The MLB Lockout leaves a bit of a dearth for material to create fresh content for most folks writing about baseball. Sure you can copy Jeff Passan’s or Evan Drelich’s reporting and make it your own, but that kinda blows. Yes, you can opine on international signings or non-40 man minor league signings as well, but unless you are a total baseball nerd, nobody is too interested in any of those things.
That’s what lead Josh Nelson from SoxMachine and I down the path to create a sort of unique content idea, at least in our circles. We chose sides in the MLB Lockout and did a mock trial of sorts with the OG of White Sox blogging Jim Margalus presiding as the arbiter. We took a look at various issues in which we think the Union and the Owners need some compromises to build a bridge to a new agreement. You can watch the entire podcast below on the SoxMachine YouTube channel.
We got into the weeds on a handful of issues with both detailed presentations and inquiries from both Jim and then the opposition side of each argument. Power points were in full effect and I even dressed up for the occasion.
Anywho, the topic that is most interesting to me is Competitive Balance. The reason I find it most fascinating is that it likely has the largest impact of anything that will end up getting decided. It’s also not as discrete as fighting over a specific number to put on a minimum wage or a Luxury Tax limit. There are nearly infinite ways to try and create an environment where the most teams are competing for their next win as possible. The pallet is blank and ready for you to splash some paint on it.
My choice for the blog / YouTube video was MLB Realignment. However, I didn’t choose to realign based on perfect geographical sense. Nope, my decisions were purely based on perceived local markets and potential revenue generation.
In theory, this would materially knock out the big market vs small market concern when it comes to actually making the post-season. All of that would get pushed to short series October baseball, which we all know has a lot of variance and can really level the playing field for teams of all market sizes. There’s room for quibbling, so see below.
MLB Realignment by Economic Market
Above is the page from my Power Point (I told yous I would come correct for that meeting), in which I suggest a big realignment. Underlying this is that with the very likely universal DH and the substantially larger playoff pool, the old vestiges of American League and National League are no longer worth preserving. Let’s move into the 21st Century by realigning the leagues and divisions by economics. I give you the Royalty and Steerage Leagues.
I’m sure your eyes will peer quickly to find the White Sox who are still in the Central Division (now of the Royalty League), but their division rivals have all changed from the past. The Cubs are now here, joined by the Blue Jays, Rangers and Braves. No more pounding on Cleveland (whom I mistakenly called the Indians during the podcast) because they refuse to spend on adequate talent. No more guaranteed laughs at Minnesota’s predictable postseason failures (actually, we still can, regardless of where they reside).
The idea is that each division aligns geographically and economically as closely as possible so that it should encourage each team to spend that extra 10-15% on payroll for marginal wins, because the others in your division shouldn’t just be able to Yankees and Dodgers you and dwarf even your most courageous payroll budget estimates.
The Royalty side of the ledger either materially has spent in the past or is in markets where revenue generation and spending SHOULD be a veritable afterthought. The Steerage side is the exact opposite, in general these are the smaller markets in the league, so they probably won’t reach the substantial payrolls of the Royalty side, but it won’t matter because they are competing in their own weight class so to speak.
Look at the Steerage West. Don’t you think Seattle can scrape together enough cheddar to spend their way into the playoffs? If you were in the Steerage East, you realize that second place is totally up for grabs to whoever wants to get out there and buy the right players (might only take 75 wins, with Tampa in there). You dig?
Is this realignment perfect? Hell Nah, but in an environment where 47% of the teams make the playoffs each year (MLB Owners proposal is 14 team playoffs annually), it’s worth upping the ante to have nearly every team competing for those spots. Got a change you’d make to this alignment, hit me up and let me know what you think.