For as long as I can remember, it has struck me as silly that the Angels and Dodgers, the Cubs and White Sox, the Mets and Yankees, play in different leagues.

It makes no more sense than if neighboring high schools of similar size played in different conferences. Choosing up sides in the playground, you compete with and against other kids from your neighborhood. And if you want to get more serious about it, you get a team together and challenge one from the nearest neighborhood.

Why did it take the proposal for a pandemic-shortened season for geography-based scheduling to move to the forefront?

Years ago, I ran my idea for geographic realignment past then-MLB commissioner Bud Selig. He generally liked the sound of it and answered with an interesting question: If you were to start from scratch, how would you do it?


COVID-19 has forced baseball to hit the reset button, and one of the ideas being discussed, as first reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, calls for a shortened season played with a schedule that scales down travel. Three 10-team divisions would be grouped based on geography, and the entire schedule would be filled with games against division rivals.

The USA Today report aligned the divisions as such:

East: Baltimore, Boston, Miami, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Washington.

Central: Atlanta, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minnesota, St. Louis.

West: Arizona, Colorado, Houston, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Texas.

That divisional alignment could work smoothly over a 162-game season by having every team play every division opponent 18 times and nobody else, except in the postseason.

It works particularly well for teams in the East because every game would be played in the Eastern time zone, which makes for improved television ratings and fewer employees calling in sick because the previous night’s game in Seattle went extra innings.

The Central Division features six clubs from Central time zones and four from the Eastern.

It gets a little sticky in the Western Division because so many of the games the Astros and Rangers play would take place with a two-hour time difference. That inequity could be addressed with either a revenue-sharing adjustment or a stipulation that all games against these teams in the Pacific time zone must start an hour earlier, or a combination of both adjustments.

A geographic realignment has benefits that extend beyond factors as obvious as more convenient game times and reduced travel costs. Road trip, anyone? Red Sox fans can help the Mets sell out Citi Field for a trio of three-game series every year.

Familiarity with nine opponents would spike interest as well. The more familiar a fan becomes with an opposing player, the more annoying his habit of fiddling with his batting glove grows. Contempt enriches rivalries.

The only downside of doing this on a permanent basis is that instead of two MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year honors being awarded each season, there would have to be either one or three. Nothing wrong with giving one each to the best of the East, Central and West. The players shouldn’t have a problem with that, since it would mean 33 percent more award-tied bonuses.

The All-Star Game?

Either have the younger half of the All-Stars play against the older half, or as a nod to the past, have players from clubs formerly of the National League oppose the American League.

Any change with baseball requires a great deal of negotiating because of the competing interests of players vs. owners, big-market teams vs. small-market clubs, etc. But there is no disputing that it makes the most sense to align franchises geographically, and this down time is a great time to start ironing out the wrinkles.

If and when baseball gets around to hitting the geographic-reset button on a permanent basis, that would be the perfect time to introduce another change. Mandate that the World Series opener is a day game, so students can find out which teachers are cool enough to wheel a TV into the classroom. Children used to get hooked on baseball by watching the World Series. Now they’re asleep by the third inning, if they even care to start what they won’t be able to finish.

Kudos to MLB for pondering geographic realignment as one way to try to clear the countless logistical hurdles threatening a return to business during the global pandemic. Shame on MLB if the plans aren’t seriously revisited in the post-pandemic world.

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