It seems like baseball has a quarterly tradition of talking expansion and realignment. Maybe that’s an effort to avoid talking about the juiced ball, but baseball has a long history of talking about adding new teams and changing up the divisions.
It’s rare for these things to actually happen, and that’s probably good - the sport is best off sticking with consistency for at least a reasonable amount of time. Adding teams and changing schedules and getting ownership buy-in and all that non-sense is no easy task in a sport that often lacks common sense. Getting it right is important, cause fixing it can take forever.
Anyway, yet again there are rumors that the league might add teams and shift the division landscape. These rumors are tepid at best, and probably not worth talking about unless your team is on vacation and the rumors involve being in the same division as your cross-bay rivals. From Tracy Ringolsby at Baseball America:
Consider four eight-team divisions with the addition of teams in Portland and Montreal:
East: Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington.
North: Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Montreal, both New York franchises and Toronto.
Midwest: Both Chicago franchises, Colorado, Houston, Kansas City, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Texas.
West: Anaheim, Arizona, Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
There’s a lot of nuance to this plan, namely that it presumes the addition of a team in Portland and Montreal. You should read the article to read the full scoop, as there are lots of interesting details. Adding two teams would take just about forever, so again, don’t get too excited as this is no more than a rumor. But an interesting one at that.
By changing to divisions that actually make geographic sense, teams will have to travel less. That should help with health, as would the proposed day off per week, which would fix one of the biggest problems in the sport: overwhelming injuries.
The other big change involves the Giants. Playing the Diamondbacks 12 times won’t rouse much reaction, but playing the Giants 12 times? That would spice things up.
Instead of the two sellouts the A’s are more or less guaranteed by playing the Giants, Oakland would have six, something the A’s undeniably could use. Of course, they’d lose those some well attended games with fewer series against the Red Sox and Yankees, but it’d still likely be an improvement.
The timing of this would be post new stadium (it better be) so attendance hopefully shouldn’t be as much of an issue. The issue at hand, and what could make this such an entertaining change is the rivalry aspect.
As is, the A’s and Giants rivalry is fairly tepid. The two teams rarely play and while there’s a good amount of animosity from some fans (on our side in particular), there just aren’t many opportunities for those feelings to manifest. The lack of actual gameplay prevents many fans from actually worrying about the team in the other league.
Add eight more games per year, spread out over multiple series, with a direct competition for the playoffs? Now we’re getting somewhere.
If there’s a way to keep fans interested when a team is out of contention, it’s by increasing sentiments around other teams, more colloquially known as facilitating rivalries. Putting the A’s and Giants in the same division would certainly do that, and the intensity of a late September game between the two with a playoff spot on the line would be peak regular season baseball. The environment would be electric and the national attention would be high.
Only downside is the potential for a Bay Bridge World Series would be gone, which is a serious, albeit rare concern.
What is your ideal alignment?
Personally, I go back and forth on the Giants being in the same division as the A’s. There’s something nice about them being separate, and the possibility of a Bay Bridge Series is always exciting.
That said, having them in the same division would create significant excitement, and the A’s could use more of a rivalry. While the Angels and Rangers both have their moments of being completely loathsome, their distance makes those feelings fizzle in years where the A’s aren’t in the hunt.
The Rangers and Astros being in the West when they are very clearly not on the West Coast is stupid, and I’d be fine with teams slotting into their actual geographic division.