The Nightmare Of Perpetual Inter-League Play

Buster Olney of ESPN.Com has just posted a very good piece about a story I first heard a week ago, one that could shatter the concepts of the American and National Leagues as we know them.

As I heard it, the Bud Selig-driven committee investigating realignment was spending most of its time discussing moving one team from the National League into the American League to create two 15-team leagues. The obvious implication of those odd numbers is that from the first day of the season to the last, there would always be at least one inter-league game being played, every day – from the first celebratory week, to the final climactic days of the pennant race.

What a bunch of crap.

Olney’s sources apparently divined this scheme after the Commissioner’s group began preliminary discussions about it with the union. I had merely heard about it during its owners-only stage. His additional details include the suggestion that the 16th NL team switching to the AL might be the Astros (to give them an all-Texas rivalry with the Rangers; in fact the Marlins and Rays could probably better use this benefit), the  possibility that divisions would be eliminated altogether and each league’s 15 teams would simply vie for five playoff spots (hey, great, more crap – your opportunity to buy tickets to see a 13th-place team, or, if you’re really lucky – a battle between both 13th-place teams!).

The divisional system introduced in 1969 is troublesome enough – it broke the tradition that the pennant race really determined the best team, because each team played every other team the same number of times. But it became necessary once the leagues got beyond 10 teams, for the reasons hinted at above. In the 1890’s, when the National League stomped out both the upstart Players’ League, and then its former rival the American Association, major league baseball became one league of 12 teams. Hope dies early in a 12-team league. On this date in 1899 – June 11 – ten of the twelve teams were 8-and-a-half games out or more. Last place Cleveland was already 26 games out of first place and would end the year a whopping 84 games behind the pennant winner.

The divisions are a necessary evil, but inter-league play is an unnecessary one, and making it a virtually daily part of the menu would make a joke out of the pennant races. As it is now, how you do in inter-league pretty much determines whether or not you’ll win anything. And how you do in inter-league pretty much depends on who you play in inter-league. And who you play in inter-league pretty much is determined by which match-up will draw the most fans or the most tv viewers.

When Selig rammed inter-league play through in 1997, it still wore a fig-leaf that at least within divisions, each team would have the same inter-league opponents. The A.L. East would play the N.L. East one year, then the N.L. Central the next, then the N.L. West the third. This was abandoned as soon as the fervor swelled around Mets-Yankees, Giants-A’s, White Sox-Cubs, Dodgers-Angels, etc.

Right now inter-league opponents are selected for marketing reasons, and give some teams decided advantages over rivals in their own divisions. This new proposed system could make that disparity even greater. Unless there is some intention to reduce or scatter the current twice-yearly Festivuses of inter-league (and when has baseball ever reduced anything?) in a roughly 26-week schedule with approximately 52 “series” a year, each team in a 15-team league would probably go from playing six inter-league series a year to as many as eight or nine. By definition, some teams would get an easier schedule than others. By definition, the likelihood that the World Series teams would’ve met during the regular season increases – further flattening the bubbles in that champagne.

Inter-league has been interesting and novel in some cases (Yankees-Mets was thrilling, then interesting, and is now routine) but it has adversely affected what the pennant races mean, and it has been a nightmare for National League teams used to defending against eight-man batting orders. Just as it’s time for the concept to be discontinued or reduced, MLB is – naturally – looking to increase it.

Why not just give the teams with the top national tv ratings a first-round playoff bye?


  1. Ryan Hague

    Actually, wasn’t it originally that the AL East would play the NL East every year, then it transitioned into changing divisions after a few years?

    • james

      Keith, how about this for alignment
      n.l. east combined with al east/nl central combined with al central/aln nl west combined
      10 teams each division-astros go to the west
      3 teams make palyoffs ast place team in each division gets a buy
      2nd pl plays 3rrd pl 2 0ut of 3/fan interest will always be there beter races
      also move the rays to orlando
      A s to las vegas
      thanks jim

  2. freehan11

    Thanks Keith.

    Why does baseball always seem to shoot themselves in the foot.

    Baseball is a great game, and it doesn’t need silliness like two 15 team leagues.

    Please say that the players will stop this.

    Thanks for being a passionate fan of our game.

