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The New American League West?

June 14, 2011

There have been many discussions lately about realignment in baseball and day by day it looks like it is more likely to happen. The basic premise as discussed first by ESPN’s Buster Olney is as follows,

“A simple form of realignment being seriously considered has been raised in the labor talks between Major League Baseball and the players’ association, according to four sources: two leagues of 15 teams, rather than the current structure of 16 teams in the National League and 14 in the American League.

According to a highly ranked executive, one consideration that has been raised in ownership committee meetings is eliminating the divisions altogether, so that 15 AL and 15 NL teams would vie for five playoff spots within each league. Currently, Major League Baseball has six divisions.”

The two teams most frequently floated as changing leagues are the Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Astros (though the Florida Marlins have been mentioned as well). Now the premise largely depends upon whether or not the division format is kept or altogether scrapped. If the divisions are kept, the Astros are a simple solution as they could move from the NL Central (six teams) to the AL West (four teams) and everything solved, whereas a move by the Diamondbacks would require the Astros then vacating the NL Central and moving to the NL West.

As I wrote, it is looking more and more likely that a team will move but it looks like the divisions will remain intact (teams like selling championship merchandise not “third seed in the 2012 playoffs” merchandise). So what would the new look AL West mean for the A’s?

First off it makes it harder to get into the playoffs. Obviously, being in a four team has its advantages – you need to be better than three teams – whereas in every other division you’ve had to be better than at least four. Another difference is the competition, obviously having the Astros move over means having a team that is frankly currently not very good. Houston is a decent sized market and has been able to flex some financial muscles (though they seem to always be misusing their resources) so they have the potential to be a tough addition. The Arizona Diamondbacks meanwhile represent a more current threat with an exciting young roster, though their financial clout is a bit muted with the Arizona economy reeling.

Overall, I am not crazy about the plan because it now ensures interleague play sticks around – that being said, if interleague play must exist, it makes sense to have it exist all year long. Hopefully baseball will return to a balanced schedule, at the very least now we can ensure that each team has a more similar interleague schedule to increase fairness.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2011 11:53 am

    i love interleague play. love it. and before this talk of realignment, there was talk of contraction, so i prefer this plan immensely, since the two names i heard talk of were the a’s and the astros. (not sure where you heard the astro’s have a large market? i think they’re right up (down?) there with the a’s.)

    one weird thing i heard, and not sure i understood it correctly, was korach talking about top 5 teams making the playoffs or something? do you know anything about this?

  2. June 15, 2011 12:57 pm

    I am not with you on interleague play! I mean for all the “cool” rivalries, you have so many snoozers, Oakland-Florida anyone? But, I think I am in the minority among fans because if they’re voting with their pocketbooks, they are clearly supportive of interleague play.

    When I heard contraction, I was continually hearing A’s and Rays. Never heard the Astros in that mix. Houston’s market though is sizeable: the city has 2.1M (4th largest) people, the Metro has 5.9M (6th largest). It is the largest city in Texas, the closest teams are in Dallas and St. Louis quite a ways away and from a corporate point of view only New York has more Fortune 500 companies (part of that is sort of in a cheating way, because Houston is a physically large city, they have many corporate headquarters that in other cities are in the suburbs – see Chicago for example or the Bay Area with all the corporations down the Peninsula or in the South and East Bays). So I’d say Houston is firmly a big market and in a much different boat than the A’s. Their owners have been terrible, throwing lots of money at people they ought not throw major money at (Carlos Lee!).

    But yeah part of the plan is that instead of divisions at all, it would go to two fifteen team leagues with the top five teams making the playoffs. The top three teams would get “byes” and the fourth and fifth seeded teams would play in a wild card play-in. I doubt that happens, I think that the regional aspects of division play along with the opportunity to market yourself as a division champion will be too much $ left on the table because as I said who wants a “3rd seeded playoff team” shirt? Mike Scioscia in an article in today’s Los Angeles Times said he hasn’t heard the no-division plan in talks, but has heard about an evening of the leagues at 15. So I am going with that assumption until I hear otherwise.

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