Anyone following baseball lately has likely heard some buzz about various theories of realignment, with a bulk of the debate centering on the fact that three of the best teams in baseball are trapped in the AL East (to be fair, two of the best teams so far this season, offense intended to Red Sox fans) and thus there is little hope for the poor folks in Baltimore and Toronto. I'll spare you the gory details of the various plans that are out there (although Pat Lackey at MLBFanhouse does a nice job of explaining a few here), but they run the gamut from minor tweaks to radical shifts with plenty in between.
As I was looking at the standings today, something jumped out at me, an imbalance that I'm sure I've noticed before but that seems pretty unfair. Every division in baseball has 5 teams, except for two: the AL West, which has 4, and the NL Central, which has 6. I won't go into an in-depth numerical analysis of odds here, but it seems to me that in a system where you must win your division to make the playoffs (rather than a model based on overall record as in the NBA and NHL) having to beat out 3 other teams for a playoff spot should be easier than beating out 5. This isn't taking into account anything about the quality of the teams - it's simply a matter of counting. As i thought about a way to rectify this, a simple common-sense solution jumped out at me: move Houston to the AL West.
There are a number of reasons this makes sense:
- All divisions in baseball now have five teams. Seems like a no-brainer that this is more fair.
- Houston has no natural rivalries in the NL Central, either geographically or competively. The NL Central is more or less a "Great Lakes" division, so if you want to stick with geographical alignment, they don't really fit in. Cubs-Cardinals is generally compelling regardless of the records; Cubs-'Stros, not so much.
- Houston has an in-state rival in the AL West. Sure, Astros-Rangers may not have the same allure as Yankees-Mets or Cubs-White Sox, but who's to say that it couldn't grow into a healthy competition for Lone Star State bragging rights? Texans are all about that right?
- This might make some sort of positive contribution (I'm not even going to try and quantify it) to the economies of Houston and Dallas should said rivalry materialize. The two cities are only four hours apart, so maybe more fans would be persuaded to road trip for a weekend series. Pure speculation, but it could happen.
So there's my small contribution to the realignment discussion. Feel free to disagree, ridicule, or mock, but this seems like a baby step towards more fairness, regardless of how you feel about floating realignment based on payroll or past performance.