My father and I have an ongoing discussion. Mostly, it is a blend of strategy, predictions and talking each other of whatever ledge we have climbed out onto. This conversation spans politics, new media, old media, college football, my life plan (which lately includes pissing off publications, crusading for deli credit and being really happy I am not Tiger Woods), and a whole slough of other subjects. That is a smokescreen though. We really just talk baseball. All the time. So much that you probably don’t want to talk about it with us. It’s gross.
I recall a few years ago when Jayson Werth sucked at baseball (which is code for he was currently with the Dodgers), I had read that he was taking drops of pure cayenne pepper oil before games and this was something I would weigh in as I factored in whether or not he should start in right for the Blue Crew that day. This is the kind of obsessive disorder my father and I suffer from.
Today’s post is the extension of the disorder. It’s a very clear example of our pathetic dysfunction. Let me dig in.
Last year, the Yankees spent over 200 million dollars to win the World Series. This year, despite reports of them considering lowering the payroll to 185 million, it looks like they are poised to spend. They are grabbing Curtis Granderson from Detroit. They resigned Pettite. Soon, they will find a way to trade for Roy Halladay before being deployed to Afghanistan as Obama’s elite blackwateresque task force.
The Winter Meetings in Indianapolis are making the point loud and clear. About ten teams have money and the rest are eating scraps from the table. The Dodgers have always been a team willing to spend enough to create the illusion that they are spending enough money. Even with the Dodgers making it to the NLCS in back to back years, there is some sort of consensus understanding that we won’t spend the dollars to match firepower with the Yankees, Angels, Red Sox and so on when it really counts.
My father suggested an idea to realign baseball and make the game interesting for the cheaper teams. It is one part Premier League relegation, one part musical chairs and one part Running Man. I think I love it. Here it is, our concoqtion:
Each league (American and National) will continue to be divided into three sub-divisions. Currently, these sub-divisions are aligned by geographic location (East, Central, West). In the new alignment, here are the divisions:
American League Wealthy ($$$)
American League Middle Class ($$)
American League Common ($)
National League Wealthy ($$$)
National League Middle Class ($$)
National League Common ($)
The teams occupying these subdivisions would change from year to year as payrolls fluctuated. Essentially, the five teams with the highest salaries would do battle with each other and so on down the line. Each division would get a playoff bid, plus one wildcard coming from any division, presumably coming from the AL or NL Wealthy.
Here is how the leagues would align as of last season:
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox
3. Detroit Tigers
4. Los Angeles Angels
5. Seattle Mariners
AL Middle Class
1. Chicago White Sox
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Texas Rangers
1. Baltimore Orioles
2. Minnesota Twins
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Oakland A’s
5. Florida Marlins (moved from NL Common to even it up)
1. New York Mets
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Houston Astros
5. Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Middle Class
1. Atlanta Braves
2. San Francisco Giants
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. St. Louis Cardinals
5. Colorado Rockies
1. Cincinnati Reds
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. Washington Nationals
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
5. San Diego Padres
There becomes a great psychology to this. There becomes less incentive to try to outspend your opponents unless you are in the top division. There becomes great pressure to get value per dollar for the lower classed teams. Essentially, you may NOT want to sign a player who will bring you into the next division unless you are prepared to really commit those dollars going forward.
Now, there is a lot to play for no matter what team you root for. Payroll no longer becomes an excuse for losing. Scouting and player development become a huge deal. It changes the complexion of prospects for big league talent trade immensely. It opens up the minor leagues more as well as teams will need more low rent solutions. Imagine the Atlanta Braves and Dodgers are both hoping to avoid being in the NL Wealthy in the offseason causing the Dodgers to use a AAA second baseman to save money (oh wait, that is about to happen. balls.).
These scenarios can add life to baseball. They will foster the feeling of oneupsmanship among the league’s fattest wallets. They will breed a certain pride for the players in the Common Divisions as each year, one of their own will get to be David to the Wealthy’s Goliath. The Middle Class will be the most entertaining strategically as teams jockey to keep payroll low enough to stay out of the big leagues, but high enough to be realistically dangerous.
Baseball can be so ass-backwards sometimes that the Common team would beat the Wealthy team in a 5 game series more than you might suspect. In the AL last season under these alignments, here would be the playoff matchups…
Yankees (AL Wealthy Champ)
Twins (AL Common Champ)
Angels (AL Wild Card)
Texas Rangers (AL Middle Class Champ)
The Yankees/Twins matchup happened anyway. The Angels/Rangers would have been great and Boston would spend the offseason figuring out how to improve to win the wildcard in a tough division.
This is like boxing if it was possible for a lightweight to fight a heavyweight. Imagine the Yankees losing to the Orioles and knowing their payroll was probably over 3 times as large. It would create advantages to being frugal and advantages to being wealthy. It would add some spice to a bland sandwich.
In case you are curious, here are the 2009 NL playoff matchups under the new alignment:
Los Angeles Dodgers (NL Wealthy Champ)
Cincinnati Reds (NL Common Champ)
Colorado Rockies (NL Middle Class Champ)
Philadelphia Phillies (NL Wild Card)
I will talk more about the alignment later, but it is important to note that in both the AL and NL we have the same matchup despite realigning. The real fun comes in watching the Dodgers play the Reds. The Reds would get 5 games to do the impossible.
Some of you may think this is bastardizing baseball. Maybe. I’ll ask this in response: Is Interleague Play bastardizing the game (yes)? Is the DH bastardizing the game (YES)? Are ridiculous payrolls bastardizing the game (not under my plan)? Are cheap owners bastardizing the game for low rent teams (not under my plan)?
Things change. Should alignments be one of them?