MLB's Three-Division Realignment Plan Is a Good Start, But Here's How to Fix It

Chris Halicke

Major League Baseball is discussing a number of contingency plans for the return of baseball amid the novel coronavirus crisis. A few of these ideas have been made public knowledge, including everything from all teams being isolated in one location to multiple plans considering realigning the leagues into different divisions to limit travel.

The latest plan to come to the light is one of those realignment plans, where teams would be able to play in their own Major League ballparks. The trick to this plan panning out is realigning MLB into three 10-team divisions based on geography. To significantly cut down on travel, teams would only play opponents within their division. 

Great idea. As a matter of fact, it is probably the most doable scenario MLB has contrived so far. However, it has a major flaw.

Teams like Texas and Houston are stuck in the West division along with six – yes, six west coast teams. It's bad enough to be in five-team division with three of them while playing a standard MLB schedule. Two-thirds of the Rangers' and Astros' opponents for a regular season in excess of 100 games is a major disadvantage. 

Here's what the three 10-team divisions look like under the plan MLB is reportedly discussing:

East

  • Baltimore Orioles
  • Boston Red Sox
  • Miami Marlins
  • New York Mets
  • New York Yankees
  • Philadelphia Phillies
  • Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Toronto Blue Jays
  • Washington Nationals

Central

  • Atlanta Braves
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Chicago White Sox
  • Cincinnati Reds
  • Cleveland Indians
  • Detroit Tigers
  • Kansas City Royals
  • Milwaukee Brewers
  • Minnesota Twins
  • St. Louis Cardinals

West

  • Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Colorado Rockies
  • Houston Astros
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Oakland Athletics
  • San Diego Padres
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Seattle Mariners
  • Texas Rangers

The idea of three 10-team divisions sounds fair on its surface, but in reality would put the ten West division teams in a disadvantage the other two divisions wouldn't have to deal with: traveling through more than one time zone. Having to adjust to time differences and jet lag is much more taxing than miles traveled. 

I've come up with a plan that would prohibit teams from having to travel through more than one time zone. It does make the divisions uneven in distribution, but that's not anything that MLB hasn't dealt with before. From 1998 to 2012, the NL Central division had six teams while the AL West division had four teams from 1994 to 2012. 

This plan also anticipates a 108-game schedule, two-thirds the length of the standard 162-game schedule. Even if MLB couldn't start until July 2, the season can run through the end of October, which means teams would have to average 27 games per month. MLB could expand active rosters to allow teams to be better equipped to handle that workload.

No matter the amount of games played, this realignment structure is the focal point of this new-and-improved plan:

East (10 teams)

North Subdivision

  • Boston Red Sox
  • New York Mets
  • New York Yankees
  • Philadelphia Phillies
  • Toronto Blue Jays

South Subdivision

  • Baltimore Orioles
  • Miami Marlins
  • Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Washington Nationals

This division comes with the least amount of logistical hurdles. Each team would play the other four teams within their subdivision 15 times each (five three-game series), totaling 60 games. For the remaining 48 games, each team would play three teams in the other subdivision 10 times (two three-game series and a four-game series) and play the other two teams nine times (three three-game series). 

Central  (12 teams)

North Subdivision

  • Chicago Cubs
  • Cincinnati Reds
  • Cleveland Indians
  • Detroit Tigers
  • Milwaukee Brewers
  • Minnesota Twins

South Subdivision

  • Atlanta Braves
  • Chicago White Sox
  • Kansas City Royals
  • Houston Astros
  • St. Louis Cardinals
  • Texas Rangers

Each team would play the other five teams within their subdivision 12 times (four three-game series), totaling 60 games. For the remaining 48 games, each team would play each team in the other subdivision eight time each (two four-game series), limiting the need to travel to those opponents only one time. 

West (8 teams)

North Subdivision

  • Colorado Rockies
  • Oakland Athletics
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Seattle Mariners

South Subdivision

  • Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • San Diego Padres

This is the most difficult division to schedule due to a lesser number of teams. Each team would play the other three teams within their subdivision 20 times each (four three-game series, two four-game series), totaling 60 games. Each team would play the four teams in the other division 12 times each (four three-game series), totaling 48 games. 

Playoffs

MLB seems steadfast on expanding the postseason, regardless of what contingency plan they could choose. Under this structure, they could take the top-two teams out of each subdivision for a 12-team playoff, which would add two teams to the standard 10 that qualify for the postseason. 

If MLB decided to not expand the playoffs, because there would be six subdivisions (like there are six divisions now), MLB could keep its standard playoff structure intact. 

Final Thoughts

The main idea behind this proposed plan is to reduce travel for teams. It's not a perfect plan. Nothing MLB or anyone else can conjure up will be perfect in a scenario like this. I truly believe that a plan like this would further reduce travel than the original plan reported earlier this week, especially for the western teams. After all, that is a key part behind the idea of realigning the leagues – to significantly reduce travel. 

What's the best way for MLB to bring baseball back? Share your feedback in the comments section below.

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Comments (1)
No. 1-1
Macknoche
Macknoche

Interesting concept. Ah, but, please change 'amount' to 'number'! Drives me crazy! Thanks.


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