BP360 is Back! One low price for a: BP subscription, 2022 Annual, 2022 Futures Guide, choice of shirt

While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.

Realignment proposals have been floating around for some time, as evidenced by the following discussion, which originally ran as a "Prospectus Roundtable" on March 20, 2000.

About two weeks ago, the story broke that Major League Baseball was contemplating another round of realignment for the 2001 season. While the plan floated is subject to change, the primary adjustments would lead to a four-division, no-wild-card National League, and a three-division, wild-card American League. The two most recent expansion teams would switch leagues, and teams would be aligned in a time-zone-friendly manner.

Jeff Hildebrand: Take this with the grain of salt it deserves given the source, but Jayson Stark's column in today's Philadelphia Inquirer mentioned in passing that the current plan is indeed to forcibly move the Diamondbacks to the American League after this season. While he didn't give a full rundown, I think the plan is as follows:

National League

East —- Montreal New York Philadelphia Pittsburgh

South —- Atlanta Houston Florida Tampa Bay

Central —- Chicago Cincinnati St. Louis Milwaukee

West —- Colorado Los Angeles San Diego San Francisco

American League

East —- Boston Baltimore New York Toronto

Central —- Chicago Cleveland Detroit Kansas City Minnesota Texas

West —- Anaheim Arizona Oakland Seattle

Now am I missing something or does this make far too much sense to actually happen? The geographic groupings actually match the names, and are such that travel times aren't too awful for in-division play. The two teams switching leagues don't have any substantial history, so it's not a big blow to tradition. It gets rid of one of the wild cards, which I'm in favor of, and I assume in a few years there would be two more expansion teams added to the AL and it would go to the same four-by-four format.

As a Phillies fan I love the idea, if for no other reason than it gets the damn Braves out of the NL East. Having the chance to continue the Philadelphia/Pittsburgh rivalry is extremely nice as well. I'm sure the New York media spin would be that this sets up the Mets as perpetual title contenders, but I'd make Pittsburgh the very early frontrunners in that setup, assuming they don't make any further idiotic moves on the order of Pat Meares or Wil Cordero.

And at least for the first few years we should see some spectacular pennant races in the NL South between Atlanta and Houston.

Anyone seeing major flaws in this particular plan?

Keith Law: Yes: the advent of the sub-.500 playoff team. Four-team divisions are an atrocity.

Greg Spira: Agreed. I much prefer a wild-card team to four divisions of four, which will inevitably lead to some very bad playoff teams.

The realignment of teams is almost certain, I think. The Diamondbacks have been moaning over the possibility all spring. I'm not sure about the switch to four divisions.

Chris Kahrl: Beyond the four-team division evils, this also will have problems/possibilities with the D’backs wanting to fight the move to the AL in every way possible. They've even volunteered to pay the Giants the compensation they believe they're due from the A's to open up San Jose for an eventual franchise shift. Magowan has asked for something like $150M, but the suspicion is that it'll take a tenth of that.

The payoff? For Colangelo, no move to the AL.

Skip the four-team divisions. I'd lump them into two divisions apiece, and then award wild cards for the next two best records in the league, regardless of division.

If necessary, stick with three divisions in the AL, with the wild card.

Steven Rubio: I am completely irrational on this point. I hate the idea of wild-card teams in baseball with a passion, and think they are the single worst thing to happen to baseball in the past few years.

Michael Wolverton: So do I. So you're not irrational at all.

With a gun to my head, I might rate interleague play as slightly more evil than wild cards, and the extra playoff round might rate ahead of both of them. That's like choosing from among Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini, though.

JH: Trying to schedule interleague games will be a pain due to the one six-team division, but it already is. If you drop interleague play (yeah, I know, fat chance) the numbers actually work out nicely:

National League: 18 games against teams in your own division, nine against teams in the other divisions.

American League East/West: 20 games against other teams in same division, 12 games against each team in the other East/West division, and nine games against the Central teams.

American League Central: 18 games against teams in same division, nine games against teams in other divisions.

The wild card is a problem with the unbalanced AL schedule, I suppose, but that doesn't seem to have stopped them up to now, and is further argument for adding two expansion teams and getting rid of the wild card. This schedule also allows everyone to finish the season by playing only teams in their own division, which is a plus.

