With MLB choosing to realign to two 15-team leagues this season and introducing year-round interleague play, it has created the sentiment that a holy war is coming over interleague play and the adoption of the designated hitter. To some, the realignment is seen as the move that set in motion the inevitable adoption of the DH by the National League. However, those who inexplicably enjoy watching pitchers hit have proposed that the Junior Circuit take their DH and shove it.
There is a middle ground here that is slowly starting to emerge: expanding the league to two 16-team leagues and abandoning interleague play. That is a fair and sensible compromise that should make fans on both sides happy. Alas, such a solution appears to be too good to be true.
Expansion always seems like a cool idea because it means new teams in new cities and new things are fun. The last few round of expansion were very well received because they created teams in states that were seemingly primed, if not starving, for a team of their own. Colorado, Florida and Arizona were obvious fits for MLB franchises and the decisions have mostly worked out well.
This is where the first problem with expanding crops up. There just isn't a market that is screaming for a ballclub right now, much less two markets. There are a few markets that are mentioned with varying degrees of regularity, but each has significant drawbacks:
- Montreal - We all know they once had the Expos for a long time, so the theory is that they could once again support an MLB franchise, but with how things ended there, the earth might scorched, making it an uphill battle to win back fans much less get financing for a new stadium.
- Norfolk - They nearly landed the Expos when they left Montreal and the city has been desperate to attract a pro franchise of any kind. It won't be an MLB team though as there is no chance that the Nationals and Orioles will allow a third team to horn in on their already contentious territorial rights dispute.
- Sacramento, New Jersey and San Antonio - While we're talking about territorial rights, you can rule out these three potentially lucrative markets because there is no way the A's and Giants, Mets, Yankes and Phillies and Rangers and Astros are going to allow any new franchise to move in on territory they are already sharing with someone else.
- Mexico and Puerto Rico - Expanding into Latin America is no doubt a very intriguing idea for MLB, however there are several obstacles, not the least of which is that the median income in Puerto Rico and, especially, Mexico is significantly lower than any American market. The issues regarding exchange rates, international travel, security and, most importantly, lack of local support from major corporations make these markets borderline non-viable, at least not for the next decade or two.
- Las Vegas - Some pro sports league is going to move into Vegas, eventually. MLB might be best positioned to make entree into the market since they already have a Pacific Coast League team located there. Like most leagues though the gambling issue would be difficult. Not only would they have to get MLB games removed from the Vegas sports books, but one would think that the league would want any and all associations to the casinos strictly prohibited so as not to do anything to remind people of baseball's historic gambling scandals like the Black Sox and Pete Rose. Those incidents are ancient history, but gambling has always been a third rail with MLB as a result. That issue aside, Vegas is still a questionable market due to the size of the TV market and how sensitive the area is to shifts in the economy.
- Portland - This is arguably the city most capable of hosting a franchise. The market is big enough, though still on the small side, and long been hungry to bring in another pro franchise to co-exist with the Blazers. There is little doubt that the fan base would be rabid supporters though corporate support might be lacking. There are also some territorial issues with the Mariners, but likely not significant enough that they can't be overcome.
If it was a matter of just selecting one of those markets, the league could probably figure out an expansion plan, but picking two expansion cities from that list (as well as dark horse candidates like Salt Lake City or Charlotte) is where the plan really starts to go off the rails. The ultimate deciding factor could well just be whichever city is desperate enough to have a sports team that they serve up a sweetheart stadium deal, but in the wake of debacles like Marlins Park and a general movement against publicly-financed arenas and stadiums, that could be near impossible to find, at least not until the American economy takes off again and who knows when that might happen.
Complicating matters further is that geography actually plays a major role here. The league just balanced all the divisions, so they'll have to expand each league to four four-team divisions to maintain that balance. They could also do two eight-team divisions but if you thought traditionalists hated the idea of the DH in the National League, just wait until you see how they react to their being three Wild Card teams. Crafting those divisions in a way that makes geographic sense for travel and scheduling purposes is a real challenge though. Here is a sample of what the leagues would look like after expansion:
|AL EAST||AL SOUTH||AL NORTH||AL WEST|
|New York||Tampa Bay||Detroit||Seattle|
|NL EAST||NL SOUTH||NL NORTH||NL WEST|
|Pittsburgh||St. Louis||Colorado||San Diego|
There is so room to play around here, specifically in the National League, but already you can see that at least one team in the current NL Central is going to pretty pissed off about there new division. But what thing that it does reveal is that the two expansion teams that get selected will have to be selected to fit into a specific geographic regions so as not to disrupt traditional rivalries or have a team playing in a division that makes no sense for them. which this format already has a little bit of already (boy, does Colorado screw everything up for everyone). Barring any teams switching leagues, which is highly unlikely after all the arm-twisting it took to get Houston to jump to the AL, the expansion team options get limited further in that one needs to be a West Coast friendly location and the other needs to be Southeast region friendly (maybe Northeast if you move Washington to NL South).
