Baseball Realignment Isn't Such a Bad Idea

Fans and sports reporters are in a tizzy over rumors that Major League Baseball might realign as soon as next year to even up their leagues.  Currently there are 14 professional teams in the American League and 16 teams in the National League, so it only makes sense to try to move one to make them equal at 15 teams each.  The debate isn't just about which NL team (Houston Astros? Arizona Diamondbacks?) might start calling the AL its new home, but about all the implications that will come with it.  Big changes are in the air.

Right now there are no official proclamations about what to expect, but the general agreement is that as early as next season the current configuration and schedule of the national pastime will be very different.  What those changes might be in 2012 are nothing more than speculation at this point.  New wild card slots?  Expanded playoffs?  A shortened regular season?  Here's the big one: no more divisions?

As I've written about before, I'm not a fan of the wild card system, so I actually think having divisionless leagues in which the top five teams would compete for the championship in the post season isn't such a farfetched concept.  Eliminating the East, West, and Central Divisions and only looking at a total win percentage is a fair way to make sure that only the best teams with the best records make it to the playoffs. (It's actually a step in the direction of my far-fetched idea for realignment.)

It's not a perfect solution.  No Divisions mean no Divisional Pennants, but regional divisions themselves have not always been a staple of the MLB.  A more valid criticision of the possible new alignment is that it would require more interleague play.  I dislike interleague play but would be less opposed to it if both leagues played by the same rules, but that is one change that will likely never happen in my lifetime -- the National League will never accept a Designated Hitter and the American League will never eliminate it. 

I don't view realignment as a negative thing.  I think more convoluted wild cards would be far worse.  Any logistical issues can be worked out, but you would still have the ten top teams with the ten best win-loss records compete against each other on the road to the World Series, and it would give every single franchise a fairer shot, unlike the current system in which good teams with great records (even with the Wild Card in place) are stuck in a tough division and might not make it to the playoffs, even if they had the third best record in their league.