Jun 16, 2011, 06:58AM

MLB Realignment Won't Cure the Baltimore Orioles Blues

Who can save us from ourselves?

Picture 1.png?ixlib=rails 2.1


There’s been a lot of talk this week about MLB possibly realigning teams and leagues as part of the sport's yet-to-be negotiated collective bargaining agreement. The realignment jabber comes on the heels of Commissioner Bud Selig's spring training nugget that he was considering adding one additional playoff team to each league.  

Taken at face value I'm not philosophically opposed to any of the options under discussion. Traditionally, baseball changes slowly, and having a 147-year-old used car salesman at the helm of operations doesn’t help. MLB's lack of change isn't necessarily bad. I'm a big NFL fan but that sport makes maddeningly inconsistent and unnecessary rules changes nearly every offseason. They even make up rules that turn obvious TD catches into incompletions (sorry Detroit). While MLB may be slow to react, the NFL's manic pace is often clunky, pointless and confusing.  

Apparently there are many options to be discussed as part of MLB's proposed realignment. I've heard ESPN’s Buster Olney report that the divisions could be abolished and the Astros or D-backs moved to the AL West to create two 15-team leagues. The top five teams in each league would make the playoffs. My problem with this proposal is that it would result in season long inter-league play. Quite simply, inter-league play is stupid. Sure it was a nice gimmick when first instituted and it created some fun weekends in New York and Chicago, but most of the "rivalries" are contrived. No one cares about Orioles vs. Nats and those teams play 40 miles apart from each other. Imagine how apathetic those Blue Jays vs. Diamondbacks crowds must be.  

I've also heard rumors that the National League could adopt the DH. My opinion on this matter is biased because I absolutely hate the DH. The National League game is a much better brand of baseball than the America League's robot beer league softball approach to our national pastime. The NL keeps in-game strategy alive and forces managers to use their entire roster. I don't see the DH coming to the NL any time soon.

If MLB does realign don't expect the new structure to improve the fortunes of the Baltimore Orioles. Yes, the O’s have the misfortune of playing in what is currently baseball's best division. However, the Tampa Bay Rays have proven that playing in the AL East doesn't preclude a team from contending. If the proposed 15-team, no-division AL does come to fruition it would result in a more balanced schedule. It would cut the number of O's games against Boston and New York from the currently absurd 36 games per season to a more manageable 24 but that change alone won't make Baltimore a contender.

In a perfect world, I’d abolish inter-league play and reinstate the balanced schedule. I'd keep the current divisions in place and add a second wild card team in each league. The division winner with the best record would get a first round buy while the other two division winners play a three-game home series against one of the wild cards. The top team in each league would be able to set their rotation and the division winners would be rewarded with home field advantage in their first round series.  

The Orioles would benefit from this revised system as soon as they start drafting and developing talented players and making worthwhile acquisitions through trades and free agency. Unless the Yankees are forced to play with eye patches and the Red Sox start Matt Albers every time they play Baltimore, no amount of structural or scheduling changes can save the Orioles from themselves. Decision-making, not competition level, has been the Orioles biggest problem since Pat Gillick's departure following the 1998 season.


Register or Login to leave a comment