But all of those logistical factors, and we haven't even talked about the dilution fo the talent pool, might pale in comparison into the difficulty of convincing the league to give up interleague play, which is the main point of this whole scheme to begin with. As MLB loves to tell us every year, attendance and TV ratings for interleague series, as a collective, are well above normal series standards. A lot of that comes from high profile interleague matchups like the Yankees-Mets, Cubs-White Sox, Angels-Dodgers and so forth, so not every owner is going to bemoan the loss of their "traditional rivalry" (see Mariners-Padres and Rockies-Twins), but there will surely be enough resistance to make it a tough conversation. Now, the expansion fees can go a long way towards off-setting that, but that is a one-time infusion of money rather than an annual boost in income that interleague provides.
None of these factors are problematic enough on their own merit to kill the idea of expansion, but add them all together and it sure seems like a lot of trouble to go through with maybe not nearly a big enough pay off to make it worthwhile, especially when the problem they are trying to solve is one that can be easily taken care of with one simple change to the rulebook.
If the league really wants to expand because they think it makes economic sense, go for it. But using it as some incredibly complicated way of getting people on both sides to stop complaining about the inequity of the DH-rule would be the league cutting off its nose to spite its own face.
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1) No reason to get rid of the DH. The DH has its benefits and its costs. However, it does prolong the game. Allow the DH on the weekend (Fri-Sun) and holiday games when people have more time to sit and watch a game. Let pitchers hit Mon-Thurs.
2) No need for expansion. Also, why would you eliminate interleague play? That's going backwards. This is a need, however, for a more geographically friendly schedule.
Example schedule: Chi WS:
3 games vs NL East and NL West teams (3 games x 10 teams=30 games)
4 games vs AL East and AL West teams (4games x10 teams =40 games)
12 games vs 4 other AL Central teams (12 games x 4 teams = 48 games)
12 games vs main rival from NL Central (e.g. CHC) = 12 games
8 games vs 4 other NL Central teams = 32 games.
Total =162. Problem solved.
@DocBunyanThe problem with year long interleague play is take a team like my Tigers. World Series contenders, and they play in Miami in their 6th, 5th, and 4th last games of the season and cannot use one of there best players. (DH Victor Martinez) Playoff seeding could be affected by this, even if its one game that they lose and effect home field advantage.
Couple things. 1: There's a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing when it comes to pitchers hitting. Should the NL adopt the DH because pitchers suck at hitting, or do pitchers suck at hitting because they don't learn to hit? Remember, Babe Ruth started as a pitcher. The flip side, of course, is that if a pitcher can really hit worth a damn, they'd move to the outfield like Ruth or Rick Ankiel so they can hit every day... 2: I always felt like in a perfect world, Arizona or Colorado would have moved to the AL instead of Houston, just to preserve those cross-league geographic rivalries. Here, it also makes Colorado less problematic regardless of which team goes to the AL; you can even preserve Cards-Cubs by sending the Cards North. By the same token, even with a free spot in the West Portland becomes less attractive if they have to go in the AL. 3: What league will move into Vegas? You've established the case against MLB, the NFL owes too much of its popularity to gambling, the NBA had a bad experience putting the All-Star Game there, it'd be another "Bettman market" for the NHL, and before you know it you're not much bigger than the Arena League team that used to be there. Does MLS even count?
I would think the bast answer to the DH problem is to take the bat away from the pitchers and be done with it.
I have two things to add to this.
1. I favor the DH rule, but I am not a proponent of a full time DH unless one has a .300 BA over ten full seasons. I would much rather utilize the day-to-day DH assignment to enable greater flexibility between the regular starters for injury recovery or a half day off and the bench players to gain additional ABs to pinpoint trade value.
2. I honestly think we should start thinking geographical alignment instead of maintaining the National and American leagues. Instead of six divisions, just go with four divisions (like it was from '69-'92) and base on geography and history.
