Last Tuesday MLB announced a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and one of the changes coming in 2013 is realignment. The Houston Astros will be moving to the American League West and there will be five teams in each division, putting 15 teams in both the American and National League to bring some balance. I have never really been a fan of interleague play or the wild-card and I'm not crazy about the addition of an additional wild-card in 2013 or even next year, which could happen. However, I also realize that the wild-card is not going away and it has brought some excitement to the game. This past season had some of the most exciting and memorable games on the last day of the season which would not have been possible had MLB still had the two-divisional, East and West format without wild-cards.
I also think that it's good for the game that there will finally be 15 teams in each league to bring some balance to the schedule. Of course, this means that there will be yearlong inter-league play. But I think that this is good for baseball and that the additional wild-card with a one-game playoff will make winning the division more of an incentive than the current system in place.
Be that as it may, I don't think that the Houston Astros should have moved to the American League West. I would have preferred to see the Arizona Diamondbacks move to the American League West and the Houston Astros move to the National League West. The reason why is that the Astros have more of a history in the National League than the Diamondbacks have. And, when Arizona was granted a MLB franchise in 1995 they were originally supposed to be in the American League with Tampa Bay going to the National League. The Kansas City Royals were also supposed to move to the National League Central, but they balked so it wound up being the Milwaukee Brewers who moved. It also never made sense that the Texas Rangers are in the American League West while the Houston Astros are in the National League Central. Why isn't Houston in the West? Who ever heard of the "Wild Wild Central"? It makes about as much sense as Atlanta being in the old NL West or the Chicago Cubs being in the old NL East while the Chicago White Sox were in the NL West. So, I would have put Arizona in the AL West and Houston back in the NL West to renew divisional rivalries with the Rockies, Dodgers, Padres and Giants.
I would also have Tampa Bay and Washington swap leagues and divisions with the Rays moving to the National League East and the Nationals moving to the American League East. As stated earlier, Tampa Bay was originally going to be a National League franchise and moving them to the National League East would give them divisional rivals in Atlanta and Miami which aren't that far geographically from Tampa Bay. And the Washington Senators used to be in the American League East so why not put the Washington Nationals there, too?
And as for the Designated Hitter rule, I would have suggested that the DH be in both leagues. I'm not a fan of the DH, but I think it's long overdue to have some balance and equality in both leagues. MLB is the only sport where both leagues don't have the same set of rules. For instance, the AFC doesn't have a rule that says they can have two-point conversions where the NFC cannot. The NBA doesn't have a rule that a team like the Lakers can have three-point field goals where the Celtics cannot. And I also realize that the DH, like the wild-card, isn't going away anytime soon. I thought that with the DH now being used in both AL and NL ballparks for the All-Star Game that this would indicate that MLB was going to have the Designated Hitter in both leagues next year or the year after. It hasn't happened. Yet.
Last but not least, I would have suggested reducing the number of games from 162 to 156. Under this format, each MLB team would play 30 interleague games against a divisional opponent. For example, the Chicago Cubs would play 30 games in 2013 against the AL Central teams. 156 minus 30 equals 126. So that leaves 126 games left against the National League. The Cubs would play 9 games against each divisional team. Here is what the divisional scheduling would look like:
Cubs vs AL Central teams=30 games
Cubs vs NL Central teams=9 games each-9 x 4=36 games
Cubs vs NL East teams=9 games each-9 x 5=45 games
Cubs vs NL West teams=9 games each-9 x 5=45 games
30 games + 36 games + 45 games + 45 games=156 games
You would then have a 156 game schedule which is six games less than the current 162 game schedule. That adds up to almost a week of games that could be played and you could then have the Division Series be a Best-Of-Seven. This would ensure that no playoff games would be played in November, barring weather postponements. I think that these additions would help the game, but overall I like the changes that will be made in 2012 and 2013.
Thoughts? Feel free to comment.