90′s.
To recap, the AL East, the NL East, the AL Central all remain the same. The Astros move from the current 6 team NL Central to the NL West, and the Diamondbacks move to the current 4 team AL West. We now have 2-15 team leagues, which will give us 3-5 team divisions in each league. Now for the really interesting part.
Each team in each division would play the division rivals 15 games per season. So, the Orioles would play the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays 15 games each, resulting in the first 60 games of the 162 schedule.
Next, each team would play the 10 teams in the other two divisions, 7 games each. So, the Orioles would play the teams in the AL Central and the AL West, 7 games, adding 70 games to the schedule. For those keeping track, we now have 130 games scheduled.
Next, each team would play the teams in the other divisions that finished in the same place in the standings as them. So, the Orioles finished last in 2009. They would play the Royals and the A’s an additional 7 games each, adding 14 games to the current schedule, bringing the total to 144. This is very important for one main reason. The Orioles would play 15 games against the Yankees, who finished 1st in their division in 2009, but would play a total of 14 games against the A’s and Royals who also finished last in their respective divisions. Contrary to the Orioles, the Yankees would now have 14 more games scheduled against the Angels and Twins, who won their respective divisions. Better finish = potentially tougher opponents, lower finish = potentially easier opponents.
Since I stated earlier that interleague play would not go away, here’s how it would work. Each team would play 6 games against their “geographical” rival. The Orioles rival is currently the Washington Nationals. These 6 games bring the season total to 150. The final games would be games against teams that finished in the same position as you, but in the opposite league. So, the Orioles would play a home and home, 2 game series versus the last place finishers in each division of the NL. This means, 4 games versus the Nationals, Pirates, and the Padres. We now have scheduled 162 games for the Orioles.
The way this schedule benefits the Orioles is simple. In 2010, the O’s would play a total of 69 games or 42% of their schedule against teams that finished last or next to last in their respective divisions. The Yankees, who finished 1st, will play 69 games or 42% of their schedule against teams that finished 1st or 2nd in their respective divisions. Ultimately, here’s what would happen. The teams that finished lower in the divisions, have the potential to increase their win totals. Teams that finished at the top, have a chance to lose more games, because they are playing more games against top teams. Thus, the gap from top to bottom should drop dramatically. If the Royals are competing in August and September, their attendance without a doubt will increase. This will generate more money for the club, which will ultimately mean more money for players, and free agents will take a longer look at accepting contracts in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Washington, Baltimore, San Diego, and Oakland. Teams will stop being doormats, such as the Pirates and Orioles who respectively haven’t had a winning season since Bill Clinton was the President of the United States.
So there you have it. The easiest way to have some teams win more, and other teams win less. Isn’t that what we all want? Thanks for reading. Coming up, umpiring, use of PED’s and the Hall of Fame.