MLB Realignment- Is It Worth It?

As the first half of the MLB season came to a close, Commissioner Bud Selig was asked numerous questions and the topic of realignment came up again. Selig has proposed putting 15 teams in each league instead of having 16 teams in the National League and 14 in the American League. The change could happen as early as next season and the idea has gotten mixed reviews.

As part of the plan, both leagues would have 15 teams meaning a team in the National League would have to jump to the American League to make that happen. The Houston Astros and Florida Marlins are two teams being mentioned as possible movers while the Milwaukee Brewers, who joined the National League during the last realignment, have not been offered to switch leagues. Having either the Astros or Marlins move would force more games in state (the Astros would play the Texas Rangers more creating more of a rivalry and the Marlins would be forced to play the Tampa Rays more often), which is believed to create fan interest.

Even though jumping to the American League would force some of the more popular teams such as the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox to make more trips to Houston and Florida (both teams are big draws in other cities), this could hinder the Astros and Marlins in other ways. Both teams are in last place, are built to play under National League rules, and would be forced to play teams with bigger payrolls. The Astros would have to play a team that has a bigger payroll and a powerhouse in the Texas Rangers more often while the Marlins would be forced to play more games against a competitive and tough Tampa Rays team. These games plus at least six games against the Yankees, Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels would make their schedules tougher and harder to win.

By having an odd number of teams in each league, it would force more Interleague games during the season, which teams may or may not like. Interleague games are a top draw in most cities, however, most American League teams would prefer not to lose the ability to use a DH towards the end of the season. With an odd number of teams in each league, there would have to be at least one Interleague series going on and most American League teams may not be keen to losing a DH in a close pennant race towards the end of the season. Teams who have designated hitters who can no longer play in the field (e.g. Travis Hafner from the Cleveland Indians can no longer play in the field after his last shoulder surgery and Minnesota’s Jim Thome can no longer hold that duty as well) would be forced to lose that bat in the lineup when having to play under National League rules late in the season. If a close pennant race is going on, this could be difficult on American League teams to win by having to play under National League rules at such a key time.

When asked about whether or not the DH will be eliminated or put in both leagues, Selig mentioned that could only happen if a drastic change was made and the realignment could be the deciding factor. While the DH rule is not always favored by some, having a DH in the lineup provides a much different game then when the pitcher has to bat.

With the DH rule in effect, it has helped many players prolong their careers and added more power to a lineup. Jim Thome for the Minnesota Twins has prolonged his career with the help of the DH rule and long time Seattle Mariner Edgar Martinez and Hall of Famer Paul Molitar extended their careers with the help of the rule as well. It has kept players in the game longer and has helped certain American League teams stay competitive at key times.

By eliminating the DH rule, it would force all teams to draft differently and change their entire style of play. More strategy is required when the DH rule is not in effect and it forces more players to be used off the bench and pitchers to bat. Some American League pitchers are already not fond of having to bat and many who dislike Interleague play to being with have complained too many of the American League pitchers get hurt each year by having to bat in National League parks. Other American League teams who have players that only DH would probably be forced to sit on contracts of players who would only be available to pinch hit in those situations. For example, the Indians would have to fulfill the rest of Hafner’s $57 million dollar contract for him to serve as a pinch hitter because he would not be able to DH or play in the field.

Even though realignment has been discussed, is it really worth the consequences it may bring?

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~ by jeffrsabo on July 16, 2011.

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