Friday, May 20, 2011

SPORTS: Once More Into The Bit....

May I suggest, AGAIN, an alternative to the current morass that is the inter-league play arrangement in Major League baseball. The last remaining person who likes it is Bud Selig, and I'm not so sure he actually IS holding out. Certainly, any arrangement that foists two-game series (like the Tiger, Ray and Red Sox series of the past fortnight) on fans is NOT a good idea. Anymore.

So, I offer a new arrangement that keeps traditional rivalries intact, gets a day of attention during the winter and reduces the impact of AL pitchers flailing away with unfamiliar lumber in NL parks.

First, make the inter-league a one-week affair run the week before the All-Star Game. The idea is a home-and-away series with one set of teams. The four traditional one-market match-ups (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, SF-Oakland) get set as permanent arrangements. Because each team has roughly the same economic clout, each of the series should feature teams with like talent (and yes, even in a down year, the Yankees will be happy to accept the Mets as perma-partners). Each other AL team goes into the lottery machine with all NL teams and there's a MatchUp Lottery sometime during the winter meetings (and before the schedule is set). Make it a half-hour special. And each AL team gets to draw which NL team will be their cross-league partner for this year. There is a limit in that you can't play the same team from the NL in a 10-year window. That makes it possible to never have some matchups, but running it out to 12 years means there's no mystery in the lottery each dozen years.

The draw would have two ball machines running. In the first would be 20 balls, half white with the AL team logos and the other half grey with the logos. The second machine would simply have the 12 balls with the various NL team logos. You pick from the AL machine and if a white ball drops, the series starts in the AL park. If it's grey, the week starts in the NL park. After selecting the AL ball, you then select one from the NL machine. There's your matchup. Subsequently, when the second (white or grey) ball of a previously selected AL team comes up, you simply discard the ball and go again. My guess is, on average, you'd get 5 re-picks during the course of the half-hour. As for the four perma-matchups, coin flips for the first year to determine who gets home first. After that, it alternates year by year.

Inter-League Week starts on Monday night at one park or the other as dictated by the draw . Thursday is a travel day and the Week ends up with a Fri-Sun series at the other park. Obviously the off Thursday and the Monday that's off because of the All-Star break, hopefully take care of rain-outs. But, by holding the week in mid to late summer, we reduce the probability of inclement weather a fair bit.

One other thing I would do is to make the second tie-breaker (after head-to-head records) in the leagues be the intra-league record, discarding the six inter-league games (which will be none for two NL teams).

What this scheme does is restore a little mystery to the process. With the three-divisional cross-over system as currently implemented, you are pretty well assured of seeing any particular NL team every three years. Maybe not at your ball park, but certainly every six years. The Lottery would certainly draw interest each winter. And the whole impact of inter-league play would be lessened immensely. Which, for some AL teams (and yes, I'm talking to you Toronto), would be a very, very good thing.

Plus, there would now be a 156-game schedule of intra-league games in the AL and something close to it in the NL. This would also be the time to look at getting rid of the unbalanced schedule. If you are going to five playoff teams per league, it's because of the inequities of the unbalanced schedule and the financial might of the AL East. It's been silly bordering on stupid, to have a wildcard where the teams don't compete equally. In the AL, you would have each team play each other team 12 games a year. The NL situation is a bit different. Each team would get 10 games against each other, likely in a 3-3-4 format with one team getting two three-game series at home and the other four in the road. There would be six more games to schedule and those would likely have to be two three-game series, one on the road, and ideally it should be something in-division at the end of the year. 

I've been over this terrain before here in the blog. Nobody pays any attention to me, so I'm under no illusion that this scheme will ever come to pass. But really, isn't it a WHOLE lot better than what's being done now?

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