18 Nov 2011
Two big changes are coming to MLB in the near future- 15-team leagues and another wild card. I view the first development as bad and the second as good. Let me explain.
Creating two 15-team leagues means MLB will be forced to play an interleague series almost every night of the regular season. While this doesn’t mean we are going to necessarily have more interleague games (amazingly they have no idea on that part of this move) it means pennant races will be impacted by interleague play.
To me this is incredibly stupid. This isn’t the NBA or NHL where the teams all operate under the same rules. The AL and NL have a huge difference because one league has the DH and the other doesn’t. Obviously, this always applies in interleague baseball, but consider this additional kicker- September callups. AL teams that have interleague games in September will have a huge advantage over teams that don’t because they can pinch hit, much, much more than during the rest of the season. Consider the 2011 Yankees who called up 6 batters and 7 pitchers September 1st. If they had had an interleague series that month, they would have been able to pinch hit and substitute freely as compared to a series in June. Unless MLB does something like the NHL and require all teams to declare x number of players eligible for each game, this will be a major hurdle in the new system. And don’t get me started on the attendance for a KC-Washington game in April….
It also strikes me as terrible that Houston was the team that got picked to move. I understand that they wanted to lower the number of teams in the NL Central, but if so, wasn’t the obvious move to RETURN the Brewers to the AL? (That’s right kids, the Brewers were an AL team for the first 29 years of their existence, right up until the end of 1997.) I get the argument that Houston isn’t geographically near any of its rivals, but they have a 50-year history in the NL. And, while it is jet travel, these teams travel in a manner most of us can only dream of. Sure, it’s a drag to get on a plane and travel for 81 nights a year, but plenty of people do it without the benefit of chartered planes and five-star hotels.
What I think baseball got right is the addition of a wild card to each league, but with the critical proviso that they will play a one-game playoff versus the other wild card. Baseball instantly made September important for a lot of teams again. Now, winning the division really will matter. Last year’s Boston and Atlanta collapses aside, we have entered a lot of Septembers recently when the divisions and wild card were almost settled. I think back to 2010 when the big question for the Yankees was should they go all out to win the division, or rest players knowing they had the wild card. Now, that choice is obvious. And, the extra playoff spot gives more teams a chance. This is a great idea and it lengthens the playoffs by a single day. Congrats to MLB on nailing it.
What do you think?