  3. caramelchavez

    I hope the MLB “powers that be” leave well enough alone. Shucks, I’m just starting to figure out what the heck is going on. LOL

    I think it’s awesome that you know so much about baseball. Dude, you should come out with a new and improved edition of “Baseball for Dummies.”

    Anyway, keep up the good work. I always learn so much. (:


  4. WeRTheSquirrels

    Why not halve the season? Reset the standings at the mid-way point and utilize those split-season results to determine playoffs? This method would revitalize the teams, like the Royals and Pirates, who see their attendance fall off after June as fans realize making up 20 games in the standings is nearly impossible. The result would be increased fan interest and therefore increased attendance and viewership. All of which lead to more money. And THAT should speak to Selig & Co, since baseball doesn’t.

  5. Devon Young

    You’re kidding, right? I’ve been hoping, yes HOPING, they would change interleague play to being something like… once every four years. It would become exciting again, like the olympics. and teams & fans would get bragging rights ’til the next go around. I’d be fine if they expand it to mean more interleague games IN THAT FOURTH YEAR, as long as it remains a non-yearly thing. In fact, if they did it every other year, I’d still be ok with it. It would make it special again… it lost it’s specialness and novelty long long ago. There’s teenagers now, who’ve never ever lived through a season that didn’t have their team playing an interleague series. How can it still be interesting? It’s as normal as the Yankees playing the Red Sox. I hope, I REALLY HOPE, that they don’t making it as constant too!

    I love the idea of realignment though. I’d realign the leagues by divisions based on payroll if I had any power. Then teams without money, CAN make the playoffs ’cause they’ll win the “poor division” for the right to meet the Yankees/Red Sox/Angels in the playoffs. That should generate more cash for small market teams…so even the union should be interested in trying it.

  6. TheMikeCarpFan

    Here is the best reason for realignment to 15 team, 5 per division, leagues: schedule equality.

    Each team would play the other team in their division 18 times. 4 teams times 18 games equals 72.
    Each team plays the other ten teams in their league 6 times; 3 at each park; totals 60 games.
    Each team plays the other leagues team in the same geographical division (east vs east, etc.) 6 times. Totals 30 games.

    That is 162 games with every team in their division playing the same teams the same number of times. Of course this makes the wild card uneven, but who cares? It’s the wild card after all!

    This would eliminate such scheduling oddities as the NL East playing the AL West which happens next weekend. It keeps more of the games played in the same time zones which is THE best reason for interleague play; more games played during prime time.

    And I wouldn’t move Houston to the American League. I would move the Astros to the NL West and move San Diego to the American League. PETCO needs a DH more than the ballpark formerly known as ENRON.

    As for the last series of the season being say a St. Louis versus Cleveland match up? That is weird I admit. I would rather see that than a bunch of interleague games being played at the same time every year between teams which aren’t in the same time zone.

  7. Billy Krumb (@clubhousecancer)

    I wish they’d bring back real league presidents who fought for their individual league the way old Joe Cronin or Warren Giles used to. Also, if they’re moving a team to the AL, move the Brewers back. There is no real Cubs/Brewers rivalry, but, on the other hand, White Sox/Brewers was a natural classic.

    • JB

      I think you’re forgetting about Brewers-Twins-Sox. That can provide more rivalry than the current AL Central, no?

      But, honestly, I think the key is adding two teams to the AL. I know, I know, it will provide a watering-down of pitchers. But we’ll have two leagues with four divisions per league, and four teams per division

      I would love a line-up like this:

      AL EAST:

      AL North:

      AL Central (this division may be a cluster….)
      New team (OKC, perhaps?)

      AL West

      NL East:

      NL South

      NL Central
      New team

      NL West

  8. Joe Neff

    Ah baseball: the crazy girlfriend of mine who, every time I think she’s reached some level of sanity, goes and does something bonkers. Yes, in an era in which payroll inequality is still a problem, Selig and company want to essentially eliminate the chance for small market teams to have hopes of competing on an annual basis. And I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan! Despite the interleague problems that Keith so eloquently details, the current divisional setup has produced a fairly consistent brand of season-long drama, an advantage that runs the risk of being snuffed out so that 3/5 of the AL East can make the postseason. All in the misguided name of progress.

