Monday Notes: Pitching, Fonzie, and Realignment

Me and the Cap'n Make it Happen

With two wins in three games so far against the Buccos, the Mets have a chance to hit .500 yet again tonight with a win. Pelf vs. Maholm @ PNC — 7:10 pm

How ’bout that rotation? In the last month:

Dylan “Nothin’ but a” Gee: 2.02 era  with a complete game and 26 k’s

Johnny “No more Mr.” Niese: 1.34 era and 33k’s

R.A. “I just have too many awesome nicknames and stories” Dickey: 3.35 era, a complete game, and 26 k’s

Chris “Cap’ ” Capuano: 3.82 era and 31 k’s

The numbers are way more impressive if you just look at the last two weeks, but I wanted to zoom out some and look not just at a short trend, but really a good chunk of the season. These guys have held this piecemeal team together and let them compete in every game. They might not be Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels, but they can keep the Mets relevant til Santana gets back and hopefully Pelf gets back to form.

Fonzie Bear goes Wakka Wakka!

You can head over to Metsblog for a great lil’ video of one of my favorite Mets of the past, Edgardo Alfonzo, talking about his years in Queens.

See, we don't like each-other!

Lastly, I want to discuss Inter-league, playoff spots, and realignment a bit. MLB’s been in discussion for a good portion of the year regarding adding a wild-card slot or two, and therefore playoff structure as well, but in the last week especially talk of realignment has come up.

Alright, before I dive in, I just want to talk about leagues and divisions, and well, history, since that’s what I do.

From the dawn of time, er..at least the modern age of baseball ~ 1900, there were just the two leagues: American and National. The winner of each league played each-other in the World Series.

As baseball became more and more profitable and popular, new teams joined the leagues. With the addition of four teams in 1969, the leagues decided to split in to east and west’s, and that’s how it was through 1993.

Starting in 1993, baseball underwent a series of changes: two new teams were created (Marlins/Rockies), two more were awarded to start in ’98 (D’Backs/(Devil) Rays, baseball split in to three divisions per league, inter-league play began in 98, and because they didn’t want an odd number of teams in each league, they wanted one AL team to move to the NL. Eventually the Brewers became that team, and that’s how the leagues have been since ’98.

Which brings us back to 2011. At the very least it sounds like they’re going to add a second wildcard slot (bringing the total # of playoff teams from 8 to 10), which would most likely create either a 1 game playoff between the two WC’s, or a best of three series. I really like this idea. It gives teams in harder divisions a better chance of making the playoffs, while also reducing the overall power of the wildcard slot and increasing the advantage of being the division winner. Now, what are the problems with this: 1. Does it reduce end-of-season drama, or create more of it having more teams in the race? 2. How will the timing work? Most sports you want to have more time off, but not in baseball.

The other item up for discussion is realignment. Turns out the whole six teams in the NL Central and 4 teams in the AL west thing is awkward and very un-symmetrical (which baseball loves to be). Should one NL team head back to the AL? If so who? What do you do about the schedule conflicts which caused the 93 shift? Do you do more inter-league, or at least more spread out inter-league? One option being discussed is killing the whole division concept entirely. It does after-all create inequalities between teams.

Former GM Jim Bowden proposed an idea to do away with the AL and NL and break the league down even further by location (as the NBA and NHL do). The three big plus’s of this are that schedule works out way easier, location based rivalries are better fostered by more games played, and teams in similar market areas compete more directly against each-other (sorry Toronto, you’re still screwed in this scenario). That said, I hate it. Baseball is the only major sport where there is still any rivalry between its leagues. The two leagues have their own rich histories, and to do away with all that for modern convenience seems cheap and demeaning. He also wants to do away with the DH (which believe me, I hate; but do also enjoy that the two leagues still have slight variances in their rules. He also wants to add more playoff teams, go from the current 8, to 12.

Lets break it down:

Currently Major League Baseball has 8 playoff teams and 30 total teams = 26.67%

The National Football League has 12 playoff teams and 32 total teams = 37.5%

The National Basketball Conference has 16 playoff teams and 28 total teams = 57.14%

The National Hockey League has 16 playoff teams and 30 total teams = 53.33%

I don’t know what most people think, but I really don’t like the NBA and NHL playoff structure. I really like divisions to have meaning. The pennant chase is a huge part of baseball for me, and I’m just not really to let that go. Also, the fact that more than half the teams make the playoffs is just silly. Teams mantras become, just play decent enough, and be healthy and hot for the playoffs. Sorry NBA and NHL, you gotta get rid of some playoff teams. The playoffs also just go on too long for the casual fan.

The NFL playoffs are as exciting as it gets, and I barely even consider myself a football fan. The one and done nature, the drama for grabbing playoff spots, the plus is that division winners get versus WC slots. Seems really solid to me. Only issue I guess is the randomness of one game series, but you can’t get around that in football.

I love the baseball playoffs, I love them so much in fact, I want a little more of them. Just a little though, not too much. I’m all for adding one more WC slot, and having the two teams play either a one game showdown, or a best of three series to determine who faces the top seeded team in the first real round. To make up for these games scheduling wise, we eliminate the random off days. I want the only days off being travel days, and an extra day if needed between rounds. That’s it. None of this 3 man rotation bollocks. You made the playoffs with 5 starters, I want at least four being relevant in the playoffs. That would make baseball 10/30 teams making the playoffs, and that my friends is baseball symmetry: one third. 3 strikes to an out, 3 out’s to an inning, 9 innings in a game. The magic number.

As for the 16/14 ratio, send the Astros to the AL West. They don’t have the same history some of the NL Central teams do in the National League, and they can fit right in with American league hitting philosophy and create a divisional rivalry with the Rangers.

