Recently Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated noted that commissioner Bud Selig’s special committee for on-field matters, an assemblage of 14 baseball luminaries, has actually been brainstorming (or at least brainclouding).Â One concept they have been discussing is “a radical form of ‘floating’ realignment in which teams would not be fixed to a division, but free to change divisions from year-to-year based on geography, payroll and their plans to contend or not.”
Realignment in and of itself is not a bad idea in my opinion.Â Geographic realignment.Â One of my favorite things about the CBS Sports website is their league map.Â It really brings the distribution of teams and their league/division affiliations up for some healthy debate (and points out what fun it must be to travel from Miami to Seattle for a key interleague series).Â It doesn’t take a group of 14 baseball luminaries to look at that map and see room for some adjustments.
I want to be very clear.Â I am not anti-realignment.Â I am anti-”free to change divisions from year-to-year.” Rivalries are an important aspect of sport and annually changing divisions seems likely to destroy current rivalries and does not facilitate the forming of new ones given division change looms at the end of each season.
But where this committee of luminaries loses me completely is when they suggest realignment could be based on “payroll and their plans to contend or not.” Huh?Â Is MLB seriously considering the concept of the NL Poor, NL Middle Class and NL Rich? And that a team could float from one of those divisions to another based on it’s own whim?Â We think we’re going to contend this year so what division will be easiest to win – let’s try the NL Poor!
If this committee is seeking to radically alter the MLB landscape some less destructive ideas might be to establish and enforce a salary ceiling (and basement), or to adopt an English Premier League-style promotion and relegation system.
As Verducci concludes, “what is important is that the committee is making good on its mission to look at absolutely any on-field idea that could make the game better.” This I agree with.Â I applaud the committee’s existence and the fact that they are actually thinking out loud.Â My goal is not to discourage this committee from coming up with more ideas on how to make the game better.Â It’s simply to let them know that I think this particular idea is a very bad one.