    • Mellow_Nomah

      Joe, that’s a GREAT opening line! I know just how you feel, both about baseball and that crazy girlfriend. I’m sure I’m dating her now and that she would want me to send you her regards.

  9. Michael Green

    First, I think this is a terrible idea, but it’s associated with Bud Selig, so that’s to be expected.

    But before we think it’s too wacky, I hope we can agree that one of the greatest baseball executives ever was Bill Veeck. And in 1960, when the American League expanded, he wanted to avoid bringing Los Angeles into the league and proposed having nine teams and working out interleague play. If it was ok with Veeck … I’m just sayin’.

  10. Paul Cyopick

    I absolutely hate inter-league play. Sure it was great here in Toronto to see the Expos, but Houston, Pittsburgh?

    If they insist on keeping it, why not switch rules, national league rules in American league parks and vice versa. Give the home team fans something different.

    Then again, I was at the jays 16 – 4 loss today with my kids. When your best two pitchers are your second baseman and the three year old girl that threw out the opening pitch, you’re up for watching anything different.

  11. Phineas Gage

    Inter-league play is a joke. I would much rather see the NL stay with 16 teams, but go with 2 8-team Divisions (and no wildcard). This would give us something approximating the traditional NL pennant race. That does not work quite as well in the AL with two 7-team divisions, but that can be worked around. I would even support expanding the AL by 2 teams – maybe one in Mexico and another in Puerto Rico?) to get to the magic number of 32 major league teams.

  12. timothy dee micheli

    30 teams, 1 league. 3-game series, home and away, against all opponents = 174 games. Best record is the champion. No need for ‘playoffs’ as the ultimate balanced schedule determines the best team over the course of a season. European football has it right. Anything else is just a slave to corporate television interests. And the DH can die a violent death…

  13. John

    best solution add one team to the Al go back to a balance schedule, drop the inter league crap, go back to the old format of NY vs NY on a off day for the Mayors trophy, same in Chi town and LA others FL, Tx. and such Governors trophy. AL can add a team to the west 4 team div is just lame. Let them have the Red Sox for fun

  14. GaryL

    I know I’ll get heck for this, but I love the DH. The pitcher’s the only guy working on every pitch, that’s his job – let him focus on it. If it’s so horrible, why do all of the NL teams that play in these interleague games who are visiting AL teams use a bench hitter instead of just going with the pitcher? Nothing says the DH HAS to be someone other than the pitcher. I just love how we’re supposed to feel bad for NL pitchers in these games at AL stadiums because they suddenly have to face 9 hitters instead of 8 hitters and a pitcher – which is just admitting that the pitcher isn’t expected to do anything on offense, even in the NL. And please, don’t give me this “tradition” nonsense – if tradition is so important, why not complain that we have middle relievers who specialize in only getting one lefty out in the 7th inning? Make the DH optional in both leagues if you really want to watch Tim Wakefield swing a bat.

      • Lee Carney

        Well said dude, I never understand these ppl who come on messageboards to mindlessly attack the writer, fair enough put forth a competing opinion, but just blasting the guy with abuse, some ppl just are sad.

        Also attacking writers is just silly, there is so much choice now, just choose to read something else, announcers however are a different issue, we are stuck with announcers so when they are terrible they are fair game for criticism I think

    • Northstar

      Oh my! What a filthy, filthy little mouth!

      Now, go sit in the corner with that bar of soap in your mouth until you’ve learned to play nicely with the other children, junior.

  15. James

    15 team divisions would make sense in only one way – if promotion/relegation with the minor leagues was introduced. Then the teams at the bottom would have something to play for all the way through to October. Of course, that may be too European a notion for baseball to accept.

  16. Button

    When i first heard about this 5 team play-off idea, i was disgusted. And i still am.

    Why should i care about a championship in which one-third of the teams have a chance to be the Series winner? Especially if even more games are played in a lop sided way with the other league. There is already too much inter-league play, it already affects divisional champsionships. And there is already built-in inequality b/c teams play more within their division instead of playing every other team in the league the same number of times. The more teams you have playing for the pennant, the higher the chance that the best team does not win- after all, the best team was determined over the grind of the whole season.

