Geographic Realignment

added 4/6/2011 by Patrick Hajovsky

Longtime AstrosDaily.com forum poster "bsb8532" began a new discussion thread recently, picking up on Commissioner Bud's recent comment to Sirius XM that he'd like to work on some kind of geographical realignment before he leaves office. I didn't hear the interview, but when Bud speaks like that, I usually chalk it up to his car salesman background. Kind of like, "You know, I'd really like to make that undercoat a better product, but it's darn good and you should consider buying it, by golly."

I like the National League and the beer league, uh, excuse me, American League separation. I was raised in that ethic and I'll die with that ethic. I'll die with it because realignment is about as likely as Barry Bonds admitting illegal steroid use - it ain't ever gonna happen. The AL stopped its pitchers from being complete players, and the union will never ever ever ever give that up. And the NL will never ever ever ever adopt it. That right there puts the end to the actual discussion.

But let's engage Commissioner Bud's fantasy for a moment. If he's serious, here's a set of principles that would have to take place for it to be truly meaningful. This is offered free of charge, if only to meet Commissioner Bud's asking price.

First, it must be a true geographic realignment, meaning no special deals. Just because a team likes the gate that the Yankees, Cubs and Red Sox may bring, that is irrelevant. And honestly, it's insulting to the game. If you have compelling games, the gate will be there. There’s only a finite amount of seats in your stadium, fellas, and you have a product called "major league baseball". Don't insult me with your "need" to have a jigged up gate with non-geographical opponents. Create regional rivalries and watch your gate go up for that alone. Also, watch your travel costs go down. That should intrigue you guys.

Also, baseball is not like the other sports. It is a daily drama spread out over a long period of time. It intertwines itself with your lifestyle, inviting regional identifications. It's simply not right that baseball would have a geographical displacement of teams. The feng shui is all messed up, dude, and needs to be fixed.

Second, and I can't emphasize this enough, no DH. Even ballplayers, the serious ones at least, admit that the DH creates a sham of the game. Eliminate it and level the playing field, which is what geographical realignment is really all about anyway.

Third, no team should be in a division with a team from a different time zone, unless it just can't be horned in (like the Mountain Time Zone teams). So ix-nay on the Rangers and Mariners in the same division, which is just stupid. This means you'd likely have to eliminate the traditional "National" and "American" League designations. Or, you could use them, but it wouldn't make any sense in this realignment universe.

Fourth, honor the game's past with realignment. One of the best parts of the old National Hockey League was the actual names used in the conference and division designations. Baseball should steal this idea, no doubt. For the leagues, I hereby decree that the western league will be the "Jackie Robinson League", while the eastern league will be the "Babe Ruth League".

Fifth, all teams in the same state, let alone the same city, MUST be in the same division. The term "geographical realignment" means "hypocritical realignment" without this most basic of rule.

Sixth, there must be a rule that if a team ever relocates, a shift in the divisions must automatically happen before the next season, maintaining geographical integrity. And, in a related rule, if the move means a division will end up with seven teams, the move is automatically vetoed. Pick your locations, gentlemen, and stick to it.

So, without further ado, here is my fantasy realignment suggestion. I'm open to debate, by the way. You'll probably be wrong, but I'm open to debate.

JACKIE ROBINSON LEAGUE
Willie Mays Division

San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles Angels of California and Anaheim
San Francisco Giants
Oakland Athletics
Seattle Mariners

This division is all the teams on the West Coast. If we're going to be geographical in our analysis, let's get this straight right from the start. Some of these rivalries already exist, but adding in the Angels and A's only heightens the tension. This also gives the Mariners, from a city as crazy as California, to join their comrades to the south.

I'm sorry Dodger fans, but the name must be for Mays, as he is the best player to ever play on the West Coast. Nothing against Sandy Koufax, Tony Gwynn, Ken Griffey, Jr., Willie McCovey or any of the other excellent players, but you guys are not Willie Mays. And you got the durn league named after one of your players, so quit complaining!

