ESPN's Buster Olney stirred things up a bit over the weekend, reporting that Major League Baseball is considering a realignment that would leave each league with an even 15 teams and completely wipe out the divisions. The top five teams would make the postseason and, with an odd number of teams in each league, interleague play would be a constant on the schedule. The Houston Astros would be the one team calling the figurative moving vans as it's presumed they'd be plucked from the six-team NL Central and placed into the now-skimpy AL West (which currently only hosts four teams).
Buster's source puts the chances of this plan becoming a reality at "50-50," so there's obviously a lot more that needs to happen. But until we see which way Bud Selig and his committee pals go, there's going to be a lot of speculation and debate over the idea.
Initial positive reaction: Evening out the leagues is a great and necessary idea, though MLB's schedule-makers are probably already waking up in a cold sweat over the mere thought of reconfiguring the standard road trip. And as FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi writes, the Astros are the only logical candidate to switch stripes, even if their fans and players say they prefer to stay in the NL. (The one point where I sympathize with their gripe is the time zone conundrum: Those games in Oakland, Anaheim and Seattle will start awful late, though fans of the Texas Rangers have been doing it for years.)
Initial negative reaction: Hate, hate, HATE the idea of nuking the divisions. While Rob Neyer thinks we'll soldier on just fine with a "first division" of five teams, I will submit that there's nothing quite like saying you're on your way to watch a first-place team. Why would baseball eliminate six races for first and opt for two races for fifth instead? No matter what you think about the value of a division title, we can all agree that no one is going to raise a flag saying they finished fifth one year.
At any rate, combine both of those takes above and we're left with my ideal situation and a very underrated dynamic that would be created by placing both Texas teams in the AL West.
Think about this for a second: By pairing the Astros and Rangers, baseball will finally create a great regional rivalry in that gaping hole between St. Louis and the West Coast. The two teams are located about 250 miles apart from each other and handcuffing them together would give the Lone Star State — long considered an outpost by the rest of the league — an increased relevance and focus.
Dedicated baseball fans in Texas often don't get enough credit, but a close race between the teams would give them a bigger spotlight, plus an opportunity to needle opposing fans in the flesh. That's just something that doesn't happen right now with both teams being the geographical anomaly in their current divisions.
What do you think of baseball's rumored realignment?