HOUSTON: Carlos Lee #45 of the Houston Astros rounds the bases after hitting a home run in the fourth inning off pitcher Matt Harrison of the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Don't worry, sports fans. Nothing truly radical is imminent. But if you believe Danny Knobler, before too long there will be 15 teams in the American League and 15 teams in the National League, just as your Deity of Choice intended. Why does Knobler believe this? Because apparently the players are aboard the Realignment Train:
In separate Tuesday sessions with the Baseball Writers Association of America, both commissioner Bud Selig and players union head Michael Weiner expressed an openness to a 15-15 plan, with Weiner saying that players have favored it for a decade or more. The players and owners have been discussing realignment, along with schedule and playoff reform, as part of negotiations for the new basic agreement.
"Fundamentally, it's arithmetic," Weiner said. "[The players] take the competition very seriously. They want the competition to be fair. I know why 16-14 came about, but it's like the U.S. Open, if you had a different number of players on the two sides of the draw."
It's actually surprising to me that most players even know how many teams are in each league, but I'll take Weiner's word that the players do detect a certain unfairness in the current system. And since there are more National Leaguers than American Leaguers, maybe it's just a matter of majority rules.
Now, you might reasonably say the D'backs are obviously the best choice, given their lack of tradition and the ease with which they might slide into the American League West. But according to Mark Whicker, Arizona's not going anywhere (which is a shame, if only because they're running out of water down there). I haven't seen an explanation for this, but I will happily speculate that it's because the Astros' new owner, whoever he is, simply won't have enough leverage to resist Commissioner Bud's wishes.
Of course, 15 teams in each league necessitates a significant rejiggering of the schedule. According to Whicker, here's how that would work:
•Divisional teams will play each other 18 teams apiece. That's 72 games.
•Each team will play members of the other two divisions in its league six times apiece. That's 60 games.
•And each division will play a designated division in the other league six times apiece. In other words, the Angels would play home-and-home series against the NL East one year, the Central the next year, the West the year after that. That ensures that every team in baseball would come to Angel Stadium at least once every three seasons.That makes 162 games.
I admire the cut of your jib, Mark Whicker's Revamped Baseball Schedule. Just one question, though ... Where's the room in there for Yankees vs. Mets, Angels vs. Dodgers, et cetera? I don't see Major League Baseball -- let alone the clubs with good rivalries -- giving those series up, willingly. Obviously, MLB can continue to "manually" insert those rivalry games into the schedule ... but then there's the fairness issue, again.
As always, the devil's in the details; specifically, the details of the schedule. There's great potential for greater fairness and economy (with slightly less travel). But can everyone get together and do the right things? It gladdens my heart to know that Commissioner Bud is still manning the battlements, and will live forever.