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.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP
UPDATE, 5:08 PM EDT: Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon will not rule out a World Series appearance for Kyle Schwarber if the Cubs advance. MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports that Schwarber could play through a simulated game on Sunday, during which the Cubs’ medical and baseball staff would evaluate his chances for a late season return. If he does play, it will likely be in a pinch-hitting or DH role and not on the field.
Cubs’ outfielder Kyle Schwarber will return to the playing field on Saturday, per a report by the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. The club’s prized left fielder suffered a season-ending injury when he collided with Dexter Fowler back in April, tearing both his ACL and LCL and undergoing intensive knee surgery later that month.
While no nerve damage was discovered during the surgery, the Cubs have kept a close eye on Schwarber during his recovery and put a kibosh on any part-time or full-time role with the team until the spring of 2017. Getting a few reps in during the Arizona Fall League appears to be the last step in the 23-year-old’s rehab process. He will be part of the Mesa Solar Sox’ ‘taxi squad,’ making him eligible for games on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.
Schwarber batted .246/.355/.487 with 16 in 69 games with the Cubs during his debut season in 2015. He will be added to the Mesa Solar Sox roster in advance of their set against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday evening.