Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

The Future of Pennant Race Baseball

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

I’ve given considerable thought to the shape that baseball should take in the future and here are some of my ideas.

If baseball were to expand to two more cities, then the league would be twice as large as it was before expansion began in 1961. By doing this, we can say that this 50+ years process would be completed.

Here is my idea of how the divisions would then look:

East:  New York;  Boston;   Baltimore;  Washington;  Buffalo;  Cleveland;  Detroit; and Toronto

West:  Chicago;  Minnesota;  Kansas City;  Texas;  Arizona;  Los Angeles; San Jose( Oakland);  Seattle

East:  New York;  Brooklyn;  Philadelphia;  Pittsburgh;  Cincinnati; Atlanta;  Tampa Bay; and  Florida

West:  Chicago;  Milwaukee;  St. Louis;  Houston;  Colorado;  San Diego;  Los Angeles;  San Francisco

Notice how each division has two distinct regions, where rivalries can flourish through  the intradivisional competition that will develop.

I did my best to create balance between divisions and leagues by having the same number of original teams per division.  The only exception is in the west where only 3 original teams (Chicago,Minnesota, and San Jose) are located. But this division has the two oldest expansion teams (Los Angeles and Texas).  I also maintained league integrity and tradition by doing a minimum of league switches, with no original teams switching leagues.

Each team would play the other 7 teams in their division 18 times for a total of 126.  Ist Tier and 2nd Tier rivals would play each other 9 times for a total of 36.  In this way, the current schedule of 162 games would continue.  But the regular season would end a week earlier by requiring  each team to play one Sunday doubleheader per month.  The 126 games played between rivals for the same pennant would be the most played since divisional play began in 1969.  This would make season long pennant races more likely.

For those who believe thaqt the talent is too thin to expand again,  I would institute some changes in the game that should have an immediate impact on the quality and competitvie balance of the game.  First, the league should raise the pitchers mound by 3 inches,  putting it half way between what it usesd to be and what it is now.  When the leverage of a higher mound was used by a pitcher, it led to less wear and tear on a pitcher’s arm.  Over time a team will be able to allow their pitchers to pitch more innings, thus lessening the strain on a teams pitching staff.  The number of pitchers on a team’s pitching staff would then be limited to ten. 

With most teams no carrying 12 pitchers, instead of needing 24 more pitchers, there would end up being 40 less.  This would have a positive affect on both the balance between offense and defense and the competive balance of the league as a whole.  Since competitive balance of the leugue is a factor in how pennant races progress during the season, the number of exciting pennant races and the number of teams competing will increase. 

 Some people have suggested that a salary cap be initiated to ensure competitive balance.  But I have another solution.  Players will be more likely to stay with teams if they are given a piece of a team.  This way a team will be able to hold on to a core of good players by making them part owners.  No more trading away veteran players when they become a financial burden.  Each team will have as its goal the building of teams that make them 1st Tier teams and then pennant contenders. The number of  pennant contenders will increase as teams retain their stars through most of their careers.

Finally, I have a way that competitive balance can be improved through an instant infusion of more team revenue.  Allow fans to purchase stock in their favorite teams.  With players and fans owning teams we can know try to figure ways to produce increased competitve balance because creating  exciting pennant races will be the ultimate goal of all concerned.  Come to think of it, when kids choose sides on the playgrounds don’t they end up with evenly matched teams?  Out ot the mouths of babes comes great wisdom!

Why Pennant Races?

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Since the only baseball you could see last weekend were games played between teams from different leagues, this would be a good time to delve into why pennant races are better than wild card races (and certainly better than interleague games).  First, can anybody tell me what you call games played between teams from different leagues? 

Answer:

  1. The All-Star Game
  2. The World Series
  3. An exhibition game

That’s right, right in the middle of a pennant race, these teams are taking time out to play meaningless exhibition games!  Pennant race games mean the most because they’re played between rivals for the same pennant.  Wild card games, at least, are played by rivals for the same wild card.   Interleague games  are for neither the same pennant nor the same wild card.  Impacting neither directly, they are nothing more than weak “extraseasonal” exhibition games.  Extraseasonal games are any games that do not impact directly on a particular pennant race, those played between pennant rivals.

Before expansion,  all 154 games a team played were pennant race games, played between rivals for the same pennant.  This was a strong , concentrated, meaningful schedule.  Each season  was a pennant race season, building each year to a dramatic finish, and culminating in The World Series.  With the the optimum number of teams, each game a pennant race game, and the best competitve balance ever,  baseball fans were witness to four post-season playoffs between 1947-1962.   However, after baseball expanded, the strength of the leagues began to weaken as teams began to play more and more extraseasonal games.  Today, teams play more non-pennant race than pennant race games.  And the World Series is the post-season’s after-thought, because three rounds rather than two is one round too many.

The argument is made that the baseball season is too long,  and there are now too many teams to go back to the way thing were before expansion.  The opposite is actual true.  The long baseball season requires a much more meaningful format than the one which has teams playing 16-21 teams during a season. There is neither a beginning, middle, or end to “wild card race” seasons.  With wild cards, and interleague play, we don’t know if two teams are playing for pennants, wild cards, or nothing at all.  Pennant races start the first day of the season and can last until a final day’s sublime climax!

Nobody’s saying we need to go from regular season to World Series, as could happen if both leagues only had 1 division of 14 and 16 teams each.( Truth be told, this very thin set-up is close to what we have know.)  But neither do we need the three division, three round playoffs that were created along with the wild card. 

 No, ideally, we should go back to the two division, two playoff round set-up we had before the wild card.  We can bring back pennat races by having teams play mostly division pennant race rivals.  We can also accommodate the need for “something more”.  Allow  teams outside divisions to continue to play each other by having part of the season played between tier rivals (20%?).  But extraseasonal games must never be allowed to overshadow the focused attention and strength of schudule that  pennant races played by pennant rivals gives.