Mon Mar 29 12:42pm EDT
There have been scores of realignment plans floated ever since Bud Selig and his committee decided they might want to solve a problem that doesn't really exist outside the world of Orioles fans.
The soccer-based concept of relegation has been mentioned a few times and Evan Weiner of The Daily Caller has the latest proposal. In Weiner's imagination, eight teams would inhabit both the American and National leagues while the remaining 14 would compete for promotion in a two-division "Continental League." Two spots in each league would be up for grabs each year with the bottom two teams in the AL and NL sent packing for the shame of the Continental League.
There's no doubt that it's a fun system to talk about, but I'm not in favor of actually adopting it. In fact, I think bringing it over from England (and other points beyond) would be much closer to the failed American run of "Coupling" than the wild success of "The Office."
Here are five reasons why I believe this:
1. You think free agents only head to the big markets now? Wait until they have zero hope of winning a World Series and stop signing team-friendly deals like the ones penned by Evan Longoria(notes) and Ryan Braun. And it doesn't matter if he's from St. Paul or not, you think Joe Mauer(notes) would've signed up for eight years of shuttling between divisions with the Twins?
2. Say goodbye to the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. Under this new system, Joe Maddon and his boys would have only been jockeying for a chance to be invited to compete for a spot in the big dance instead of writing one of baseball's best stories by actually crashing the World Series. Institute relegation and small-market teams would have an even smaller window of success because a good chunk of their limited time would first be spent earning promotion.
3. Good luck getting all the owners to agree on this. This is the hurdle all changes in baseball must face, but relegation would present an unconquerable mountain. Being dropped to the Continental League would likely mean diminished revenues from tickets and advertising, so why would owners roll the dice with a $100+ million payroll, knowing that a demotion would mean setting all that money ablaze? Somewhere Jerry Reinsdorf is feeling a phantom pain and he doesn't know why.
4. Parity? What parity? As 35th Street Review points out, only four different teams have won English Premier League championships since 1992 and one of those titles was a one-year surprise appearance from Blackburn. Over the same time span, 10 different franchises recorded the best record in baseball and 11 won the World Series. Relegation might increase the competition in the middle of the pack, but ask an Orioles fan if he's more bothered by the fact his team hasn't finished third since 2004 or hasn't made the playoffs since 1997. Promotion wouldn't rank as a big thrill.
5. Only the World Series matters. Proponents of realignment like to claim that interest in places like Pittsburgh and Kansas City would be revived with competition for a second division championship. But Bud Selig and his World Baseball Classic can tell you exactly how much the American people care in recently-invented baseball championships. Winning the World Series is the only thing that matters in the eye of the American baseball fan and baseball would risk losing even more fans by eliminating the local team's annual chance at a crown. Even if it's nothing more than an illusion.