I have to give it to Bud Selig. When he announced he was creating an 18-member “special committee for on-field matters” he said there would be no sacred cows. And, like clockwork, the committee has suggested something that might well be described as making hamburger out of one of them.
As SI.com’s Tom Verducci reports, one radical suggestion is “floating” realignment where clubs could jump divisions each year, “based on geography, payroll and their plans to contend or not.”
One example of floating realignment, according to one insider, would work this way: Cleveland, which is rebuilding with a reduced payroll, could opt to leave the AL Central to play in the AL East. The Indians would benefit from an unbalanced schedule that would give them a total of 18 lucrative home dates against the Yankees and Red Sox instead of their current eight. A small or mid-market contender, such as Tampa Bay or Baltimore, could move to the AL Central to get a better crack at postseason play instead of continually fighting against the mega-payrolls of New York and Boston.
Verducci adds that, “Divisions still would loosely follow geographic lines; no team would join a division more than two time zones outside its own, largely to protect local television rights (i.e., start times of games) and travel costs.”
Could there be better competitive balance in MLB? Yes (see some reasons why). Is this radical idea the answer? How many different ways can you say, “No”?
First off, while some clubs are willing to say they are in the midst of rebuilding, most don’t because it sends a message to fans that your team is pretty much going to stink this year, which of course, does little for ticket sales. And then, who’s to say that a club might just like staying where they are at, thank you very much? Would the league work on some type of “division eviction notice”?
Second, there are some rivalries that transcend all sports, and there is no bigger rivalry than the Yankees and Red Sox. Theoretically, you could have one of these clubs jumping divisions. Fans would raise eyebrows, but the networks would flip.
The reality of this plan is that it is designed for small to mid-markets, which sounds great on paper, but in terms of practicality would be a nightmare. Katy Feeney, who is in charge of scheduling the season for the 30 clubs gets blasted every year for how one issue or another doesn’t make the best sense. Be it travel issues, or extended road trips, not everyone is going to be happy. The “floating” realignment issue would compound that aspect.
Finally, the plan is missing one very large piece to its puzzle: the players. When Selig hatched this committee that he handpicked (see who is on the committee), one of the first questions asked of him was whether the MLBPA would be at the table. At the time of the announcement, Selig said he would be getting back to the Players Association about having them on the panel, and that the current makeup of the committee was in its “genesis”.
If there’s solace for those thinking this plan may actually get put into action, consider this: The committee is in an advisory capacity, and while Selig will weigh what is being said, the panel has no authority to make decisions.
“All I can tell you is I will be guided by what this committee comes up with,” Selig said.
In that sense, the chances for this type of radical idea occurring seems remote. Selig fancies himself as a historian of the game, and certainly lands smack dab in the “purist” category. The idea, while well meaning, should remain just that: an idea.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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