  17. Curt

    Personally, I like interleague play, and if you’re going to have it all, then it doesn’t matter to me if it’s clustered at certain times, or if it’s played all year long. But the inequity of the schedule IS a legitimate problem…but unless you have an equal number of teams in each league, then you can’t eliminate that inequity (when some divisions have five teams, one has four, one has six) since the math doesn’t work. As Keith says, the mere size of the league makes divisions necessary, so here’s my suggestion that I wrote earlier on my personal page, and I think it makes the most sense:


    I’ve been reading a lot about proposals for MLB realignment this weekend. The proposal getting the most play, going with two 15-team leagues and eliminating divisions, doesn’t address the real problem, which is “schedule inequity”. Conceivably, you’d play the other 14 teams 10 games each, then have 22 games of inter-league play…which takes the problem most people complain about regarding inter-league play, the inequity of the schedule, and makes it even worse…since it would be mathematically impossible to level out that portion of the schedule. The 10 games inside the league would also be problematic logistically…five home and five away would mean either a five-game series (which would be awkward), or a three-game plus a two-game series, the latter meaning a lot more travel.

    Here’s my solution, and I think it solves most, if not all, of the potential problems:

    15 teams per league? Yes. I thought they should have done that prior to the last expansion. Yes, this would mean at least one interleague series going on all the time, but I don’t see why this is a such a problem…if you’re going to have inter-league, then it shouldn’t matter when you have it.But get rid of divisions? No. If you do that, and keep interleague play, then you’ll still have “schedule inequity” in the interleague schedule that I mentioned above…meaning not every team will play the same interleague schedule, and it’ll be even worse than it is now.

    Opening or closing the season in interleague play would be no worse than closing outside your division, which happens all the time now. But to minimize the impact on pennant races, the teams that finish last in each division would be the teams schedule to play their final week of games in interleague play the following year. Someone could conceivably go from worst to first, but that doesn’t happen all that often. Certainly not a perfect solution, but the least of the available evils.

    So, in terms of realignment, the Dbacks go to AL West, Astros replace them in the NL West (6 divisions of 5 teams each). This keeps the Texas rivalry as an interleague rivalry. Then each team would play 16 games each (8 home/8 away) against your four division teams (64 games)…8 games against each of the other 10 teams in your league (4 home/4 away)…which accounts for another 80 games…

    Then each team would play 15 games (five 3-game series) against the five teams in one of the divisions in the other league (rotate each year, so that you see every team once every three years, and visit each park once every six years). For example, NL Central plays AL West, NL East plays AL Central, and NL West plays AL East…then rotate…The final 3 games would come against your “natural” or closest “geographic” rival if a natural one doesn’t exist. There are 11 of 15 interleague matchups that could be considered in-city, in-state, or border-war type “natural” rivals: Yanks/Mets, Red Sox/Braves (Atl originated in Boston), Rays/Marlins, Orioles/Nats, Indians/Reds, White Sox/Cub,s, Royals/Cardinals, Twins/Brewers, Rangers/Astros, Angels/Dodgers, A’s/Giants

    With four other match-ups more of closest (or closest-remaining) “geographic” variety: Jays/Phillies, Tigers/Pirates, Dbacks/Padres, Mariners/Rockies

    There’s your 162 game season, and the “schedule equity” would be greatly improved….every team in your division has 159 of their 162 opponents identical (which is a lot better than it is now). This would mean the “local” rivals would only play one series each year, instead of two, unless those divisions matched up…that would keep those rivalries interesting, without getting overplayed.

    So yes, you’ll have one interleague series going all the time, but there are still enough interleague games where you can have one big “all-interleague weekend” each season. This will also mean all series (except interleague) can be four-game series, which reduces the number of road trips (owners should like that)…same number of days on the road, but fewer plane trips. You could also have a lot more common days off…like, all the NL teams have a day off at the same time, which would make make-ups from rain-outs easier, and conceivably condense the schedule by a couple days…and thus start the playoffs a couple of days sooner, and not end the World Series in November.

