Could MLB Follow the NFL’s Lead and Form a “NASCAR” Division?
But I have another idea. I have an idea that has worked for another professional sport in the United States to “level the playing field” a little more, and has produced a League Champion out of it.
People were a bit confused when the National Football League decided to invent another division situated almost exclusively within the Southeastern region of the country. The moment this region was even considered for a divisional alignment, or structuring of such an adventure, people began to call it the “NASCAR Division“.
And I really do not have a problem with that at all. Because even though that statement was effectively the rest of the country stereotyping this region, NASCAR is a symbol of this region….So it was a backhanded compliment to Southerner’s like me. And, yes, I have been known to attend the Daytona NASCAR races, and I do glance at the television on Sunday to see how the races are going throughout the day, but I am a outside NASCAR fan.
But the formation of this Southeastern division actually helped the entire NFL membership get closer to a level of league parity, which baseball might need to approach in the near future if it expects all 30 Major League Baseball teams to flourish and grow fiscally as well as physically. And this might be the right course of action if the MLB brass doesn’t want to see a revolving door of at least a couple of the top money payroll teams sprinting towards the Playoffs finish line every October.
Except for the odd twist of fate in the last few years that Colorado and Tampa Bay got their first shots to show their stuff in the World Series, the pattern of eventual winners shows that money buys Championships, not heart, home grown talent and determination. And maybe a fourth division in the American or National League would seem to throw the whole globe off its axis and we go wobbling through our orbits tumbling like a deflated ball among the Milk Way.
But I think we have already started that dizzying journey and have not recognized it yet. One team has been in the World Series the last three years, and granted, they have a great wealth of talent, but they also spent a boatload of cash each year to ensure they have that level of talent. That is why it is great to see teams like the Rockies and Rays make a stab at the big prize. And even when they do falter, it is not for lack of pride, courage or the will to win, but missing that million dollar piece that the top 5 payroll teams have secured with a contract with 8 numbers behind it.
So what did I have in mind to maybe change this? Well, first off, I would like to introduce the idea of taking one team from every division both in the AL and NL, but the AL West, which already is lopsided with only 4 teams. I actually think that division will be a shootout in 2010 and expect that division’s champion to be as tough as anyone in the 2010 Playoffs. And you might ask why I want to dissect a team from each division? To be completely honest, it would then make most of the other divisions a four-team division, with the NL Central lowered to five teams.
So you already know that I want the Tampa Bay Rays to be included in this new division, and with them in the AL, we can still hold onto the Designated Hitter rule. And I think this actually would produce a few more jobs for some of the guys currently on the bench of the three squads plucked off the NL divisions, thus making it more attractive for some of their guys to get more exposure. The Rays are prefect for this new division because of the new division will be rooted in the SE, and only one other city more Southern than St. Petersburg, Florida.
And because the Rays are considered a small market team, it gives them a bit of payroll flexibility knowing that they will not have to adjust and implode their own cash box every year to keep up with the Epstein’s and Steinbrenner’s of the AL East any longer.
The second team I would select would establish a great Southern rivalry like annual Florida-Georgia College Football game and could also be billed as the “Battle for I-75 Supremacy”. I am talking about seeing the famous Tomahawk Chop going on right next to the deafening sound of the multitudes of Cowbells. This expected rivalry could easily replace the lost revenues of either Boston or New York based just on the previous sell out crowds at Tropicana Field the last time these two teams faced off here.
The Atlanta Braves would be the perfect new nemesis of the Rays. And pop on top of this the addition of
And you might question why I did not take the Florida (Miami) Marlins and want to place them in this division. Well, they are an instant Inter-League foe of the Rays, and I did not want to ruin that great relationship and also split up a AL and NL presence in the state of Florida. I think this state is better for the duo league presence, and I want to preserve that relationship just as it is right now.
Third squad to be added to this division would come out of the AL Central. Now I did not have to take any long period of time to think about this one because it came to me the moment I looked at the division. The Kansas City Royals would be my choice immediately based on the simple fact they are also a small market squad and would benefit extremely by being in the same division as the Rays.
And the relationship between these two AL teams is already formed, but it is also close enough within the geographical region of the Southern part of the country to make same day flights and televised games a viable options for both teams.
Fourth team to be added would come out of the NL Central division and take their division down to four teams for the first time in a long while. And I thought long and hard as to if I wanted to realign the entire MLB a bit, or just select this one team and end the debate fast and furious on which of the Texas teams would get an invite to the NASCAR division. I thought the team that would get the most out of the move would be the Houston Astros. Not only would they be able to convert to the D H system easily, they have the talent in-house already to pop a great DH in the line-up as early as 2011.
And I also think that the teams on this divisional “wish list” also have great stadiums with a awesome home team presence, and would be totally conducive to building new rivalries and expanding their team concepts without minimal changes. But I also toyed with the idea of adding a fifth team to this division. I really thought long and hard about it, and even thought about all the positives and negatives. I am still up in the air about it, but I will discuss it here just to see if anyone else in on board with this idea.
If I did even attempt to take a team out of the NL West would I take our Expansion mate, the Arizona Diamondbacks , or would I venture up towards Denver and maybe try and entice the Colorado Rockies to come play in Florida 8+ times a year? This one was a hard decision, because each of these teams has the talent and the abilities to go for the top spots every year.
But I know that taking a team out of that NL West will give the teams currently developing great talent like the San Francisco Giants or San Diego Padres a chance to breathe a bit and strive to know they have a chance every year at the Playoff race.But I am torn to include either of them as a fifth team and make a new division lopsided like the NL Central. But this is just a blueprint in pencil on a bar napkin compared to anything that might be currently being discussed at the Major League level.
And maybe the dynamic duo of New York and Boston do not have to be split up, for competition’s sake. Maybe they can co-exist in their current high profile, high dollars payroll games and provide nice revenue sharing cushions for most of the team in this new division. Breaking up those two would be like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie taking the kids and moving to the far ends of the earth from each other.
Splitting those two teams apart would destroy 100 years of tradition and insults, plots and inside jokes that have been passed down for generations, and make them worthless but for a small handful of games a season. Some would say it would intensify the rivalry, but this is one that doesn’t need fuel to the fire, it is already white hot.
But it would also ruin a natural geographic alignment that the AL East would take on spreading from Toronto, Canada to Baltimore, Maryland and keep those divisional foes tight and more bonded towards defeating the other.
I like this division. It will have speed, defense and a ton of raw young talent. Most of the teams that would comprise this division have been great hotbeds of farm talent, and that talent would get a chance to rise to the top instead of each teaming trying to raise the bar and one-up each other to the umpteen time.
It would be a hotbed of base stealers, plus a great maturation oven for young pitchers just on the cusp of greatness. It is a division I not only would pay money to see at Tropicana Field, but also one I would definitely travel to other cities to see play our Rays. And that in turn, would help these small market teams keep their coffers filled to pay their young players to stay with their teams past their arbitration years….It is a “win-win” proposition.