My division lineup idea would go as follows:
Eastern - NYY, BOS, TOR, BAL, WSH, TB, MIA
National - NYM, PHI, ATL, PIT, CIN, STL, CHC, HOU
American - TEX, KC, MIN, CHW, CLE, MIL, DET
Western - SEA, SF, OAK, LAD, LAA, SD, ARI, COL
Under this format, every team would play 12-14 games against other teams from within division and would enable all teams to play each other for at least one three-game series a season with venues alternating every year, so the fan of a local team would be able to see all other teams in-person in a two season period.
The postseason would consist of the four division champions that will all host at least the first round and four at-large berths determined by best regular season record. The highest seeded team after the two playoff series will host the World Series.
There is no way they'll move the Cubs and Cards into other divisions. The Cards and Cubs survived the first expansion when you saw teams like Atlanta and Cincinnati in the NL West. The Cards and Cubs rivalry is one of the oldest in baseball, and no way they'll touch that. Also Colorado in the North makes no sense. Their nearest opponent is a 3 hour flight away, and they have no rivarly ties to those teams.
If this happens Portland is a virtual lock to be in the AL west. This will help cut down some travel for Seattle who always logs the most miles. Also it is a good thing they kicked out AAA baseball to turn the stadium in to a soccer stadium. The area wants Major teams and are willing to do what they need to to make it happen. But if SLC of Vegas or even Vancoover put up the money the could solve the problem too. Tampa and Colorado screw up the alignments for sure. A western team would never work in the NL. Charlotte and Montreal are the easiest, Brooklyn or San Antonio (or Austin) would probably be the best but as noted it would be a territorial nightmare. But again if someplace like Indianapolis or Nashville ponies up the money don't count out the dark horse. Anyway if (when?) MLB officially or unofficially throws this out there there will be no shortage of interested parties. I can think of about 25.
OK..I know you are a crappy blog...one of the crappiest, in fact...but who the hell is calling for expansion? NO ONE with brain is thinking that that is a good idea. Not in this economy with so many CURRENT teams struggling. What MLB (and the NHL...maybe the others as well) should do is CONTRACT. Any team that can only afford payrolls of $40 million or less obviously will never put a competitive product on the field. Time to go.
@Alakawak There is so much wrong with this quote, so before I shitcan you for being a stupid troll, let me educate your ass.
1) Two teams are going into the 2013 season with a payroll of under $40 million: the Marlins (who are just 400K shy of that mark and spent over $100 million last season) and the Astros (who are in a full-blown rebuild mode, and spent $60M in 2012 and $76M in 2011). No one spent under $40 million for the 2012 season, and only the A's spent under $60 million.2) Saying teams with low payrolls can't win is fucking stupid, because the A's, who had the lowest payroll last year, won the AL West. The Phillies, Red Sox, and Angels, who each spent more than $100 million more than Oakland, didn't play one playoff game last year.
3) Finally, MLB made $7.5 billion (that's billion, with a B) last season. with another $788 million per season in new TV deals (which is split evenly between all teams) coming into play in 2014. The average team's value went up by 23% from 2012 to 2013. Every team had revenue of at least $160 million, and every team's value increased from 2012 to 2013.
The door is on your left for your blatant trolling. Hope you enjoyed your stay.
@PeterMiddleton Superdome's recent renovations make it incompatible with baseball field dimensions. Building a new stadium would have to be done privately.
@PeterMiddleton NOLA is a dark horse. Not sure they can support a third pro team or that there is a big appetite for baseball in the area. I imagine getting a new stadium built would be difficult too given the economy there.
Just an aside on the possible Vegas team. One of the biggest sponsors of the Arizona Diamondbacks is the Gila River Casino. They have coupons on the tickets, ads all over the park and sponsor between inning contests. Yes, it is an Indian casino, but it still is gambling around baseball.
I also love the idea of a New Jersey team as the Nets have proven those fickle people will jump onto something new the second you put their state's name on it. That is really the only thing that could help keep the Yankees in check, take away a large portion of their fans like in the Brooklyn Dodgers/NYG days.
@burningriverbaseball There's also long been an ad for a casino next to the out-of-town scoreboard at Safeco Field.
@burningriverbaseball Ummm....the Nets are in Brooklyn now, having been pretty unsuccessful as the New Jersey Nets. Likewise, that state thing hasn't exactly been going gangbusters for the Devils. As far as keeping the Yankees "in check", a good Mets team has outdrawn and can outdraw the Yankees.
@burningriverbaseball That's interesting. I suspect that passes muster because (as far as I know) Indian casinos do not permit sports betting. Even still, running ads is one thing. Having a team play in the Caesar's Palace Stadium would be quite another.