    It makes sense! Let’s do it!! (But let’s get rid of the DH while we’re at it.) 🙂

    • Phineas Gage

      I appreciate the thought you have put into this Curt. Clearly they need to equalize the divisions (and, they have to keep some kind of divisional structure). I would rather see them move the Padres to the AL (and move the Astros to the NL West) – this sets up a natural rivalry between Padres and Angels, and rescues both from living in the negative space created around the Dodgers (but there are probably three or four good arguments to be made for moving different teams). I would like to see them do this and eliminate or at least decrease inter-league play, while your plan accepts and builds upon inter-league play. Aside from that (in my view fatal) flaw, there are two specific problems.

      One flaw (in my view) is that continuous IL play is much more of a problem then you acknowledge. How would you like to see an inter-league series at the end of the season that is repeated in the World Series? And, as Olbermann pointed out, you increase the chances of meaningless games late in the season with more games played by two teams both of which are out of their race. I think one reason MLB has tried to segregate inter-league games is to maintain the illusion of specialness – these kinds of games only happen twice a year, and the media and MLB hype it up. With IL games every week, this illusion would be punctured, and the distinctiveness between the two leagues further watered down. Next they will want to just have one big league of 32 teams, and put the top 12 in the playoffs. While I do not like the DH, for many years now I have appreciated having it around as the main distinctive between the two leagues.

      A second problem with your plan is that, with its requirement that IL games be played systematically by division on a three year rotating schedule, it ignores what I take to be Olbermann’s main point, which is that for many years now, especially since the season of the lost World Series, MLB has been chasing popularity though a series of superficial (and, in the case of turning a blind eye to PED, dangerous) ploys and practices. When MLB first went to IL play it used your systematic schedule, but abandoned it in favor of maximizing IL games that drew bigger crowds and ratings. This is probably inevitable, since the only reason to have IL play in the first place is to pander to the ratings. Once you decide to have IL play in order to goose your popularity, there is little reason to stick to a systematic IL rotation that makes competitive sense but does not deliver the ratings IL play was designed to attract in the first place.

      MLB would be better served making decisions with maximizing the significance and value of the World Series in mind. This in tern would maximize the significance of everything leading up to the WS (playoffs and regular season). Actions that erode the value of the WS may result in a temporary gain of casual fans, but do not do much to build a solid foundation of genuine fans, without which the sport can thrive. Genuine fans can appreciate low scoring games, and if MLB had been in a position to base itself on a solid fan base, Selig may have been motivated to take a look at reports of steroid use 15 years earlier than he did.

      • Curt

        Fair points, indeed. There is no perfect solution, I certainly acknowledge that. Regarding the Padres move, I think the Angels already have a natural rival in the Dodgers…hence, moving a team from one league to the other who doesn’t have a corresponding “natural” rival (hence the D-backs) makes the most sense to me. You could swap the D-backs and Rockies if you wish…Rockies certainly have an American-League style situation at Coors.

        The plan I mentioned keeps interleague play at about the same level, which right now is 15-18 games, depending on your division. There doesn’t need to be any more than that, IMO. I think that keeps it at a small enough percentage of the schedule (barely 10% of games for each team) to keep that “special” feel, regardless of when those games are played. Yes, the current MLB plan makes it more of a marketing situation than a competitive one, hence why I wanted to keep the “natural” rivalries in play somehow. But I’m all about solving the “schedule equity” problem, which seems to be the biggest complaint…acknowledging that with that comes certain other sacrifices. But the current system also has flaws…for example, the Cubs had never been to Fenway until this year in interleague. The Cardinals have never been to Baltimore (the former St. Louis Browns) until this year. If marketing was at the heart of the match-ups, then the marketers have been asleep at the wheel if they couldn’t work out these match-ups until 15 years into the process.

        Those are marketing opportunities that would occur on a regular cycle every three years under my idea. Getting interleague on a regular schedule will offer the opportunity to build that particular matchup as a real story, as conceivably the “only” interleague matchup in a given weekend, seems to me to have potential. Not every matchup will be great…but then again, does Pirates/Tigers move you any less than Pirates/Marlins? It’s at worst, a wash…and at best, that structure allows for Cardinals/Yankees, or Dodgers/Red Sox to occur as well. I think the trade-off is worth it. In other words, I think there will be enough interesting match-ups every year to offset the ones that don’t draw as much interest. Spreading the “traditional powers” around the league can only help, if marketing is indeed part of the equation (and we know it is). The Marlins (as would any team) would be thrilled to get the Yankees every three years, and get them at home every six…why should the Mets be the only team who can “count on” getting that privilege regularly?

