Radical Realignment

From BR Bullpen

The original 2017 proposal[edit]

Radical Realignment was a plan for realignment set forth by then acting Commissioner Bud Selig in 1997. Selig's plan would have realigned baseball's leagues and divisions by geography. The plan was part of the Expansion of 1998 process. With the addition of two new teams, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Major League Baseball would now have thirty teams. As part of the expansion agreement signed with Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo Arizona was guaranteed a spot in the National League. While American League owners wanted the added revenue of a new team in their own league as well, something that hadn't happened since the Blue Jays and Mariners joined the league in 1977. This would have caused both leagues to have 15 teams. This would have caused an Interleague series to take place every day, or teams to have certain weekends off.

The proposal called for baseball to be realigned into what amounted to an Eastern Conference, the AL, and Western Conference, the NL, similar to the NBA and NHL. The NL would feature two 8 team divisions, while the AL would be two 7 team divisions.

AL East AL Midwest NL Central NL West
Baltimore Orioles Atlanta Braves Chicago Cubs Anaheim Angels
Boston Red Sox Cincinnati Reds Chicago White Sox Arizona Diamondbacks
Montreal Expos Cleveland Indians Houston Astros Colorado Rockies
New York Mets Detroit Tigers Kansas City Royals Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Yankees Florida Marlins Milwaukee Brewers Oakland Athletics
Philadelphia Phillies Pittsburgh Pirates Minnesota Twins San Diego Padres
Toronto Blue Jays Tampa Bay Devil Rays St. Louis Cardinals San Francisco Giants
Texas Rangers Seattle Mariners

Another plan under consideration called for the Diamondbacks to move to the AL and the Royals to the NL, this was nixed by Colangelo. The players union also had concerns about having teams finish as low as 7th or 8th and instead offered proposals to have the AL keep its 5-5-4 structure while the NL became 4 divisions of 4 teams. Another problem with the plan was the fact that all owners had the right to refuse to change leagues. As discussions went on the Mets, Cubs, Reds, Pirates, Giants, Braves and Padres ownership groups all came out against realignment. Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez said that he would retire if the M's moved to the National League.

With a schedule deadline looming for the 1998 season the owners finally reached an agreement. Instead of having nearly half the teams in the league change leagues only one would change leagues and another would change divisions. The Diamondbacks were given their spot, as promised, in the NL West. The Devil Rays joined the AL East and the Tigers switched from the AL East to AL Central. The Royals were given the first option of moving to the NL Central, which they declined, which left it to Selig's own Brewers to move the NL. Even after that decision was made owners still continued to work on possible plans for future realignment, though none have come as close to happening as this one.

The 2017 Proposal[edit]

A new proposal for a form of radical realignment emerged in 2017, in an article published on October 17th in Baseball America by respected journalist Tracy Ringolsby. He claimed that there was growing consensus among owners to fix some of the current scheduling problems caused by having two leagues with an odd number of teams by going through a new expansion by two teams, with Montréal, QC and Portland, OR being the two front-runners. The 32 franchises would then be grouped in four eight-team divisions determined on a geographic basis. The schedule would be shortened to 156 games (12 against each of the seven division opponents, and 3 against each of the 24 other teams), with one scheduled day of rest every week, and in addition to the four division winners, the eight teams with the next best records would also make the postseason for a first round of games to determine who would get to play the Division Series. The schedule would have the additional advantage of drastically reducing travel, cutting down on both costs and fatigue.

The proposed four divisions were as follows:

  • East: Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington
  • North: Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Montreal, New York M., New York Y. and Toronto
  • Midwest: Chicago C., Chicago W., Colorado, Houston, Kansas City, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Texas
  • West: Arizona, Los Angeles A., Los Angeles D., Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle

There was no mention of whether the "National League" and "American League" monikers would be preserved, but the proposed plan also provided for the adoption of the designated hitter throughout the league, with measures to speed up the game put in place as a counterpart. One major impediment to implementing the plan was that Commissioner Rob Manfred had mentioned previously that he wanted to first resolve the outstanding ballpark issues dogging both the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics before considering expansion, and the plan just supposed that the two franchises would stay put, even though no long-term solutions had yet been found. There was no target date for the plan's implementation either.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Ted Berg: "MLB's reported wild realignment and expansion plan: Is it cool?", "For the Win!", USA Today Sports, October 17, 2017. [1]
  • Murray Chass: "Baseball's Radical Realignment Plan Losing Steam", the New York Times, August 22, 1997. [2]
  • Tracy Ringolsby: "Expansion could trigger relaignment, longer postseason", Baseball America, October 16, 2017. [3]
  • Linda Roberts: "Raducal Realignment", The Baseball Diary, September 7, 1997. [4]