In 2013, MLB will realign the Houston Astros from 16-club National League to the 14-club American League, resulting in 15 teams in each league, in accordiance with the terms and agreement of the sale of the team to Jim Crane. Some fans like the symmetry, I think it is a big mistake.
If not Mr. Selig, someone in the office of the Commissioner has a very short memory. In 1998, when the Arizona Diamondbacks entered the National League and the Tampa Bay Rays (then called the Devil Rays) entered the American League, both sporting 14 clubs at the time, the decision to move the Milwaukee Brewers, owned by the Selig family, to the National League creating a 16-14 alignment was so that each league would have an even number of teams, thus maintaining Interleague play as a short 12-18 game interlude in the early middle of the schedule. In order to have two leagues with an odd number of teams, a regular season schedule with 14 teams in each league playing intra-league opponents and one team per league playing each other. If each team will play 162 games in about 27 weeks, each team will have to play 30 interleague games (a rollback to a 154 game season may reduce the schedule to 26 weeks and 25 interleague contests). This is about 18% of the MLB schedule. And the fact that the AL uses a DH and the NL bats the pitcher in the batting order further complicates things.
The rationale, according to Selig to balance the 6 divisions (5 teams each) to level the playing field for each of thirty teams to win their division, instead of the understaffed AL West with only 4 teams and the overloaded NL Central with 6 ball clubs. With the adaptation of a second wild card in each league and the two wild cards facing off in a single game showdown prior to the start of the mainstream postseason, Selig feels each team needs the same chance to finish first and avoid the showdown. What Selig fails to realize is by increasing the Interleague schedule to 30 games, you are taking away from the part of the schedule where teams play in their own division, which are the key games to winning their division. While I support the second wild card and the one game playoff to avoid complacency when a team clinches no worse than a wild card, still has a shot at first place, but chooses to rest its players instead, I think a co-requisite is a schedule that ensures more than 50% of the season be played in one’s own division. Currently, each team plays an average of 19 games against their own division opponents (maybe one division opponent only 18) resulting in average 76 out of 162 divisional contests. In a 5-team division, this number should be 21 games against 4 opponents for 84 games in one’s own division, 3 more games than 81 or half of 162. To play 30 interleague games, both intra and inter division games will have to be sacrificed.
I hope the powers to be at MLB have a chance to rethink this before 2013, although if it in the CBA, we are probably stuck with it. You want to achieve equity among the leagues, contract two teams out of the majors (this had been discussed) and have two 14 club leagues. So as not to offend any fans in any part of the country, I will not mention any candidates. Just understand this will create equity and as players will be cut through attrition and a reorganization draft, a more concentrated talent pool will result in better quality ball played on the field in all [14-survinving] venues.