Here is how I would realign the divisions:
You could either have one league, like basketball, football and hockey or you can maintain the façade of two leagues, which is really an anachronism. If MLB wanted to keep the two leagues, it could call the East and the South the American League and the Central and the West the National League, or vice versa. This plan has the teams more equally divided between the leagues than the current system. The East and the South have 15 teams, and so do the Central and the West.
I like a one-league system because it would provide for seeded playoffs. The only teams in the playoffs would be the division winners. In a seeded system, the team with the best record would play the team with the worst record in the first round (best-of-seven), and the two teams with the middling records will play each other (best-of-seven). The World Series would then be played by the two teams that won the playoffs. I would eliminate the league division series so that the World Series won’t have a chance of going into November as it does now. I’m enough of a traditionalist to want the World Series over before Halloween.
And if the idea of a World Baseball Classic grows, we will need the World Series over before Christmas. (Yeah, I know I was exaggerating a bit there, however, the baseball season is getting too long. Fans like to concentrate on things like the Arizona Fall League and the Caribbean Series in their own times. And some people, believe it or not, want some time to focus on something other than baseball <gasp!> without important games being in the way. I know that the TV networks would do everything they can to put the kibosh on the notion of doing away with the division series, but must profits for the likes of ESPN, Fox and Turner Broadcasting always be the most important thing to consider?
The divisions as I have outlined them put logical geographic rivals together, giving us the advantage of the current interleague play without the disadvantage of having interleague contests most people don’t care about, for the sake of balance in the schedule. Another advantage of a one-league system would be that popular contests between geographically disparate teams can be maintained. Everyone can get the Yankees and the Red Sox into their park at least once a year. All the smaller market teams will be helped by having big drawing cards like Boston and New York visit them.
As for the DH, which I really like, under my system everyone would have it. I like the current system in which the arguments both for and against it are represented because one league has the DH and the other doesn’t. But my realignment is so radical in terms of mixing current National and American League teams that it would be unfair to force teams and players who have counted on the DH to abandon it. I think it would be easier for the current National League teams to adopt the DH then for the American League teams to drop it. "Small ball" still has a place in baseball even with the DH. Just ask Ozzy Guillen about "the piranhas" of Minnesota. He should know; he named them.
Sportscaster Jim Rome has said that interleague play may have been exciting 10 years ago, but not now. You wouldn’t know that from the turnout at Chase Field when the Red Sox met the Diamondbacks. On the other hand, he has a point when it comes to certain other matchups such as the Mariners and the Padres. Diamondbacks announcer Mark Grace, a self-professed "dinosaur," recognizes that the fans like interleague play, but he dislikes the havoc that it has played with scheduling. He thinks the 19 games teams play within their own divisions is too much and that they should play more against teams from other divisions in their league. But, he says, interleague play makes that impossible. He also makes the point that some matchups are much more popular than others.
Grace would also prefer that Major League Baseball adopt uniform rules relative to the DH: either the National League should adopt it or the American League should drop it. Red Sox manager Terry Francona gets worried about the American League pitchers batting and American League DH’s, like his own David Ortiz, playing defense sometimes for only the interleague part of the year. There is a chance for injury, and of course, the chance that the American League team is at a disadvantage with a DH wearing a glove or pitcher carrying a bat. Francona says the fans like it, so they all should just shut up and play. But he would prefer that such games be exhibitions. Of course the American League has had the best of the National League in interleague play for several years now. So Francona shouldn’t worry about the American League being at a disadvantage because a DH is playing the field. I just saw David Ortiz played two games at first base and while he’s certainly not the most graceful position player you’ll ever see, he was certainly adequate to the task, which is more than I can say for Stonewall Jackson. And as for injuries to pitchers, they are a lot safer in the batter’s box then on the mound. No one is out to deliberately hit a pitcher but, while they are rarely hit while standing in the batter’s box, if I never see a nasty shot hit a pitcher on the mound in the <fill in the blank> head, arm, knee, it will be too soon.
The pros and cons of interleague play demonstrate the need for realignment. The Mets and the Yankees, the Pirates and the Indians, the Orioles and the Nationals, the Devil Rays and the Marlins, the Cubs and the White Sox, the Royals and the Cardinals, the Astros and the Rangers, the Twins and the Brewers, the Giants and the A’s, and the Angels and the Dodgers should be in the same division in the same league so that these logical geographic rivalries can be played out without wrecking havoc on a league schedule and forcing contests of no great interest to be held simply to fill out the interleague schedule. This will not solve the problem of people in Arizona wanting to see the Boston Red Sox unless the realignment put both teams in the same league. That might be possible.
As for the DH, I like it. But I also like the fact that the National League does not have it. The two leagues employ different strategies because they have different rules. Some people favor the DH; some oppose it. The way things stand now, both points of view are represented. I think that is, to borrow a phrase from sports journalist Mychael Urban, good for ball.