By Frank Workman
Frank Workman, a resident of Lake Forest Park, is a longtime baseball and high-school sports fan.
Seventy-five years ago, the notion of African-Americans playing Major League Baseball was radical.
Sixty years ago the thought of a major-league franchise relocating, much less two teams from New York moving to the West Coast, was unimaginable.
Fifty years ago, nobody could foresee World Series games being played at night, or the concept of a designated hitter becoming part of the game.
Thirty years ago the proliferation of foreign players, from all corners of the world, seemed, well, foreign.
Twenty years ago, the idea of interleague play (and the abandoning of any pretense toward competitive fairness) would have been far-fetched.
And yet we have seen all these pipe-dreams come true. Baseball adapts and evolves.
Here’s a proposal for what might be the next radical change to happen to the National Pastime.
– Abandon the current and long-standing tradition of the American and National Leagues. (The DH rule would be adopted for all teams in the sport.)
– Three 10-team divisions would be created.
– The Western Division would include Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Diego, Arizona, Colorado, Houston, and Texas.
–The Central Division would consist of Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago Cubs and White Sox, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, and Toronto.
– The Atlantic Division would find Boston, New York Yankees and Mets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, Baltimore, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Miami.
– As was the case when the leagues expanded in 1961 and 1962 (to 10 teams each), each team would play all nine of its divisional opponents 18 times for a total of 162 games. No games would be played outside of the division. The ideal of competitive balance would be achieved.
Most teams would stay in their own time zones throughout the season. Travel would be reduced substantially. Eliminating jet-lag should improve player performance.
Here’s how postseason play would be handled.
– Eight teams would get in.
– The three division winners would qualify.
– The top five non-division winners would qualify and be seeded according to their win-loss record. In case of ties, head-to-head records (if from the same division) would be used. If teams are in different divisions, than overall run differential would be used to break any ties.
– Say the season ends on a Sunday. On Tuesday, Team No. 8 plays at Team No. 5, and Team No. 7 plays at Team No. 6. One game. Loser out.
– Wednesday, those two winners play at the higher seed. One game. Loser out.
– That winner plays Thursday at Team No. 4. One game. Loser out.
– After four games in three days of do-or-die baseball, you’d have four surviving teams.
– Saturday, you start the semifinals. The No. 1 team would host the Nos. 4-8 survivor in a best-of-seven series, while Team No. 2 would host Team No. 3.
– Winners would then play in the World Series. The higher-seeded team would host Games 1, 2, 6, and 7.
Here’s how fans benefit from this new arrangement.
– Teams stay, primarily, in their own time zone. Evening games that start at 7 p.m. local time are convenient and make for lots of eyeballs watching games on TV from Monday through Friday. The hard-to-catch 4 p.m. starts (for us out West when our teams are back East), and 10 p.m. starts (for East Coast teams that come out West) would be eliminated.
– For many fans, it would be easier for them to follow their team on the road and they might actually drive to nearby away games.
– Rivalries would, in all likelihood, increase greatly. When teams play 18 games against all their divisional opponents each year, year after year, fans are bound to find other teams (and players) who they can easily learn to hate. Rivalries fuel interest in any sport.
– Fans of contending teams would take keen interest in all the other teams vying for one of the top 8 slots. Potential home playoff games would be at stake down the stretch.
– The three division-winning teams would get the reward of resting up for several days from the end of the regular season until their first playoff series would begin. This would place a greater value on winning the division than now exists.
– Having only two rounds of seven-game series would mean the season would actually end well before Halloween, when temperatures are more suited to playing (and watching) baseball, and players can compete in conditions that better resemble those they played in all year.
Granted, this is a radical departure from the tradition of the American and National Leagues. But then, so was Jackie Robinson, the L.A. Dodgers, the S.F. Giants, and Ichiro.
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