The good news–apparently, four months ago (also known as the heart of the NFL Season), Bud Selig realized that a) baseball needed more parity, and b) his efforts (if he’s made any) weren’t going to cut it. So he named a 14-person “special committee for on-field matters,” promising that all topics would be in play and “there are no sacred cows.”
Unfortunately for baseball fans, Selig apparently found 14 people even more stupid than himself to be on the committee.
One of the top plans this committee has come up with to create more parity in MLB? By allowing for “floating” realignment, where teams would be free to basically trade division spots from year-to-year based on geography, payroll and their plans to contend or not.
That’s right, their plan (which apparently has gained some steam in the group) isn’t one to help more teams compete every year–it’s one where teams can basically opt-out of competing, and trade their spot in a less competitive division for more match ups with teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, which will (supposedly) draw bigger crowds.
What’s next, promotion and relegation, a la the Premier League? The top two Triple-A affiliates replace big league clubs the next year?
Never mind that floating realignment will actually make it easier for teams like the Yankees and Red Sox to make the playoffs every year (more teams against the weakest teams in the league), and tougher for teams like the White Sox, Tigers and Twins.
Never mind that it’s not truly floating realignment, because “no team would be allowed to switch into a division more than two time zones away from its own in order to protect against travel costs and late television start times,” meaning from the AL West the Rangers could move to the Central or the East, but the other three teams could only move to the Central.
And never mind that it does nothing to solve the fact that there was about a $165 million gap between the highest and lowest payrolls in 2009.
The idea is supposedly based off of the idea that the NFL used to use (and still uses in modified fashion) that the teams with a weaker records would play a schedule with other weaker teams on their schedule (never mind that the plan for MLB would most likely pit the strongest teams against the teams with the weakest records).
Of course, the NFL had a few other advantages when deciding on their schedule structure, such as all teams in the league playing under the same rules.
This might just be the tip of the iceberg, but if MLB wants to get really serious about bringing parity to the league–which could help them gain some popularity if the NFL does in fact face a work stoppage in 2011–here’s a few ideas:
- Make a decision on interleague play–does it stay or does it go?
- If it stays, it has to be fixed–every team in a division should play the same teams from the other league, the same number of games, “regional rivalries” be damned. No reason that St. Louis should get to face Kansas City, while the Brewers have to face the Twins every year.
- Only way that probably works is to (finally) even out the divisions–meaning an NL team has to move to the AL. My first thought would be the Brewers moving back to the AL, joining the Central, while the Royals move to the AL West (I’m open to other ideas, though…)
- If interleague play is here to stay, can we make a decision on the DH rule? This one isn’t an absolute necessity, but I think it would help–I think one reason that average to good AL pitchers getting traded to the NL tend to do really well (while average to good NL pitchers going to the AL stuggle) is due to the AL pitchers being used to facing 9 hitters.
- At an absolute minimum, can we play with NL rules in AL parks during interleague play? I’d like to see pitchers batting without having to travel hundreds of miles…
- Two words–aluminum bats.
- Just kidding on that last one, seeing if you’re really reading.
- Fix the draft.
And finally, the big ones:
- Better revenue sharing. I’m not sure I’m 100% sold on this myself, but for years the NFL has shared a lot of their revenues, and made deals as a league. MLB’s failure to do so has widened the gap between large market and small market teams–imagine a city like Green Bay trying to survive in MLB…
- Salary cap – it just has to be done. I’ve seen one argument that “a player should get as much as the market is willing to pay for his services.” Well, that’s a great concept, but it’s not really the full market paying for those services for the top guys–it’s one or two teams (or sometimes one team bidding against themselves).
- Salary floor – not doubt, with the cap, must come a floor, especially with revenue sharing. If you want to cap the Yankees at $150 million, then force the Marlins to pay at least $75 million. Heck, that would be more than double what they did last year.
So that’s our start of a list–making some moves like this would, in my opinion, make the league more competitive, increase interest, and in the end, increase revenues for the whole, which should make everyone happy (well, maybe not Yankee fans…oh well).
What else could MLB do to improve their competitive balance?