        It’s an interesting debate…and again, I acknowledge nothing they could do would be perfect. For example, even if you eliminated interleague play, how do you split up the schedule so that everyone in the league plays everyone equally? A 162-game schedule doesn’t give you an even number like it used to….back when the NL had 12 teams in 2 divisions, you played in-division 18 games, essentially six 3-game series, and 12 outside the division, four 3-game series. The math worked out perfectly. You don’t have that anymore with expansion. That’s why I like my proposal, because the math works out so well…again, schedule “equity” is the goal.

        The current system doesn’t even allow for schedule equity inside the league…my favorite team, the Cardinals (for example) play 9 games against the Phillies this year, but only 6 against the Mets and 7 against the Nats. We play 15 against the Reds (in our own division), but 18 against the Brewers (also in our division). It makes no sense. My proposal gets rid of ALL of that, because the schedule SHOULD be more about competitive balance than marketing…it isn’t right now, but it SHOULD be.

  18. Phineas Gage

    I think everyone (even the Commish apparently) agrees that the current structure needs to be tweaked. But again, the problem is, MLB has demonstrated that it cares more about marketing than about competitive balance, as they have already moved away from the kind of systematic, rotating IL schedule that you are proposing. My point is that the logic of IL play inevitably pushes in this direction – if they were not driven by short-term, marketing considerations, they would not have gone with IL in the first place. While your plan does not increase the number of IL games that much, it does make them more “regular” and common place, which in my mind increases their presence in the texture of baseball.

    If we assume that we have to go to 2 15 team leagues, then I agree with your proposal (or something very much like it). But I don’t accept that assumption. I think two 8 team divisions in each league would be nice (which would get us back to both the classic number of teams and only one round of playoffs). But four 4-team divisions in each league works great. Each team plays 30 games against its 3 divisional opponents (90 games) and 6 games against its 12 non-divisional opponents (72 games). That gives a fair and even schedule (unbalanced as it should be to make divisional play meaningful) with 162 games, eliminates inter-league games, eliminates the wild card abomination, while meeting the goal of keeping more teams in the pennant race longer. This requires of course not switching a team from the NL to the AL, but adding 2 teams to the AL (my suggestions: Tijuana, MX and San Juan, PR).

  19. walt kovacs

    interleague sux as does the dh

    the mlb is the only pro sport that still keeps its leagues separate….but interleague has made the ws and as game…less special

    and the dh has gotta go…its time and the reason for it, is long past

    how would the nfl work, if tomorrow, the afc decided to make field goals worth 4 instead of 3 points…cuz babes like high scores

    and getting rid of divisional play is even more pure idiocy

    it is not a necessary evil….the proof is in the gate…and the gate since divisional play was instituted has continued to grow

    • Steve Jenner

      The DH is not just in place because babes like high scores, it’s because some people don’t like watching amateurs try to hit. I cannot for the life of me understand why some people are so gung-ho for allowing some guy flail around to the tun of a .170 avg over the year. Allowing most pitchers to hit is like pulling someone from the stands and seeing what they can do. Beyond the sheer hopelessness of the endeavor, it makes the NL worse because the pitchers get coddled. I really like Tim Lincecum, but his 1000 Ks in 5 years accomplishment is diminished by the fact that many of his strikeouts we against people who had no business in the batters box.

      The DH isn’t like the AFC increasing the value of field goals, it’s more of removing an inadequacy of the game through specialization. Kind of like how a lot of players used to play multiple positions on offense and defense in the 40s, but now you never see that. Everyone realizes it’s stupid to have a football team where the QB is also the placekicker, but then they get hostile when you apply the same logic to baseball.

