Is the competitive balance in baseball equal, could the Rangers benefit from a new divisional alignment?
By Editorial Staff
Since the introduction of the wild card which created the addition of the central division in both leagues, the Rangers have been at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to other teams. The Ranger’s are in Dallas, which is in the central time zone and the rest of the American League West is in the pacific time zone. This means that the Rangers play approximately 33% of their road games two hours from home.
So if a game starts at 9:05pm ct/7:05pm pt, the game may not finish until almost midnight central time. Then the team has to shower and get ready to board a charter bus to the airport. Then they would have to fly back to Texas arriving at around 4 am or so central time. The next game could be in about 15 hours giving the team very little time to rest and get ready for it.
So essentially the Ranger’s would be better suited playing teams in the American League Central against the Royals, Twins, Indians, White Sox and Tigers. Prior to the 1998 season the Milwaukee Brewers were in the American League, although two teams were added with one joining each league before the season. The National League gained the Arizona Diamondbacks and the American League gained the Tampa Bay Rays (known as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays until 2008). In order to keep the balance in both leagues, the Brewers moved from the American League to the National League. So since 1998 there have been no changes as far as division alignment.
There have been serious complaints among Ranger’s fans that the Rangers should be in the A.L. Central instead of the A.L. West. As of today no expansion teams are planned, but there is a new radical idea being considered. Early in the off season Commissioner Bud Selig comprised a committee of players, managers, and executives to look at on field issues. The idea of a floating divisional alignment has been discussed. At this point time it’s just an idea and nothing has come from it.
As highlighted in the article by Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci divisions can change from year to year and teams can choose what division to be a part of. So teams like the Orioles, Jays or somewhat Rays would have the opportunity to not be in the A.L. East powerhouse of Yankees-Red Sox. This would give these teams a better chance to contend.
This ideal of nobody having to be in the same division as the Yankees- Red Sox, seems radical in its self. In a perfect world it would be a two team division. The flip side of that is that the Yankees- Red Sox games bring in massive revenue. This is even true for Rangers games, if you look at average attendance and then compare it to games against the Yankees or Red Sox, attendance for Yankees-Red Sox games are far greater. This is the same against teams like the Cubs or Angels.
So for a team who is rebuilding and doesn’t plan on contending this year, may move into a division with the Yankees to gain more revenue so that they can have a higher payroll when they are ready to contend. This could definetly affect the playoff outlook and for teams who are usually sleepers such as the Pirates or the Nationals. According to the article teams would not be able to move more than two time zones, so the Rays could only move to the A.L. Central, not the A.L. West. The only issue with this is that teams in the central division have a geographically advantage because they can go east or west.
As far as floating alignment goes, I think it is a radical idea, that could be beneficial. The current system gives a disadvantage to the Rangers due to them being in the A.L. West. It might be beneficial if the league were to add an expansion team to the A.L. West and move the Ranger’s to the Central division and add another team to the National League. The only issue with this is that both leagues would have a odd numbers of teams meaning that one team would have to have a day off everyday during the season due to not having an opponent to play against. The only way this could work is if they were to expand interleague play to all season, where everyday there would be an interleague game.
Major League Baseball could benefit from a similar division alignment as the NFL where there are four divisions instead of three. There is the usual East, West divisions although there is also a north and south. This would probably put the Rangers in the south division against the Rays and Royals possibly. I would love to see changes to the current structure in order to boost the popularity of the game. I do believe that the Rays suffer greatly due to being in the same division as the Yankees. I would not be surprised that one day the Rays leave the Tampa Bay area for another location. So as time progresses and this committee meets again changes maybe recommended.
Disclaimer: The information on Floating Divisional Alignment was obtained from the Sport’s Illustrated Article wrote by Tom Verducci.