If you really like baseball, you probably know that in 2013 the Houston Astros will be moving to the American League West. I had always heard that the idea of making two fifteen-team leagues wasn’t feasible because it would mean year-long interleague play. Well, I guess they finally decided that was a fair price to pay for giving “equal” playoff access to all Major League teams.
I’m on board with the change, and all NL Central fans should be. For seventeen years we’ve been competing with five other teams for a division crown while AL West teams had just three other competitors. Beyond The Boxscore did a brilliant job outlining how realignment (and the extra wild card) will alter the playoff chances for each team (assuming all else is equal – there’s that word again). Long story short, it will make a lot more sense in 2013.
For a while now, however, I’ve played with the idea of realignment on my own, imagining what I would do if I was the commissioner of baseball. Obviously many ancillary questions come along with that, in particular, how to deal with uneven leagues. We all remember the contraction conversations that took place around the turn of the century. It seems clear now that it won’t be a solution to league imbalance anytime soon. Which, before resorting to two 15-team leagues and season-long interleague play, left only one other option: expansion.
That may seem weird to some. The Florida clubs can’t sell 10,000 tickets on a weeknight in August (before the Marlins’ new stadium, that is) and I’m telling you baseball needs more teams? Well, I’m no expert, but from what I read (and I remember Rob Neyer writing about this more than anyone), just because baseball isn’t working in one state doesn’t mean there isn’t demand elsewhere. I know Rob is biased due to his residence, but he’s often wrote of putting a team in Portland. I’ve also heard of places like Charlotte, New Orleans, and Nashville. I have no idea if baseball teams could survive, let alone thrive, in these places. I’d imagine, as it would for most places, that it depends on countless factors that many people other than myself would have their hand in. Regardless, I’m going to assume here that it could work.*
*There are other issues with expansion, of course. I honestly don’t like the idea of it in general because it just waters down the overall talent of the league. Plus, to me, it makes baseball just a little less baseball-y. I’m no traditionalist, but at some point I like the idea that baseball is different that other sports and doesn’t have teams that fans sometimes forget even exist. Charlotte Bobcats? Atlanta Thrashers? (Oh wait, they don’t exist anymore.) I think baseball has enough teams. We don’t need more starting from scratch, trying to build up their fanbase (see the story from earlier this off-season of the Nats owner going off about Phillies fans taking over his home ballpark for an example of what I mean – I read a good piece on SB Nation, I think).
Anyway, I’m going with expansion, and I’m going with Charlotte and Portland. Another thing I always liked, is the two-division format within each league. Again, I was doing this before the extra wildcard, so one reason I liked two divisions is because it gave you a greater chance that the four best teams would make the postseason (assuming two division winners, two wildcards). Additionally, a team that won its division wouldn’t start the playoffs on the road. And and, for some reason it bothers me when divisions get so small (like in football). I like them big, and I like playing two-thirds of the league more than six times a year.
So, we have a basic format: four divisions, eight teams in each division. Here’s how it all played out in excel. Comments after the graphic.
All graphics courtesy of sportslogos.net
As I’m sure you noticed, these aren’t all current logos. I decided to use them from the last time baseball had four divisions. It was funner that way.
First, I put the Astros in the American League. I honestly can’t remember if I did that on my own before baseball decided it, but either way, I kept it. That way I can put one expansion team in each league, and decide where they go based on geography and need.
Basically, when you’re going from three divisions in each league to two, the issue is splitting up the two central divisions, which can be tough. The easiest call is probably putting the Astros in the West, followed by Pittsburgh in the East. It’d be pretty difficult to justify Kansas City going east. Same with the Twins. Conversely, Detroit and Cleveland are clearly leaning that way.
This leaves Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and St. Louis in the National League, and only Chicago in the American League. To me, it doesn’t make sense to have the two Chicago teams assigned to different halves of the country. I know baseball has done a lot weirder, but this is my league and that would drive me nuts.
I think you also need St. Louis in the same division as the Cubs. Putting these teams in the East doesn’t make sense, as it would force Cincinnati or Milwaukee, teams located east of St. Louis, into the West. So, Cards and Cubs in the West.
It would be tempting to throw the Brewers in there with them, except there’s a problem. Putting the Cubs in the West forced the White Sox westward, which fills the AL West’s quota for teams. This means that Charlotte goes to the AL and lands in the East, forcing Portland to the NL West, and all of a sudden the NL West is capped out too. So Milwaukee, you’re with us Reds in the East.
As a Reds fan I like this setup. I’ve always missed the Reds/Braves matchup from the old NL West days, and while I would have enjoyed a Reds/Dodgers reunion, that’s an awfully long trip.
Now a word on the logos.
We had this poster in our basement for the longest time that had the 26 teams (yes, 26) all sorted by division. I loved that poster and probably stared at it a lot (mostly trying to figure out what the hell the Expos logo meant – the coloring threw me off). Certain icons are burned into my memory: the Phillies maroon “P”, the Brewers ball-in-glove, Chief Wahoo’s giant grin. Well to me, that poster represents a time when baseball had four divisions, and I wanted to go back to it. A couple of awards…
Nominees: Astros, Blue Jays, Brewers, Orioles
Winner: Brewers – possibly the greatest baseball logo of all time.
Nominees: Diamondbacks, Padres, Pirates
Winner: Diamondbacks – the worst offender of the purple and turquoise era.
Some additional notes…
Did you notice that the American League has a lot of circular logos? Ten versus the NL’s five (six if you count the Marlins).
I didn’t follow any hard and fast rule when it came to selecting old logos. I mostly went to the early ’90s, and if there were several to choose from, I picked my favorite.
The Padres was the toughest call, as they changed things up slightly in 1990, ’91, and ’92. I had ’92-’98 in there first, which had eliminated all brown and added a pinstripe-y look, but after some thought I went back and opted for brown. It’s classic.
As I mentioned before, to do this I used sportslogos.net, which is an awesome site that has everything. Most of the time I would go to the search bar, type in the nickname, and the appropriate team (along with several other related teams) would show up in a table below. However, I had to mention that only with the Pirates did I have to scroll down several rows to actually get to the Major League team I was searching for. Poor Pirates.
The one exception to my logo selecting was probably the White Sox. They introduced the current black and white theme in 1991, and in most cases I would have opted for the generally more interesting look of the previous logo. But that would have meant going with the light blue and red and the weird looking batting guy, I never really liked that. The black and white is slick, if you ask me.
Love that the Blue Jays are going retro this year. They may have been my favorite in the chart above if it wasn’t for the Brew Crew.
For some reason it seems that younger teams like to change stuff around a lot. The Astros, Mariners, Blue Jays, Angels, Diamondbacks and Rays have all gone through several looks, usually including at least one major color theme change. The Royals and Mets, however, are the exception. Their logos are virtually unchanged since their inceptions, and I kind of like that.
I don’t remember that Phillies logo, at all. But if they tell me it was the primary logo in 1990, I’ll go with it. It’s sort of incredible, when you look at it, with the shrubery and all.
And I just have to say, that when I clicked on the big version of the Cardinals logo, something struck me. That is an awfully surly looking bird. It fits, I guess.