Rosenthal's radical realignment proposal

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US Map.gifFOX’s Ken Rosenthal thinks it’s time to realign the divisions to break up the Red Sox-Yankees hegemony.  You gotta go to the interactive map in the middle to see his actual idea for radical realignment, but it breaks down like this:

AL Atlantic:  Yankees, Mets, Nationals, Orioles, Blue Jays;

AL Great Lakes: Reds, Indians, Tigers, Pirates, Twins;

AL Pacific: Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Athletics, Mariners;

NL East: Red Sox, Phillies, Braves, Rays, Marlins;

NL Midwest: Royals, Cubs, Cardinals, White Sox Brewers;

NL Southwest: Astros, Rangers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Padres.

Initial thoughts:

  • This scheme makes the Yankees’ path to the playoffs easier, not harder, replacing the Red Sox and Rays — tough competition — with the Mets and Nationals — less tough;
  • The AL Great Lakes would never get a game on national television;
  • I gotta admit, the AL Pacific is a pretty sweet division;
  • The NL East suddenly becomes an impossibly difficult division;
  • The new NL Midwest gives the Royals even less of a chance than they have now; and
  • The Padres probably won’t care much for being disassociated from the west coast and forced to play so many games far from home. Otherwise I don’t have any strong feelings about the NL Southwest.

Of course radical realignment like this just isn’t going to happen. Nor should it. Yes, right now the AL East seems a little unfair, but but baseball has always done well by practicing small-c conservatism with respect to this kind of thing and not allowing temporary problems dictate long-term planning. 

If the AL East is a joke for another 5-10 years call me, but right now this sort of thing is best left as an intellectual exercise, not a serious proposal.

Cardinals and Pirates prepare to play unusual finale in first-ever MLB Little League Classic

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The Pirates and Cardinals will switch things up for Sunday’s series finale, moving from the spacious PNC Park to the renovated Minor League confines of BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field. Normally the home stadium for the Phillies’ Short-Season Single-A Williamsport Crosscutters, Historic Bowman Field will set the stage for an unusual — and unprecedented — matchup between the NL Central rivals as they take the field for the first-ever MLB Little League Baseball Classic.

The game will cap a packed day for Major League and Little League participants alike, as four Little League double-elimination games will be played in the morning and afternoon before the Pirates’ Ivan Nova and Cardinals’ Mike Leake face off at 7:00 PM ET. Despite drawing national attention, the Classic will be invitation-only, and its projected 2,366 attendees will comprise the lowest capacity attendance figure in Major League history.

The event is designed to spark more interest in the sport, especially among young players, and Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny called it “grassroots marketing at its finest.” “We all fell in love with the game and started dreaming about playing on a field like this at the age of these kids we’re going to go see in Williamsport,” he told reporters prior to Sunday’s game. “I hope there are some kids that we can encourage and maybe give a different look of the game and create some lifelong baseball fans that might not have been there otherwise.”

Judging by the excitement that infused the pregame festivities among the players, it looks like they’re already on the right track.

Report: Blue Jays weighing extension for Marco Estrada

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The Blue Jays aren’t ready to say goodbye to Marco Estrada just yet, according to a report by FanRag’s Robert Murray. Murray hears that the club is interested in re-signing the right-hander, whose two-year, $26 million contract is set to expire with the end of the 2017 season. According to unnamed sources within the organization, the team has yet to discuss the specifics of an extension, but both sides have stated interest in working out a deal. While the veteran righty appeared to be on his way out after getting claimed on revocable waivers earlier this month, the Blue Jays were either unable or unwilling to arrange a trade in the 48-hour window following the claim.

Estrada, 33, has been a mainstay of the Blue Jays’ rotation since 2015. He hasn’t looked quite himself this season, however, going 5-8 in 25 starts with the club and toting a 5.09 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 9.2 SO/9 through 139 2/3 innings. His slump can be partially attributed to a string of rough starts in June and July; more recently, he snapped a streak of three consecutive quality starts with a 10-hit, six-run affair against the Rays. He’ll look to rebound on Sunday when he takes the hill against the Cubs for the team’s series finale.

Command issues aside, there’s no question that Estrada has been productive during his three-year run with the club, earning his first career All-Star nomination in 2016 and posting a cumulative 6.7 fWAR from 2015 through 2017. He still has a bit of work to do to return to the 3.48-ERA, 165-strikeout totals of yesteryear, but barring another slump, seems likely to don a Blue Jays uniform again in 2018.