This is a rare opportunity for MLB to do what it failed to do in 1994 when the number of playoff teams was doubled from four to eight and the number of divisions was increased from four to six: re-align. At the time I had hoped that the cancellation of the 1994 playoffs because of the labor strife, which aborted the regular season, would give MLB pause but it plunged ahead with the new playoffs in 1995 and the re-alignment mess that currently exists.
My original 2006 Radical Baseball document, which is now the first post on this blog, dealt with this subject by trying to revert back to the original American and National Leagues circa 1960, i.e., before modern expansion, to the extent that could be accomplished after the wave of team re-locations that occurred between 1953 and 1958:
1953: Braves from Boston to Milwaukee
1954: Browns from St. Louis to Baltimore and changing into the modern Orioles
1955: As from Philadelphia to Kansas City
1958: Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles
1958: Giants from New York to San Francisco.
I also tried to re-create the old Pacific Coast League to some extent, at least in name.
I now think the key is to eliminate the names American and National. This would remove the stigma from re-alignment and help to mollify the old fart inclination of the constipated traditionalist thinking ... maybe. Anyway, it's a good idea.
There should be four divisions. Since there are 30 MLB teams, each of these divisions would have 7 or 8 teams. It's very important to reduce the number of divisions and increase the number of teams in each division from 4-5 to 7-8, making them meaningful again as they were from 1969 through 1993 when the old American and National Leagues split into east and west divisions because expansion had increased the number of teams in each league to 12.
The important criteria should be geographic and natural rivalries. Geographic proximity has these important elements:
1. reducing the expense and danger of travel
2. playing most games no more than one time zone away from home; this could have a huge impact on TV advertising: east coast fans won't have their teams playing on the west coast with the games ending at 1AM.
1. Seattle Mariners (Washington)
2. Oakland As (California)
3. San Fransisco Giants (California)
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (California)
5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (California)
6. San Diego Padres (California)
7. Arizona Diamondbacks
8. Colorado Rockies
1. Milwaukee Brewers (Wisconsin)
2. Chicago White Sox (Illinois)
3. Chicago Cubs (Illinois)
4. Cincinnati Reds (Ohio)
5. Cleveland Indians (Ohio)
6. Minnesota Twins
7. Pittsburgh Pirates (Pennsylvania)
8. Detroit Tigers (Michigan)
1. Texas Rangers
2. Houston Astros (change the name back to Colt45s, already) (Texas)
3. Florida Marlins (Florida)
4. Tampa Bay Rays (Florida)
5. Atlanta Braves (Georgia)
6. Kansas City Royals (Missouri)
7. St. Louis Cardinals (Missouri)
1. New York Yankees
2. New York Mets
3. Boston Red Sox (Massachusetts)
4. Philadelphia Phillies (Pennsylvania)
5. Toronto Blue Jays (Canada)
6. Washington Nationals (District of Columbia)
7. Baltimore Orioles (Maryland)
The West seems the most natural.
The two city pairings, New York and Chicago, must be kept together and, of course, the five California teams. Washington and Baltimore should be together. Boston must be with the Yankees. The only traditional rivalry that is broken is Cubs-Cardinals but I don't see how that can be avoided, given the imperatives. State pairings are preserved for Missouri, Ohio, Texas and Florida, all but the two Pennsylvania teams but I think they each fit best where I placed them.
You can move a marginal team here or there, but I think this is a structure that would be embraced, if it ever saw the light of day, i.e., mainstream old fart MLB media: Bob Costas, Tim Kurkjian, ... the guys who do not know how to use computers. They are probably overwhelmed trying to fit those extra playoff teams into the stupid wildcard structure of the 4-5 team divisions that has corrupted MLB since that playoff system was first implemented in 1995.
My re-alignment plan is the answer to a question that, unfortunately, is not even being asked by MLB fans, media or MLB, Inc. Too bad. It's the right question and the right answer.