MLB is looking at realignment. Now that inter-league play has become a part of the game, MLB is looking at balancing the leagues and divisions.
Right now, there are 30 teams in Major League Baseball, 16 in the National League and 14 in the American League. There are six teams in the NL Central, four teams in the AL West, and five teams in the other divisions. NL Central fans don’t like this (you need to beat out five teams to win the division), and it makes it easier for an AL West team to win the division (you only need to beat out three other teams).
Even numbers are important when building a schedule, as you need two teams to hold one game. If there are an odd number of teams, one team must be left on the sideline on any given day. That’s why you can’t just move a NL team to the AL, balance out the divisions, without changing the schedule.
You could have an odd number of teams in each league if there is at least one inter-league game on any given day. Instead of a cluster of inter-league games in the middle of the season, there would need to be a minimum of 162 inter-league games spread out across the year. Mathematically, each team (assuming two 15-team leagues) would need to play a minimum of 12 inter-league games to make realignment work. (Presently, in the American League, each team plays 18 games. In the National League, teams play from 12-18 inter-league games, for a total of 252 inter-league games.)
Some folks hate inter-league play, and I understand their arguments. However, I see the benefits, as Cubs-White Sox, Yankees-Mets, Dodgers-Angels, Giants-Athletics, and other cross-league geographic rivalries are good for the game. I also hate 10:05 p.m. starts on the west coast. As a loyal fan of our Red Sox, I am happy when we play the Cubs, Pirates, Phillies, Nationals, or any other NL team where it’s easy to do a quick road trip to see my beloved team. Besides, as a lefty progressive, it is certainly green to replace trips to the west coast with games against more local rivals.
More east coast games? Less travel to the west coast and fewer 10:05 p.m. starts? What could be bad? What’s the problem?
Yes, the Designated Hitter rule in the AL makes things difficult for AL teams in NL ball parks. We truly can’t make inter-league play work if there are two sets of rules. You can’t build an AL team around a DH if you can’t use him for six, nine, or twelve games (or more) during the season.
National League fans, however, have a valid reason for resisting the DH. National League games are filled with double switches and all kinds of interesting strategy surrounding a pitching change. They are right. It’s lots more fun to watch a game when pitching changes have an impact on the lineup.
My solution is a modified DH rule that would apply to both leagues.
Instead of the current rule, where the DH position substitutes for the pitcher’s position in the lineup, let’s have the DH substitute for A pitcher. Simply stated, as long as the starting pitcher is in the game, the DH can bat for him. Once you remove the starting pitcher from the game, the DH who was batting in his place is also out of the game.
There are lots of potential impacts to the game by having a modified DH. The trend in many AL teams, where the DH is a way to rest a position player, would be supported by the change. Chances are, if you have a really good DH, you would put him in the first slot on the batting order, giving him more at bats in a game. There are lots of other potential implications for managerial strategy, and I think the game would be better for the change. In both leagues.
So, let’s get the Modified DH movement going, and let it be known that the idea was born in the most progressive corner of the Internet – Blue Mass Group!