Stan Musial Division
Houston Astros
Dallas Rangers of Arlington and close to Ft. Worth
St. Louis Cardinals
Kansas City Royals
Arizona Diamondbacks

The Cardinals are going to beeeee-itch about losing the excess Cubs games, but geography is geography and that's the way the land mass bounces. Also, I've kept the Cubs in the Robinson League, so it's not like they'll never see them. The Dallas-Houston matchup and the in-state Missouri competition is compelling, creating not one but two in-state rivalries.

This division violates my timing rule, but it could not be avoided since there are only two Mountain Time Zone teams. Arguably, Arizona suffers a bit, but (a) there are already six teams along the Pacific Coast in the Mays Division, meaning they have to look east, and (b) they're expansion scum and they get what we give them.

Robin Yount Division
Colorado Rockies
Minnesota Twins
Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox

While this could arguably be the Ernie Banks Division, and I would have little objection to that, Yount was better than Banks. Also, remember that Commissioner Bud is likely behind this, and he's going to go with the Brewer. I like this division because it not only has the in-city rivalry, it creates a regional rivalry between the Brewers and White Sox, two teams that up until now only had hatred of the Cubs in common. As well, there is a nice geographical set-up for the Twins, who currently have no real geographic rivals. Like with the Diamondbacks, the Rockies are the Arkansas-in-the-Southwest-Conference in this set-up, but again, expansion scum gets what it gets.

That brings us to the Babe Ruth League. Not coincidentally, if you were to pull out your map, we are now on the eastern shore of the Mississippi River. (Yes, I know, the Cubs, White Sox and Brewers are also east of the Mississippi, but not by much, so hang with me.)

BABE RUTH LEAGUE
Johnny Bench Division

Toronto Blue Jays
Detroit Tigers
Cleveland Indians
Cincinnati Reds

The Blue Jays should like this because it gets them out of the New York-Boston gauntlet, but they’re Canadian so who cares what they like? This is more about the Tigers, Indians and Reds, well within driving distance of each other. They'll claim this is the "forgotten division" since they only have four teams, but it should invigorate regional supremacy claims.

I did run into a bit of a problem here, because I have a division with just 4 teams. This is because Seattle is the sixth team on the West Coast, which is required since my rules place them in the Mays Division. Thus, don't blame me, but blame Commissioner Bud (as is only proper for most things). He's the one who stole the Pilots from Seattle to create the Brewers in the first place, and because of his guilt, pushed for the expansion Mariners to be created.

For the naming, I so wanted to go with Pete Rose here, but I'm trying to be realistic….

Honus Wagner Division
Pittsburgh Pirates
Philadelphia Phillies
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
New York Mets

Boy, the naming here was really tough. I figure there's no way on God's green earth that the Yankees would agree to play in a division named for Ted Williams, and likewise the Red Sox would scream bloody murder playing in a "Lou Gehrig", "Mickey Mantle" or "Joe DiMaggio" Division. So, since the Phillies and Mets really don't have anyone to nominate, I figure the Pirates get the honor as a result of all the bickering, and you go old school to Honus Wagner, the greatest player of the pre-Babe Ruth era.

Another idea would be to re-name the divisions in some interval, say every five years or so. I like it! Consider it adopted.

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

Hank Aaron is my favorite all-time player (non-Astro division), so he gets the nod here, and I defy anyone to argue. The only other contenders would have been Frank Robinson and Cal Ripken, and honorable contenders they are, but there's no real comparison at the end of the day. This division is exempt from the re-naming interval.

The Orioles and Nationals can beat up on each other, and the Braves, Rays and Marlins already compete regionally for fans. (Oops, did I just write that the Rays and Marlins “compete” for fans? Sorry. Move along. Nothing to see here.)

For the playoffs, I would maintain the wild card, but give that an honorific name as well. For the Robinson League, the wild card winner would be the Rickey Henderson Champion, and for the Ruth League, the Mike Schmidt Champion. Both players evoke guts and glory and overcoming adversity and doubt, which is what the wild card would represent.

So there you have it. No DH, geographical rivalries, great baseball - what's not to like? Now, where's my Statis Pro Baseball Game? I'm going to fire this thing up!