Two-division Format In MLB Starting To Grow On Me

As I think I’ve blogged about before, I am completely opposed to any playoff expansion in Major League Baseball. It’s an idea that’s getting some serious consideration from Bud Selig, despite many in baseball complaining that the season is too long the way it is.

It seems to me the obvious reason – besides money – is baseball trying to find a way to give the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles some hope that they can make the playoffs consistently rather than hoping to time their success with down years by the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. To me, that’s avoiding the real problem, but I don’t want to get sidetracked.

But let’s face it: MLB has no plans to curtail the Yankees’ free-spending ways. So if the hope is to give Rays, Blue Jays and Orioles fans hope, I’m starting to become a supporter of a return to the two-division format that baseball had up until the mid-1990s.

Paul Swydan of FanGraphs got me thinking about it to begin with. When I first read his write-up – link to Part 1 here – I quickly dismissed it. “It’s too OUT there,” I thought. And honestly, it is out there. It will never happen when there’s money to be made on a potential one-game playoff between the No. 4 and 5 seeds of each league every year.

But I believe the season is long enough, and I don’t think a one-game playoff is any way to decide what team should advance when they’ve had 162 games to figure it out themselves, unless of course those two teams are tied after 162 and a one-game playoff is necessary. I realize it’s great drama, as we all say in 2009. But let’s leave that alone.

If MLB returned to a two-division format, the AL Central and NL Central go away. The Yankees and Red Sox could remain in the AL East, but a third team from that league could potentially get a playoff berth every year if that team fared better than the second-best team in the AL West. And there’s always the possibility the Yankees and/or Red Sox don’t make the playoffs.

The idea – far-fetched as it is – is growing on me.

2 Responses

  1. I actually like this idea better than the three-division format that MLB currently has. I think the only change I would make to his proposal would be to swap the divisions of the Brewers and Astros.

    It’s too bad that MLB didn’t try this with two wild card teams before they went ahead with the three-division system. It would allow for more variety in the division – instead of playing the Kansas City Royals 18 times a year, they could instead schedule 12 games. Plus, it gets rid of the 4 team AL West, which really bothers me.

    I have my doubts that this would ever happen, though, at least not while Bud Selig is in charge. We can only hope that he lives up to the statement that he will retire in 2012 and the person that replaces him has the foresight to fix all of his mistakes, which includes the three-division system, interleague play, and the All Star Game deciding home field advantage.

    I don’t fancy myself as a baseball purist by any means, but a lot of what has been changed while he has been in charge could easily go away with little harm done. I understand why most of these changes were put into play – due to dwindling attendance after the ’94 strike and with expansion – but I think it has run its course.

    The only change that I feel would make the owners, teams and/or fans suffer would be getting rid of interleague play. There are some natural rivalries in baseball (New York, Chicago, LA, SF-Oakland, plus the in-state rivals), but many of the natural “rivals” are forced and therefore meaningless. A single rival game could still be fit in, say somewhere around the All Star break, if one needs to be played. Whether or not it was an exhibition or if it counted could be up for debate.

  2. Drew

    While this might be best for baseball (i.e. giving the AL east teams not named Yankees/RedSox a better chance to reach the playoffs), this would result in Twins playoff appearances being limited.

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