  20. Sam

    I’d like to see everybody play everybody so a team would no longer be unfairly hurt by just happening to draw a tough interleague opponent that year (Brewers at Boston this year). You’d still play teams in your own division the most frequently but not as often as now. I get sick of seeing Toronto and Baltimore 18 or 19 times a year. Definitely keep the divisions– keep as many races as possible. Also, why make it so tough for the wild card team? It takes away the excitement of them going all the way if you weight the playoffs too much in favor of the division winners. What’s next– have the hitters for the wild card team swing the bat with one arm tied behind their back? Anyway, the AL West has too few teams and the NL Central has too many.

  21. hhoran

    1. Far and away,the biggest issue on the table (although not the only one) is the impact of imbalanced schedules on the postseason. Every year you can point to multiple cases of teams making/missing the playoffs (and big changes in playoff seeding) wholly due to strength of schedule differences. This discussion needs to focus on this issue, and people ought to give MLB proper credit for trying to address it,and for some creative, out-of-the box ideas (and the players for being open to those new ideas) .
    2. Unfortunately, while this problem can be reduced, it can’t be “solved” The math will never work with 30 teams and 162 games. Truly balanced intraleague schedules require increased interleague play, which solves one part of the imbalance problem but makes another part worse, and raises other question. Part of today’s imbalance is that 9 of the 51 series played are 4 games, not 3. Fixing this requires extending the season beyond the current 25/26 weeks. Totally eliminating interleague play either leaves you with the divisional problem (different playoff probabilities NL west vs NL central) or recreates the “one league” problem where too many teams are totally out of contention by June.
    3. You can’t discuss the schedule imbalance question without also discussing the playoff question. Post season has become a total crapshoot; further diluting the playoffs would be far worse than all the changes of the last 40 years put together. I can see options where 2 15 team leagues significantly reduces today’s imbalance problems, but improving the regular season a bit is a waste of time if it is tied to a big devaluation of the postseason.

  22. Tom

    Recently, Bud Selig announced they are considering realigning Major League Baseball. I wouldn’t get rid of the divisions or anything too crazy, but here is what I would do:


    New York
    Florida (moves from NL East)


    Toronto (moves from AL East)


    Kansas City (moves from AL Central)
    Los Angeles


    New York
    Pittsburgh (from NL Central)


    St Louis


    San Fran
    San Diego
    Los Angeles

    MLB should do a more fair rotation for interleague play and play a more balanced schedule in general. It would be a similar slate to the NHL, where you have a “home and home” series against every team in your league and 6 total series against teams in your division. Interleague would be included in this “home and home”. Simply put, the Cubs and White Sox would still play 6 games, but the White Sox might play a home and home against the Brewers as well.

    There shouldn’t be national TV-friendly interleague play only, like the Cubs-Yankees series or annual rematches of the previous year’s World Series, unless of course that happens in the rotation. The Cubs interleague slate this year? Boston, NYY, KC, White Sox. There’s no pattern to that.

    So, broken down:

    12 games inside your division (4 other teams) = 48
    6 games against the other 14 league teams = 84
    6 games against one other opposite division= 30

    • Tom

      Sorry, that was straight from my own blog. But seriously, think about it. Probably a better way to still make it heavier on how you fair in your own division, but it’s a thought.

  23. Nick Carlson

    I propose 2 expansion teams (particularly after the inevitable end of the Cuban embargo; I’m sure China can supply some players also) to go into the American League (for S+Gs put them in Portland or Vegas and Carolina) and then divide each league into four divisions (North east,South west) Play 22 games intradivision (66) 6 games vs rest of teams in league (72) and 6 games vs rotating divisions in other league (ala the NFL; a sop to interleaguers) (24) for 162 games.
    Postseason: Best record among division winners in each league plays 4th best and 2nd meets 3rd. World Series homefield advantage: best record with All Star Game only used as tiebreaker.

  24. Chris

    I’m afraid my love of interleague play is nothing more than a selfish desire to see my team play. As a Royals fan (let the onslaught begin) that lives in Colorado (let the onslaught of jealousy begin) I rarely have the chance to make the trip to Kauffman to see the powder blue in action. So interleague play at least allows me to see my admittedly awful team at least every couple of years. Illogic be damned, I want to keep it. As for realignment, switching from divisions that don’t make sense to other one’s that don’t make sense seems more like busywork and a marketing scheme hellbent on ignoring some of the possible opportunities for the fly-over states to have rivalries on par with some of the rivalries of the coasts.

