Friday, November 18, 2011

High Five

FOr those anal-retentive OCD-type people like me, who also happen to follow sports, the news that the Houston Astros are moving to the AL West is the BEST NEWS EVER.

Those that don't follow baseball have no idea why this is important. Hell, people who do follow baseball don't know what I'm talking about. The important thing is this: For way too long, the National League Central division--the Astro's home--has had six teams. All other divisions in Major League Baseball have five teams, except one: the American League West.

With this one move, all six divisions will have five teams, as well they should.

I'm sorry, but this has always bothered me. With a sports league as stories and successful as baseball, one would think that they would have gotten their shit together. But thanks to the existence of sports purists who insist on grinding every speck of fun out of the pasttime, moving teams around is always a pain in the neck. Thankfully, the Astros have sucked ass for so long they could finally rip it from its crowded home and placed it where it was needed. (The only drawback: The Pittsburgh Pirates no longer have a team to compete with for worst in their division.)

Of course, unlike other major league sports, the conferences in baseball have small but crucial differences, namely, the designated hitter rule. Still, it's not unprecedented; the Cleveland Indians skipped conferences a decade or two ago with little to no impact; again, it helped that they sucked.

When I first started to get into sports at a very late date in my life, the one thing that attracted me was the division system in football. It was probably the boardgamer in me, but I loved poring over how the schedules were constructed and the slick symmetry of the playoff seeding. Sure, basketball and hockey are similar, but with four divisions instead of three the NFL could play around with their numbers a lot easier.

Of course, when changes occur, rivalries get upended and scheduled get wonky. Thanks to the Thrashers moving to become the reincarnated Winnipeg Jets, the NHL is proposing a new realignment that is roughly time-zone based. While it makes sense, it also causes some heated battles to disappear--mostly involving teams like Detroit and Pittsburgh. It also reduces it down to four divisions--too few, in my opinion--and also, since there are only 30 teams, will require uneven divisions. (Thankfully, they will at least be symmetrical, and no doubt there are expansion plans in the future.)

Still, since I am a proponent of more teams for everyone, I would like to see all four major sports leagues to match the system that the NFL uses now. This would add two new teams to the NBA, NHL, and MLB (yay!), and force the leagues to break out of the 5-team 6-division system to the more malleable eight-division four-team system.

Of course, the more important thing is who makes the most money, which will more or less dictate how this all plays out.

2 comments:

  1. I completely disagree. Odd numbers in each league means all interleague, all the time. Interleague was supposed to be an experiment that brought some novelty to the summer, at the expense of destroying 93 years of tradition. Now it will bring who-cares match-ups all year long, so that pennant races can become even more meaningless with a second wild-card team. Baseball had two eight-team leagues for over 60 years, and if you thought you deserved a shot at the World Series, you started by being the best team in your league. Now the fifth-best team in a league can be crowned "the best team in baseball." This is terrible news. To quote Richard III, "Even tyrants wept when they heard the news of it."

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  2. I guess it depends. Unless each team plays the exact same schedule each year--and since baseball plays approximately 1,000 games a year that is possible--there's always going to be some unfairness. The Patriot's 16-win season is less impressive to me because that year the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills stank that year (even against teams that weren't the Patriots)--while another team that fought it out with two or three tough teams in their division might legitimately be a better team.

    Since there is always going to be that unfairness, to me it makes sense that divisions and wild cards exist. Else why have a playoff system at all?

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