One problem solved, another created. How do we schedule games with 15 teams in a division. My solution, modify inter-league play. Baseball has a 162 game season, that’s 52 three game series a year. Sub out the 6 inter-league series we schedule for now, we’re down to 46. I’d keep inter-league as it is now in the sense that you play an entire division in the other league that rotates each year, but now instead of subbing in your cross-league rival, you just play the whole division. Then, in addition, once per year, you play your rival in a series when the rest of the teams are scheduled regularly. So 14 teams in the league face off with one inter-league match-up for fans to get psyched for the whole season. That leaves only 16 series that need fixing the whole year which can be remedied with scheduled two for one doubleheaders on Sundays followed by extra off days. Each team only really needs to do one the whole year, they’re a part of baseball history, and it’d be a big thing in making fans feel like they’re a relevant part of baseball again. You can also throw in some four game series to clean it all up.

By adding a second wildcard team, we also give teams in tougher divisions a better shot of making the playoffs, and we still get to keep divisional structure and the AL/NL rivalry.

Update:

More takes on realignment (hat-tip mlbtraderumors) from Fan Graphs and USAToday

Keith Olberman also wrote a great piece on it on his blog.

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of the D-Backs moving to the AL and the Astros moving to the NL West.

And that’s that. What do you think?

Further Update:

As I think about all this more, the less and less I like the idea of more inter-league play. It’s losing it’s luster enough now as is, let alone with it going all year round. While more symmetry would be great, I don’t want it to come at the expense of cross league drama. Back to the drawing board.

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About amazinreyes

I'm a 20-something Mets fan living his post-collegiate life in the heart of Red Sox Nation. Fascinated by baseball, the media, and politics; this blog will serve as a place for me to talk endlessly about the Amazin's and topics related to them. Tug said "Ya Gotta Believe!", Journey sang "Don't Stop Believing", and I just can't stop believing for my Metsies. I realize there's thousands of baseball blogs out there, but here's another 1 full of nostalgia, hope, history, and Mets baseball. Ya' Just Gotta Believe!
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3 Responses to Monday Notes: Pitching, Fonzie, and Realignment

  1. Sean Jeffrey says:

    I like the idea of doing away with divisions if it remedies certain current inequities.
    -It is unfair for AL West teams to only have to beat out 3 other teams, when NL Central team need to beat out 5.
    -the Blue Jays, Rays, and Orioles must beat out Boston and NY, both behemoths of revenue, who have long track records of highly funded teams full of high priced talent. AL East team also have a more difficult divisional schedule than AL West and AL Central teams, though compete for the same wildcard.
    Tradition is not a positive when it creates unfairness (though I’ve always been a progressive). Allowing the teams with the best record into the playoffs seems more fair and natural.

    The problem with no divisions it that teams would play more games against distant opponents. Divisions kept teams in a smaller geographic area. It is difficult for fans to view games that are not in their own timezone (either beginning late at night or while they are still at work) as teams travel coast to coast. That is why the NHL and NBA have an East and a West. Also, more travel means more jet fuel burnt, and that’s bad for the environment and gas prices.

    Ideally, the leagues would be split east and west, but then you run into the DH difference. I know fans like the DH flavor of their team, so I wouldn’t force teams to change.

    I suppose my first suggestion would be to split each league into 2 divisons, AL East, AL West, NL East and NL West. Though looking here http://sportitinfo.yolasite.com/resources/MLB-teams_map.jpg , most teams are grouped in the Eastern Time Zone (6 pacific teams, 2 mountain teams, 6 central teams, 16 east teams). If you break that by league you get in the NL 3 pacific, 2 mountain, 3 central and 7 eastern, and in the AL 3 pacific, 0 mountain, 3 central, and 8 eastern. (Americans sure didn’t migrate based upon television watching.) That would divide east and west along the central time line.

    My divisions would exist solely to reduce travel and foster better television times. I would keep 4 playoff teams in each league, with 2 division winners receiving home field advantage and 2 wildcards.

    In closing, I’m not a fan of adding 2 more teams to the playoffs. The regular season must have meaning. A 1 or even 3 game series is too flukey to award advancement to the best team. You don’t want time off in baseball, so you cannot have byes like football. All playoffs, whatever size, should keep to powers of 2 (2, 4, 8, or 16).

  2. amazinreyes says:

    I’m definitely with you on the need to create equality among teams of various revenues. I would just rather see it done through harsher and more enforced payments when teams go above the luxury tax (and making sure the money goes to FA’s/the draft on teams getting those funds) and by adding a second wild card team.

    Fixing the 5 teams per division across all of baseball would fix the inequities of the AL West and NL Central as well. I just don’t know how to do that best without killing the awesomeness of interleague. Maybe there’s a way with staggering schedules with well placed off days, or scheduled double-headers, but I’m a big fan of divisional structure.

    I think I really like the idea of two wild-card slots competing in a one game playoff for the right to the next round. It gives real value to winning your division which used to be a big deal, and now it’s really just a matter of “did you make the playoffs or not?”. It also allows mid and smaller market teams like the Rays/O’s/Jays to be relevant if you can have them having more of a shot of making that 2nd WC slot.

    I guess there’s some randomness to a one game winner take all situation, but that’s how it goes when teams tie after the regular season, and those games are always awesome.

    • Sean Jeffrey says:

      I’d just hate it if wild card 2 finished the regular season 10 games back of wildcard 1 only to beat them in a short series. It would also mean the a wildcard team may rest players (BORING) while the teams with better records battle for the division

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