Not able to fix the problems that plague baseball such as lack of a salary cap, suspected use of HGH, the slippage of baseball’s standing amongst other sports, the DH, and the over exposure of inter-league that has limited the more critical intra-league component, Allan Huber Selig has taken it upon himself to create a new twist that should never see the light of day.
Under pressure from the owners of teams in the NL Central Major League Baseball is looking at a two league 15 team format which would advance three teams each into the playoffs and have the fourth and fifth place teams play a post season series for the wildcard.
The NL Central is the only 6 team division in baseball, hence making the competition for the playoffs more difficult. This can be traced back to 1998, when baseball’s AL and NL were both 14 team 3 division leagues. 1998 is when baseball expanded once again adding the Devil Rays to the AL and the Diamondbacks to the NL, realizing that 15 team leagues wouldn’t work Selig had his former franchise the Brewers moved from the AL to the NL creating a six team division. Now in the chase for the last dollar MLB wants a fifth playoff team from both the AL and NL, hence formats that will give us inter-league play from day one until day last. There are two other configurations possible assuming that Selig wants to pursue fixing that which wasn’t that badly broken. Contract two teams and return to the 1997 balance of that day and as long as we traveled back to 1997 delete inter-league all together or limit it to one 4 game series per year between geographical or historical rivalries. I confess that I don’t know whether the concept of contraction falls under the CBA or not, if it does the Players Assoc. will never agree to the loss of jobs. For the sake of this discussion, it does not. My parameters for contraction would be attendance and I would grandfather all teams that made up the Major Leagues prior to the 1961 expansion which added the Angels and the Senators which replaced the team that became the Twins and later moved from Washington to Texas and became the Rangers. Safe among low attendance teams (2008-date) would be the Athletics, Indians, Orioles, and Pirates. The first contraction team should be the Marlins who have never received fan support and have finished last in attendance in two of the last three years and are currently last as we speak. The problem, the taxpayers of Miami-Dade County are on the hook for 500 M on the 634 M dollar stadium. Jeff Loria, team owner, and David Samson (son-in-law) team president have threatened to move the team repeatedly and have claimed poverty despite a 38 M operating profit in 2008. Miami Mayor Carlos Alverez who engineered the stadium deal was later voted out of office 88%-12%. The next expansion team that consistently appeared on the list low attendance is the Kansas City Royals, followed by the Blue Jays. Should the Marlins get a pass and avoid contraction? I would vote no, but with Selig’s finger prints all over the purchase of the Marlins by Loria they would be safe. When 2002 dawned, John Henry owned the Marlins having bought the team from Wayne Huizenga. The Boston Red Sox were on the market and Jeff Loria was unhappy in Montreal. Selig brokered a deal in which MLB bought the Expos for 120 M, Loria bought the Marlins for 160 M and John Henry bought the Red Sox from the Tom Yawkey Estate. The Expos ultimately moved to Washington and were bought from MLB in 2006 by Ted Lerner.
Another option would be another round of expansion adding two more teams to the mix and creating two 16 team leagues with four 4 team divisions. Based on the 2010 census there are eleven population centers that are larger than 9 current major league teams including Atlanta, Minneapolis, St Louis, and Cincinnati. San Antonio, Indianapolis, Austin,TX, Charlotte N.C., and Memphis are all top 20 cities. Others include Las Vegas, Oklahoma City and Albuquerque NM. Whether it is contraction or expansion both would save baseball from first to last inter-league and from the continued meddling of Allan Huber Selig, baseballs worst commissioner beyond question.