Once they move to 32 teams total, interleague scheduling becomes very easy again. For a three-game series against everyone in another league’s division, you either cut your in-division games down to 14 or your in-league, other-division games to eight.

CK: What I'd really want is a season between 154 and 162 games, the best four teams in each league going in and fewer off-days in the playoff season. Test a team's mettle by forcing them to use a deep pen or the bottom half of a rotation in the postseason. Create serious home-field advantages in terms of games (4-1, 5-2), with regular-season record defining home-field advantage for the World Series. Damn the ease for ticket sales–I'd rather have the good teams playing to win down the stretch if need be.

And dump interleague play.

I guess I'm really big on creating a playoff setup that reproduces some of the regular season's pressures, which means fewer off-days. Would it have killed the Red Sox last winter? Probably. Would it hurt a team like the 1987 Twins or the 1997 Marlins? Undoubtedly. I don't see that as bad: I want a contender to win on the strength of their entire roster, a roster as close as possible to the one that got them to the playoffs in the first place.

Here’s one realignment proposal that could achieve these goals:

The AL gets Florida, Texas and most of the Midwest, while the NL owns the West Coast and Mountain time zones. There are balanced schedules, and two wildcards (best records, not second-place finishers).

Playoff structure: the first round is seven games, with five home games for the homefield advantage (3-2-2 and no off-days unless there’s a two-time-zone swing from west to east. The league championsip series is seven games, a 4-3 home/road split, and the teams with the best record gets home-field advantage.

AL East (All Eastern time zone)
New York
Tampa Bay

AL Central (All Central time zone except for Cleveland) —- Chicago Cleveland Houston Kansas City Milwaukee Minnesota Texas

NL East (With the Cubs and Cardinals, for history's sake) —- Atlanta Chicago Cincinnati Montreal New York Philadelphia Pittsburgh St. Louis

NL West —- Anaheim Arizona Colorado Los Angeles Oakland San Diego San Francisco Seattle

Of course, this will never see the light of day.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
"but I'd make Pittsburgh the very early frontrunners in that setup, assuming they don't make any further idiotic moves on the order of Pat Meares or Wil Cordero."

HAHA!! I love the wayback machine.

Seriously, very interesting article. I actually like most of the proposals here better then what is allegedly being proposed by MLB right now. The 7/8 team divisions concept works really well for me. (Although I would prefer no wildcards, but that bell sure can't be unrung...)
If and when re-alignment becomestruth lets hope all groups including fans have their say----the press and management or players should not put a feather in their cap unless a majority can support such a plan,we have listened to Selig and been sold down the river by him and the owners as well as the players on a lot issues dont make this an ending such as the dh, inter-league play and steroids have played out---research and be truthful to the finding.Lastly the plan should include the resignation of Bud Selig.
Jim Bowden had this alignment:


Eastern Division
Boston Red Sox
New York Mets
New York Yankees
Philadelphia Phillies
Toronto Blue Jays

Central Division
Cincinnati Reds
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Minnesota Twins
Pittsburgh Pirates

Midwest Division
Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals
Milwaukee Brewers
St. Louis Cardinals


Southeast Division
Atlanta Braves
Baltimore Orioles
Florida Marlins
Tampa Bay Rays
Washington Nationals

Western Division
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
Houston Astros
Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers

California Division
Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Dodgers
Oakland Athletics
San Diego Padres

As a Seattle fan it is horrible. You thought travel was bad for Seattle before, one team in the same time zone.....
I'm trying to imagine why any team in the proposed "AL Central" would agree to it.... Six teams in the division when every other one has only four.
An easier way to balance out the teams in each league would be to simply have Colorado play in the AL WEST. Both leagues would then have 15 teams each with each division having 5 teams.
Then you're back to the problem of having interleague play every day, which would take away the luster, intrigue and (the whole point) presumably ticket sales/TV ratings.

What problem is this new unalignment actually trying to solve? I'm not sure I understand.

To me the biggest issue is that the wild card doesn't have much of a penalty for not winning its division. Play the best team? They would have to anyway to get to the WS!

Keep the current setup, give the top ranked division winner a one-game head start on the division series against the wild card team, then you're talking reform. (A best of six game series, how's that for intrigue?)
Putting the teams in the same city into the same division is a bad idea.
6 teams in one division and 4 in the rest is ridiculously unfair.