September 14, 2013

Time for 32-team #MLB? I say yes!

ESPN's Jim Caple has a good post lamenting how year-round interleague baseball is a problem with wild-card races running up to the end of the year.

As Example No. 1, he cites the Tampa Bay Rays, who will play the rest of their schedule entirely within the American League. Given the DH/no-DH difference between the leagues, this is a serious issue.

Plus, I've never been a big fan of interleague play in general, let alone year-round interleague play.

That said, the 14-team vs. 16-team leagues before this year were an issue.

So, let's address that!

Caple wants expansion to 32 teams. And, I'm down with it.

He suggests Montreal as one team. Good choice. The Expos weren't that bad, fiscally, until their last pre-Washington owner. Guy named Jeff Loria. 

You know him as the latest vulture owner of the Miami Marlins.

Plus, former Expos great Warren Cromartie has a project and organization up and running, trying to bring MLB back to the city.

Caple suggested Brooklyn as a second team. Well, sorry, Jim. No Brooklyn Superbas or Robins could capture the long-lost history of the Dodgers before they moved. And the Mets and Yankees simply won't allow it.

Pacific Northwest native Caple didn't list Portland as his No. 2 team, Per a Twitter exchange, this is why:
Problem with Portland is it could sap attendance from Mariners and result in 2 weak teams.
Is that realistic? As I tweeted back, before the Sonics moved to OKC, both they and the TrailBlazers drew fine in the NBA.

It's the largest metro area in the U.S. without an MLB team (slightly bigger than St. Louis and Baltimore, and certainly bigger than Pittsburgh), and has a good fan support history in the Pacific Coast League. Besides that, Seattle is 180 miles away and also has the Tacoma/Olympia metro area. If it's really that dependent on Portland-area fans, it's got other issues.

If you go by metro area size, Sacramento is next, and they're not getting a team with two Bay Area teams. Charlotte's the next, and pro sports have been iffy there. Next is Salt Lake City and I don't see it as a baseball team. Plus, it's at enough altitude you have some Coors Field-type issues, and I can't see MLB liking that. Next is Columbus, Ohio. Nope. Not with Reds and Indians. Next yet is Indianapolis, which is the next reasonable MLB spot after Portland in my book. After that, to jog few the next few slots, no, San Antonio and Vegas aren't MLB towns, from what I see, either. Nor Austin. So, it's either Portland or Indy, with Portland definitely running ahead from where I sit. (At the same time, whether more fan and civic leaders' fault, or owners and minor leagues' fault, Portland has bounced in and out of minor league team location, per Wikipedia.)

(Update, May 18, 2014: Jesse Spector at Sporting News has been the latest to raise the 32-team idea, but Vegas as one of the two is just wrong. Vegas has shown no indication it's a major pro sports town, let alone a major-league baseball town, and we've had two mistakes in Florida already. Craig Calcaterra, in his linking, agrees on no Vegas.)

Anyway, that covers that.

Then, here's how this plays out in terms of alignment and scheduling.

We could have either four four-team divisions per league, or two eight-team divisions. 

I have four playoff teams either way, with allowing both wild cards to come from the same division with eight-team divisions.

Here's how the scheduling would work.

Eight-team divisions
1. Three games against each team in one division from the other league = 24 games.
2. Eight games against each team in the other division in your league = 64 games.
3. Eleven games against four teams in your division and ten games against the other three = 74 games and you're at 162.

Four-team divisions, option 1
1. Three games against each team in two divisions from the other league = 24 games.
2. Eight games against each team in the other three divisions in your league = 96 games.
3. Fourteen games against the teams in your division = 42 games and you're at 162.

Four-team divisions, option 2
1. Three games against each team in two divisions from the other league = 24 games.
2. Eight games against eight teams in the other divisions in your league and nine against four teams = 102 games.
3. Twelve games against the teams in your division = 36 games and you're at 162.

In any of these cases, two 12-game sets of interleague games, say mid-May and end of July, takes care of that. The rest of the season is in-league baseball, with scheduling somewhat slanted toward one division, but not overly so. 

Next, should we use this as an opportunity for further realignment? Cardinals and Royals in the same league? Reds and Indians? Or not? 

And, if you want more playoffs, I'm agin you, but if you have to, then have four-division leagues with six playoff teams, not five. In other words, the NFL.

Make first round 2-of-3, not a 1-game play-in, but cut second round back to 3-of-5. For doorknob's sake, don't become any more like the NBA or NHL. 


On the other hand, we could go back to 28 teams with contraction. Various alternatives have been offered in the past; the most logical current one would be killing both Florida teams. Joe Maddon, and Rays management, would easily find new landing spots. That said, speaking of management, if MLB did this, it should ban Loria from future ownership possibilities. Here's the latest on why Bud Selig should bar him.

And, while you're here, my poll is still open on whom Eric Byrnes' alleged roider might be.


Riebel said...

I would say in four-team divisions, you should play each division foe at least 18 times (54 games). Play 16 interleague games (3 against 4 teams in one division of the other league plus 4 against a crosstown rival). This leaves 92 games against the 12 teams in the other 3 divisions of the same league. Play 9 games against each team in one division on a rotating 3-year cycle (36 games), and 7 games against the other two divisions (56 games).

Gadfly said...

I certainly wouldn't oppose cutting back to 16 interleague games.

Not sure I'm sold on that "unbalanced" of a schedule within one's own league, though, unless (which I wouldn't) one adds 1 or even 2 wild cards to make up for potential inequalities from the unbalanced sked.