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.
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.
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.
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?
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.