It seems like the majority of people generally accept that the AL East is the best and/or toughest division in baseball, and rightfully so in most seasons. Not this year, however, as the combined division standings show:
W L W%
AL West 322 268 .546
AL East 378 357 .514
NL East 380 359 .514
NL West 363 374 .493
NL Central 422 464 .476
AL Central 347 390 .471
Not only does the AL West have by far the best record of any division, it has three teams with 80-plus wins already despite only having four teams, period. Texas leads the league with 87 wins, Oakland ranks second with 84 wins, and third-place Los Angeles has the same number of wins (81) as first-place Chicago does over in the AL Central. As a division the AL West has a .555 winning percentage against the other AL teams and a .611 winning percentage against NL teams.
It’s pretty amazing that the NL Central avoids having the worst combined record considering the Astros are 48-100 and a full 10 games worse than any other team in baseball. Having a total of six teams certainly helps dilute the Astros’ impact, but mostly it’s a testament to just how underwhelming the AL Central has been … again. As a division the AL Central has a .449 winning percentage against the other AL teams and they went just .500 against NL teams despite the other two AL divisions getting fat off interleague play.
On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”
There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.
It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:
On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.
“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”
One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.
None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”