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.

Red Sox owner: “spending money helps”

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The other day Rob Manfred said, as he and other owners have said often in the past, that there is no correlation between payroll and winning. He said that defensively, in response to criticism of the slow free agent market of the past two offseasons.

As we have noted in the past, Manfred is not being honest about that. While, yes, in any given year there can be wild variation between payroll and win total — the Giants stunk last year, the A’s won 97 games — common sense dictates otherwise. What’s more, a recent study has shown that there is a pretty strong correlation between winning and payroll over time. Yes, you can fluke into a big season with a low payroll — Deadspin compared it to a cold snap occurring during a time of climate change — but if you want that “sustained success” teams claim they want, the best way to ensure it is to spend more money over time.

If you know anything about baseball labor history, though, you know well that the Commissioner and the owners will continue to mischaracterize the dynamics of the business as it suits them. Mostly because — present lefty sportswriters notwithstanding — very few people push back on their narratives. Fans tend to parrot ownership’s line on this stuff and, more often than not, baseball media acts as stenographer for ownership as opposed to critic. That gives owners a far greater ability to shape the narrative about all of this than most institutions.

Which makes this all the more awkward. From David Schoenfield of ESPN:

In apparent contradiction to his own commissioner, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said Monday that, while there is not a perfect correlation between a bigger payroll and winning, “spending more money helps.”

Which is right. The correlation is not perfect — teams can spend a lot of money on a bad team if given the chance and a low payroll team like the Rays can bullpen their way to 90 wins — but you’re way more likely to win year-in, year-out if you’re spending than if you go cheap all the time and hope for a miracle season.

Which is not to say that Henry is some labor activist owner. He and his fellow front office officials have a long history of backing the league office on just about everything that matters and will no doubt do so with labor matters in the runup to the next CBA negotiation. The owners tend not to have a solidarity problem.

But Henry does seem to draw the line at peddling baloney, which is a shockingly necessary thing when the league and the union’s relationship turns acrimonious.