Friday, November 30, 2012

Division Re-Alignment

The Los Angeles Dodgers of Anaheim (oh….wait….they're just the LA Dodgers) got some good news from Fox.  Their new TV deal is going to net them between $6 and $7 billion dollars.  For the next 25 years, the Dodgers will make a minimum of $250,000 dollars a year, just for their regular season games.  The money they bring in from this deal alone is more money that 26 other franchises will make in all venues.  It’s the record for a local TV deal, doubling the old record.

The deal is good for the Dodgers.  It’s good for the business of baseball.  But it’s not great for the sport.  All it does is continue to widen the gap between the rich teams and the poor teams.  It gives power to local TV stations in negotiating future contracts and continues to make the sport richer and yet somehow competitively poorer.  How can teams with Oakland’s payroll hope to play against teams with the funds of the Yankees or Dodgers?  Baseball claims it has no vested interest in keeping its high profile teams in positions of power.  But how can they not?  The ratings for all World Series not involving Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies are abysmal.  So while you understand why baseball wants to have the big markets see greater success, they absolutely CANNOT do anything to help them achieve it in a way that hurts other teams.  They say they aren’t.  So as we can’t prove otherwise we have to take them at their word.  And I do believe they aren’t actively trying to help out the major market franchises.  The TV deals they approve just happen to be great for the teams in the major markets while also helping the sport overall.  But this deal is insane.  You can read more about it here.

What should baseball do, then?  If the Athletics faced the Braves in the World Series, the ratings would cause MLB to collapse.  Or at least take a hit that they don't want in their championship game.  So to make money, they need these mega TV deals and for cities with baseball teams to almost completely subsidize any new stadiums to keep the sport near the top of the food chain.  But by accepting these huge local TV deals, the larger market teams (the NY, LA and Chicago teams plus Philly and the Rangers) have a tremendous competitive advantage in the financial department.  Is there a way to keep baseballs’ purse solvent while keeping the competitiveness of the game intact?

How about division re-alignment?  I’m not talking about re-doing the divisions based on geography.  But what about aligning teams in divisions based on finances?  With the speed of travel nowadays, it’s possible for the Mariners to be in a division with the Marlins.  It’s not a great idea, but it’s doable.  And baseball is pretty good about making the schedule for these teams bearable.  Every AL team has to go to Seattle and Tampa Bay.  Teams are jetting all over the nation as it is.  So I don’t think that’s a problem, though it may be a little tougher for the commissioner’s office to schedule.  How would new divisions look?  Here’s a preview of what I’m thinking:

NL 1

Philadelphia Phillies
Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Mets
San Francisco Giants

NL 2

Atlanta Braves
Washington Nationals
St. Louis Cardinals
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres

NL 3

Miami Marlins
Pittsburgh Pirates
Arizona Diamondbacks
Milwaukee Brewers
Cincinnati Reds

AL 1

New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Texas Rangers
Chicago White Sox

AL 2

Houston Astros
Detroit Tigers
Seattle Mariners
Baltimore Orioles
Minnesota Twins

AL 3

Oakland Athletics
Tampa Bay Rays
Cleveland Indians
Kansas City Royals
Toronto Blue Jays

This list is taken directly from Forbes list of most valuable franchises that you can visit here.  Now this list isn’t built around which teams spend the most.  It’s also not about which teams make the most money.  This list separates the MOST VALUABLE franchises based on a number of things, including the media market.  Obviously the Mets are in a bad financial situation right now and would struggle in their division.  In addition the Blue Jays would be the rich kids of their class, but things change.  Someone has to be in first and last in each division.  While these teams are near the poles now, things could quickly reverse.

This list is designed with the richest teams in the same division.  The poorest teams are in different divisions.  This enables teams with similar finances to play the majority of their games against each other.  The good thing about this list is that it gives baseball carte blanche to continue pursuing these massive local TV deals that benefit the major media markets (full disclosure….they are likely going to continue to do that anyway even without my blessing…I’m shocked by this news as well) while keeping the competitiveness closer to a fair level.  Teams would still play everyone in their league, but they would have the majority of their games and their important division games against other clubs that don’t have huge financial advantages over them.  And then in the playoffs, the divisions face off against each other as usual.

As we hear all the time, baseball is a business.  We hear it mostly when something is done that the fans dislike or disagree with.  Sometimes the decisions that are made are made for business reasons.  It’s bad when they clash with what could be best for the game competitively.  But the game going bankrupt trying to keep things fair is also not the best idea.  So this is an idea to compromise.  Baseball keeps raking in the bucks with these mega TV deals however the re-alignment helps keep the competitiveness at a high level.  What do you think?


  1. It's an interesting concept and I agree that the travel wouldn't be a problem. I have a few issues though that I think would need to be answered.

    1. There are some very natural, long standing rivals that would be split up, notably the Cubs and Cardinals. Remember, the Cubs wanting to stay with the Cardinals is actually a reason we have the current division format.

    2. Money doesn't necessarily mean success, and radically changes from year to year with some teams. Think about it, a year ago at this time, the Marlins had a payroll to match anyone, now they're bottom of the barrel. But this time last year, they'd probably be in the NL1 Division. Think about a team like the Diamondbacks. They're not a huge spending team, but have been in the not too distant past (remember the WS win in 2001 and the years around it). Also, you have a team like the Cubs who basically never win anything playing in the big spending division, and the perennially contending Cardinals and Braves in the second division.

    It's a really interesting thought though. I actually wouldn't be opposed to some sort of realignment

  2. I agree with what your saying. There's no solution to breaking up the division rivalries. I don't like it personally, which is one of the many reasons why this would never happen.

    As to your second point, I used the Forbes list for a reason. It doesn't measure the amount of money a team spends or makes in a season. It just measures how valuable a ball club is. The value of a club is slower to change. That list is more likely to stay the same longer than any list that compares payroll or the amount of money a team makes. So even with the incredible debt the New York Mets are in, their franchise is still worth a lot of money. Someone's got to be at the bottom of each division each year. It would be the Mets in the NL 1 division this year.