The Rundown: Let’s Talk Realignment, Namath Was Nearly a Cub, Manfred Offers Economics Lesson, CBA Negotiations Continue

Now that football season has officially ended, it’s time for baseball, right? I know the players are still being locked out by the owners, but I fully expect that to end soon, maybe before Friday. Once a new CBA is in place, the next order of business for the league will probably be expansion and realignment. Of course, that will lead to many debates, but rather than focus on which two cities will be awarded new franchises, I’d rather discuss how the league could be restructured once that happens.

Before I offer my proposal, what do we think would happen to the Cubs’ fanbase if the league decided to move the team to the American League? My gut tells me that most who follow Chicago’s North Side baseballers share a common distaste for the Junior Circuit. The newly-announced universal DH may soften some of that enmity, but not a whole lot. Would Cubs fans, especially the out-of-towners, bail if the North Siders were no longer a National League team?

The good news is that the league owners would probably be against a shift of that enormity. I have to admit, I’d love to see more games against the Yankees and Red Sox and fewer against the Rockies and Padres, and I have a way to appease myself with my version of MLB realignment. In fact, I believe my proposal makes more sense than any I’ve seen floated elsewhere.

By the way, my choices for new franchises are Brooklyn and Montreal, but we can discuss that at a later time. I know New York has the Mets and Yankees, but I’d love to see the game return to its roots with a Brooklyn team. Even though it’s Empire State overkill, I’m for anything that puts a dent in the wallet of Mets owner Steve Cohen and Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner.

As for realignment, my solution is as simple as it gets. Put the 16 largest markets in the National League, and the remaining teams, most of which receive competitive balance advantages, in the American League. The caveat is that the two new franchises would go to the AL. Then create two divisions of eight teams. With expanded playoffs that would mean two division winners and five Wild Card teams per league.

Geography can be used as a foundation for the divisional structure. Old-timers like myself would love to see a rekindled Cubs-Mets rivalry, and how cool would it be if the Cubs and the White Sox met in the NL Championship Series?

  • NL East: Yankees, Mets, Cubs, Phillies, Braves, Nationals, Red Sox, and Tigers.
  • NL West: Dodgers, White Sox, Rangers, Giants, A’s, Astros, Mariners, and Angels.
  • AL East: Rays, Guardians, Pirates, Orioles, Blue Jays, Marlins, Brooklyn, and Montreal.
  • AL West: Rockies, Cardinals, Padres, Royals, Reds, Brewers, Twins, and Diamondbacks.

League owners would love this setup because it cuts down on travel expenses. Players would love it because playing more same-city games means more time at home with their families. I’d also propose a weighted regular-season schedule as follows:

  • 24 interleague games on a rotational schedule. Teams would play their regional counterparts one season and the other division the next.
  • 32 opposite division games in the same league, which is two, two-game home-and-road series against each team.
  • 98 interdivisional games, which is 12 games against each opponent.

You’ve probably already done the math and yes, that comes out to 154 games. The owners would most likely be against that, but they can make up those games within the structure of the postseason. With five Wid Card teams, a one-game play-in would determine the No. 6 seed. The Wild Card Round would switch from a three-game format to five games, with No. 3 playing No. 6 and Nos. 4 and 5 matching up in the other series. The winners would play the top two seeds in a seven-game divisional series, followed by a seven-game league championship series. Then of course you’d have the World Series.

If the league is dead set against a shorter season, an option would be to add one extra game to each series against the opposite division, bringing that total to 40 games.

As you can see, I’m ready for baseball to start. Though a fun exercise, playing with realignment options means nothing until the leagues expand. It also means there’s not much in the way of baseball news to report. At least it provides a discussion apart from things related to the lockout.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Rob Manfred must think that most baseball fans don’t play the market, or that owners know nothing about return on investment.

“We actually hired an investment banker, a really good one actually, to look at that very issue.,” Manfred said when asked if owning a baseball team is a good investment. “If you look at the purchase price of franchises, the cash that’s put in during the period of ownership and then what they’ve sold for, historically, the return on those investments is below what you’d get in the stock market, what you’d expect to get in the stock market. With a lot more risk.”

MLB News & Notes

The White Sox are requiring that all of their minor league players be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The league considers spring training an unpaid internship for minor league players.

Mark Appel called out the Phillies for poor working conditions and low minor league pay. I did not know 30-year-old Appel was still an active player.

A coroner announced that suicide was the cause of death for retired outfielder Jeremy Giambi.

Despite the lockout, player movement news sometimes finds its way into topics for discussion. The Rays are apparently open to trading Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, and Austin Meadows, and the Mariners have yet to discuss an extension for Mitch Haniger.

Negotiations and Love Songs

Manfred said he is optimistic that the lockout will end soon, and that it would be disastrous for the game if it does not. (ESPN+ subscriber-only content).

Major League Baseball tweaked its proposal regarding the competitive balance tax, among other changes offered in its meeting with the players’ association on Saturday.

The players are reportedly underwhelmed by the latest proposal from league owners.

With uncertainty hanging over the league, “ticket sales so far are definitely a little slow,” said Jeff Goodman, CEO of TicketSmarter, the official ticket resale partner of a dozen MLB teams during spring training.

This won’t just be spring training as we all know and love it once the lockout ends. It will be more like the wildest spring training ever (subscription to The Athletic required).

Today’s Baseball Jones

A dropped fly ball in 1998 was not the greatest moment in the career of outfielder Brant Brown, but things worked out for the Cubs that season nonetheless. I only wish I had the radio call by Ron Santo.

Extra Innings

Joe Garagiola was a Cub? I feel like I should have known that.

They Said It

  • “In the history of baseball, the only person who has made a labor agreement without a dispute, and I did four of ’em, was me. Somehow during those four negotiations, players and union representatives figured out a way to trust me enough to make a deal. I’m the same person today as I was in 1998 when I took that labor job.” – Manfred

Monday Walk-Up Song

The Next Episode by Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, and Nate Dogg – If you’re not a fan of the genre, you probably won’t agree with my assessment that Sunday’s halftime show actually upstaged the game. Kudos to the NFL and all of the artists who performed in one of the better shows in recent history.

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