October 29, 2020

Have-Nots Would Benefit From Realignment

July 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s a known fact that attendance at the Toronto Blue Jays’ home games has been dwindling for some years, even more so in the last couple of years. Many reasons have been brought up to try to explain the situation but one thing is clear: lots of fans have lost any hope of watching a team that has any chance of reaching the playoffs. With the Yankees and Red Sox in the same division, to which one can add the resurgent Rays (until their young players are old enough to sign with… the Yankees), the Jays are stuck in third place at best! The Jays have been able to build a team that has battled in the last few years, but clearly it’s not enough.

When Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch all fell down last year, Toronto didn’t have the depth to overcome those losses. Same thing this year when Aaron Hill and Adam Lind both have gone through a season-long slump. The same thing could apply to the Baltimore Orioles, even though that organization is mostly responsible for its own demise with stupid baseball decisions.

To lots of people, the solution resides in a salary cap or at least, a formula in which the discrepancy between the Yankees and the rest of the league wouldn’t be that large. The greater uncertainty level that can be observed in the NFL is at the root of its success. I’m not here to advocate that kind of a system, even though I believe an organization is as strong as its weakest link. But the players say that they will never accept a salary cap system. Without a salary control system, are there other ways?

Some people hinted at the possibility of having divisions according to the team revenues. I’m not a big fan of that. The NHL had something that really looked like that for four years, from 1967-1968 to 1969-1970. The NHL had just expanded from six to twelve teams. To create interest in the new cities, the NHL decided to regroup the six new franchises into the same division and the original six in the other. The result of this was a final which, for three years, featured a sweep that lacked any drama. Of course, baseball could adopt another playoff system but regrouping the have-nots in one division and the riches in another is not the solution.

However, I think that the idea of changing the divisions every year has some merit under one condition: the best teams should be rewarded. How could this be done? By organizing the divisions according to their record. Thus, the teams with the three best records in a league would be in different divisions, as if they were the no. 1 seed. The next three best teams would follow in reverse order and so on… If we take last season, according to my system, the divisions would as follows in both leagues:



NY Yankees





LA Angels




Kansas City









LA Dodgers




NY Mets



San Francisco

Chicago Cubs

San Diego









Of course, trying to design a schedule according to the preceding season’s standings might be asking too much… unless MLB agrees to let go of the unbalanced schedule. But even if one wants to keep the rivalry intact within a division, well, let’s draw the schedule according to the standings from two seasons ago.

I don’t pretend that such a system would be perfect. But at least, it would provide some hope to some franchises (particularly Baltimore and Toronto) which don’t deserve to be kept out of the playoffs permanently.

Alain Usereau has been a member of SABR since 1991. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics (University of Sherbrooke, 1986) and a Certificate’s degree in Journalism (Laval University, Quebec City, 1987). He’s been a broadcaster since 1989, mainly in sports. He is the author of a book about the heydays of the Montreal Expos, “L’époque glorieuse des Expos” (The golden years of the Expos), which depicts how they became not only a force in the late 1970s and early 1980s but became also the toast of a whole country. Alain is passionate about baseball and rock music.

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