ESPN’s Buster Olney has heard from three different sources that Major League Baseball and the players’ union are discussing a plan to move one team from the National League to the American League in order to even up the amount of clubs in each circuit.
The National League currently has 16 teams and a six-club Central division. The American League has 14 teams and a four-club West division. This new plan, which still needs to be voted on and stands only a “50-50” chance of being passed according to an Olney source, would even up those two lopsided divisions while putting 15 clubs in each league.
From a competitive standpoint, it’s the kind of thing that needs to happen. It’s not fair that the teams in the National League Central are at worse odds of reaching the postseason than the teams in all other divisions. The Cardinals, or Brewers, or Cubs must finish with a better record than five other squads in order to win the division and secure a playoff berth. The division winner in the American League West, meanwhile, only has to beat out three teams. The odds can change yearly based on talent level and the Wild Card race — at the moment it’s an advantage to have the Astros and Pirates on the schedule frequently — but simple math says a team in the Central will face a disadvantage most seasons. And, hey, the Bucs are showing signs of life.
Two club executives suggested to Olney that the Astros, currently at the bottom of the NL Central, would likely be moved to the AL West to create a potential rivalry in Texas with the Arlington-based Rangers.
There’s also been a discussion of getting rid of divisions altogether, and simply awarding playoff spots to the top five records in each league. The NHL has a well-received setup that is fairly similar.
It all makes a world of sense, and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that Major League Baseball tweaked its divisional alignment. Now let’s hope that it doesn’t take too long, as instant replay has, to be properly implemented. Change is a good thing, especially when it rights a clear wrong.