  25. George Armonaitis

    There is another solution to evening out the leagues – contract/add two teams to get back to 28 or up to 32 teams.

    Unlikely they would agree to go to 28 and where expand to 32?
    Is there anyone really clamoring for a MLB team that does not have one already, or proven they can’t support?

  26. ktwoa

    I hate inter-league…let me make that clear. If there would ever be realignment, why not make it East/West? 4 Eastern clubs and 4 Western teams would qualify for the post-season.

    If it was up to me, there would be only one post-season match-up…the best record in the AL vs. the best record in the NL!

    Cheers Keith!

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  28. Eternal Recurrence

    I am for most any measure that gets the Pirates out of a six team division and reunites them with the Phillies. We once had some healthy hate there.

  29. Lou

    Yankees-Mets might be routine by now, and I don’t know anything about Dodgers-Angels, but I do know Cubs-White Sox is still a high point of the season for fans of both teams, no matter if (as generally is the case) both teams suck. Those are arguably the six biggest games of the year here.

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  32. opus 131

    I grew up in Detroit, and was sentient starting about the mid-60s. I would have KILLED for interleague play as a boy. I never saw Aaron, Mays, Koufax, Marichal, McCovey etc. etc live. It’s different if you live in NY, LA, Chicago, or even the DC area. But for the fans with access to only one team, interleague play affords them a chance to check out the other half. If I may, I have a question on an unrelated topic, which I cannot find an answer to. My eight-year-old son was horrified to learn recently that professional sports teams can trade players like property. “Haven’t they ever heard of Abraham Lincoln?” he asked me. ” Who invented this crazy idea?” A great question, and I have no idea what the answer is. When was the first trade in professional baseball history? In the major leagues? Were there legal challenges? Who devised the idea? Are there precedents in other sports?
    I would be very grateful if you could enlighten us, Keith. Or anybody else reading this.

  33. rocbelushi

    why not change the divisions so that the natural rivalries (nyy vs nym) are commonplace? make them 15 in each league and put rivalries in the same place (chc, chw, stl, kc and another team in the midwest). it would work better.

  34. Kurt_from_SoCal

    Baseball is in the “gotta do something” phase. Why? TV ratings are not good. Dodgers are bankrupt. Mets should be bankrupt. Texas was bankrupt. About 12 teams either stink on the field, financially or have little hope to be competitive very often. Getting rid of PEDs and Greenies has “hurt” the product and, therefore, interest, except for the diehards. Just wait until the dog days start. .. The NFL and NBA have inter league play. .. File this under: progress, I guess. Is inter league scheduling fair? No. Is it good? I don’t know. Inter league play is no big deal. It is that stupid DH in the AL only that drives me crazy. That is flat stupid. It would be like only allowing the 3 point shot in the Western Conference of the NBA.

  35. Vincent

    Playing interleague games all season long doesn’t faze me — it’s the scheduling inequities that drive me nuts. As a Nationals fan, it was weird this year to play five at home and three on the road vs. Pittsburgh, just as two years ago it was two home and four road vs. Houston (and when one of those D.C. games was suspended by rain in a 10-10 tie, it was completed at Houston!). And this year, the Nats, as occasionally happens to NL teams, only played 15 interleague games instead of the customary 18.

    To me, the best solution is the 15-team, three 5-team division setup (Arizona to AL West, Houston to NL West), and set things up so the three-game series — the most convenient form of scheduling — dominates. Play 18 games against each of the four teams in your division (total 72), six against each of the other 10 teams in the league (total 60) and 30 interleague games — six against your “natural” rival, three against each of the other four teams in your “mirror” division, and three against four of the five teams in one of the other two divisions, alternating pairings. So, for example, in 2012 the Nats would play the usual six games vs. Baltimore, be home to the Yanks and Rays and visit the Bosox and Jays (those pairings would switch in 2013). They would face four of the five AL Central teams in 2012, four of the five AL West in 2013, and so on (with pairings rotating over a 10-year cycle).

    Too many interleague games, you say? Then modify things so you retain 18 interleague games — six vs. your “natural” rival, a three-year division rotating cycle for the other 12 games, and 84 intradivision games (21 x 4) rather than 72.

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