Well, baseball’s getting it half right. Recent rumours, somewhat confirmed by the likes of our own Aaron Hill and the Astros Michael Bourn suggest a big change is coming to the game perhaps as soon as next season. The suggestion is Houston will move to the AL to even out the two leagues at 15 teams apiece, and that two new teams will be added to the playoff mix, making ten teams instead of the current 8. more disconcerting though, is the plan to up interleague games to 78 per team!
Now it’s always seemed inherently wrong and unfair that the AL West has only 4 teams while the NL Central boasts six and all the others have 5. It seems to give the Rangers et al an unfair advantage in making the playoffs (given that they only have to hold off 3 rivals unlike the jays who need to top 4, or say, the Reds who have to hold off five to win their division.) And given the rivalry between the Astros and Rangers, moving Houston to the AL West seems the obvious solution. However, as the schedule makers noticed, it also would create a logistical nightmare, as with fifteen teams per league, essentially we’d have to have interleague play all the time. (Only fourteen teams could play themselves – 7 games- within the league on any given day, thus we’d always have to have one team per league sitting out on a given day unless they play each other.)
That is the rub. I’m like a lot of fans , and players, in that I don’t adore Interleague play at all. I think there’s already too much of it, and that while a few rivalries are ‘natural” and fun and invigorating to the crowds (such as the Subway series in new York and the Melee on Michigan between the Cubbies and white sox), many leave the fans lukewarm (how excited are the Giants fans when the A’s come across the bridge? Methinks not very.) , some teams including Toronto (and Atlanta, Boston, Colorado and so on) don’t have a “natural” rival and when it comes to series that involve other teams , besides the league designated “natural” rivals, it’s a dead loss. A Milwaukee-Tampa or Toronto-San diego series might as well be sponsored by No-Doz as it’s going to be a snorefest. Not only that, but as some writers have noticed, when it comes to the wildcard, a team like , let’s say St louis most years have it a lot easier than say the Mets, as the majority of the Cards IL games come against the weakling Royals while the mets get stuck playing the Yankees six, eight times a year instead. Kinda makes the schedule seem a tad unfair doesn’t it?
While short of adding a couple more teams to the game, we’re unable to avoid some interleague play, my suggestion is less, not more. And this could be accomplished even while shifting the Astros over to the AL to even out the leagues. Here’s how. If only 14 out of 15 teams can play each other on a given day, it means one team must be playing IL every day. One out of fifteen,or one fifteenth of the whole schedule. In a 162 game sched, that means that a team must play about 11 games against the other league to keep the schedule going and prevent long sitdowns. My suggestion is that each team play 12 interleague games, down from the present 18. Then, keep the divisions we have (except moving Houston over), and have each team play its divisional rivals 14 times a year. That’s 56 games. Which leaves 94 games to play against their own league, different divisions. This could be done by having each team play 7 of the other teams 10 times and the remaining three 8 games. Voila- 162 games. For fairness, it could be seen that the teams which only play 8 times a year one season would play 10 the next.
This gives fans a chance to see their divisional rivals a lot, just not quite as much as they do now; evens out the schedule thereby making it a bit fairer for all and diminishes the occurrence of marketing blunders like Arizona at Cleveland long weekend series.
As for the playoffs… I hesitantly like the idea of adding two more teams. But only if it can be done in a compact manner, perhaps a winner take all game between the two ‘wildcards” . The last thing we need is another two weeks tacked on to the slate while we play yet another round of playoff games, nor do we need the champion teams having to sit out for ten days twiddling their thumbs waiting to see which non-division winner will advance to play them.
Speaking of bad promotions, what was with the Jays “70s Night” last night? It seemed a little hare-brained to begin with but given that they went for it shouldn’t they at least have dressed their own players up for the event?? Why encourage the fans to wear fake afros and leisure suits and then have the jays and Orioles take the field in brand spanking new 2011 unis?? Both teams have popular throwback uniforms and logos which would remind people of the days of jim Palmer and Dave Steib and would have added a modicum of fun to the night . A major marketing blunder if you ask me.
Am I the only one thinking to myself , “Hmm– Brad Arnsberg fired by Houston… hmm. Maybe it’s time to give him a shout and tell Bruce Walton ‘thanks pal, but this might not be the type of work you should be in.” The Jays going into last night were 13th in AL pitching despite the supposed deep well of arms and the unbelievable “stuff” posessed by kyle Drabek (which was exactly what the RSN TV crew were going on about even last night , unbelievably, while Romero was tossing a shutout into the ninth and Drabek was demoted back to the minors.) If the talent pool is so deep, one has to eventually start asking why very very few pitchers are living up to their potential in toronto; why the team is sinking in rankings by the week because of it. Brad Arnsberg did a fine job for Toronto in his five years here, was the guy who first got Ricky Romero upto big league speed, and with the aid of Roy Halladay got AJ Burnett to change from being a petulant, whiny losing pitcher to a petulant whiny winning pitcher. The jays could do worse than consider bringing him back (Arnsberg that is, not AJ) to work with the current crop of young underachievers.