Question of the day: Should baseball scrap the divisional alignment and play a balanced schedule with the top four or five teams making the playoffs? [Updated]
Writers from around the Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Please check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Bill Kline, the Morning Call
If baseball cared about fans in small-market cities with thrifty owners, it would keep the division alignment as is. Why? Because it’s possible to win some divisions, every now and then, with 83 or 84 victories. But if baseball lumps everyone together and advances the top four or five finishers in each league to the playoffs, a team would need 90 or more wins to play in October.
For some small-market teams, that would mean goodbye forever to the playoffs. Take Pittsburgh, for example, where the owner is so cheap he times his trips to the mall for when the Salvation Army bell-ringer is on break. No way the Pirates ever beat out 11 other National League teams to make the playoffs. But occasionally there is a chance the Pirates can scrape together, say, 83 wins, and beat the other five teams in the NL Central in a down year. Please, baseball, no division revision.
[Updated at 12:26 p.m.:
Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times
This idea comes up now and again, this time because the Boston Red Sox just dropped $300 million on Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez -- keeping up with the New York Yankees in baseball's two-team arms race.
How can it be fair, or so the theory goes, for the other teams in the American League East to have to beat out the Red Sox or Yankees -- or both -- to make the playoffs? The Tampa Bay Rays did just that in two of the past three seasons, but they lost their first baseman, left fielder and just about all of their bullpen to free agency.
A division championship is more significant in baseball than in any other sport because the length of the season weeds out fluke teams, so let's keep the divisions intact. Better yet, let's borrow a page from English soccer and relegate the three worst teams in divisions outside the AL East to rotate in and replace the Rays, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, then rotate again every two years.
Based on this year's standings, well: Arizona Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Pirates and Seattle Mariners, we're looking at you.]