March 12, 2000

Mr. Allan H. Selig
Office of the Commissioner of Baseball
245 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10167

Dear Mr. Selig:

Realignment is the buzz in baseball at the moment. Many are opposed to the notion of any franchise changing their league or division affiliation.

However, as you know, realignment is necessary. Major League Baseball is a business. As such, each owner is certainly entitled to maximize their team’s revenue. And, in most cases, the fan should benefit - as, ideally, the more a team has to spend, the better the product on the field.

The question begs to be asked: Why the trepidation about realignment? The answer that many are quick to offer is "the preservation of tradition." Ah, "tradition" - perhaps the most formidable foe that "progress" has ever tangled. There’s a line from an old and obscure song that says "You cast a shadow, but, you don’t stand up to the light." For a few moments of merriment, please shine the light on some of Major League Baseball’s "tradition" and examine the flaw of this debate.

In 1876, the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs was formed. (This circuit is our "National League" of today.) Subsequent to the National League’s arrival, the American Association and Players League came along and failed. In 1901, the "American League" debuted - and, after two years of squawking, the Nationals welcomed the American League as an equal and the "Major Leagues" were born.

Therefore, out of necessity, that 25 year "National League only" tradition went out the window. And, baseball survived. The aforementioned is just the "Big Picture." How about individual franchises? Any change there? Witness:

The (then) Milwaukee Brewers became the St. Louis Browns in 1903 - and then became the Baltimore Orioles in 1955. Today’s Milwaukee Brewers were the Seattle Pilots from 1969 to 1970 - and, an American League team for 28 years; they joined the National League in 1998. After 60 years in Washington, the Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins. The Athletics franchise has gone from Philadelphia to Kansas City to Oakland in the last 45 years. Prior to moving to Texas in 1973, the Rangers were in Washington for 11 years (as the Senators). The Braves franchise has gone from Boston to Milwaukee to Atlanta in a 47 year span. And, of course, almost every baseball fan is aware of the moves by the Dodgers and Giants.

In fact, 14 franchises in the "Major Leagues" today are less than 40 years old. Forty years? There are many men alive today who are young enough to be not yet eligible for Social Security benefits whom have ties older than that. Of course, there have been other changes in baseball - playing rules, integration, domes, turf, the DH, divisional play, teams switching divisions, the Wildcard, inter-league play, and, the point is, baseball survived.

Where’s the tradition? Sure, half the league has deep roots - but, the entire big league institution is not the pristine entity as most claim it. There has always been change in baseball. So, with the tradition notion debunked, why not realign and fix what has been wrong for too long?

How could it be done? Simple: relocate Tampa Bay, the White Sox, Baltimore, Texas, Anaheim and Kansas City to the National League - and switch the Mets, Montreal, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and San Francisco from the National to the American League. This seems to be the least painful plan - as the only previously untainted colonist franchises affected would be Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and the White Sox. (And, while these three may have always been in their respective "leagues" since Day One, they have experienced some change in the years as they leapfrogged through divisions.) The leagues would still have three divisions; but, they would now be as follows:

N.L. East: Atlanta, Baltimore, Florida, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia.
N.L. Central: Cubs, White Sox, Houston, Kansas City, St. Louis, Texas.
N.L. West: Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, San Diego.

A.L. East: Boston, Montreal, Mets, Yankees, Toronto.
A.L. Central: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh.
A.L. West: Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle, Minnesota.

Note that nearly two-thirds of the teams in the Majors would have their present league affiliation unaffected with this plan. Post season remains the same - with one Wildcard per league. American League keeps the D.H. With the geographical rivalries now grouped, inter-league play is no longer necessary.

The only pitfall, other than convincing franchises to switch leagues and/or divisions, is the time zone issue for Minnesota in the A.L. West. However, the Twins’ possible lament could be countered with the argument that [1] they are still in the same league with several teams close to them (in the realigned A.L. Central), and [2] as a consolation, they would be placed in the only four team division in the Majors (hence, a much improved probability of post-season play due to less competition). Besides, the Twins played in the "old" A.L. West for years - before the three division format. (Remember that time? It was preposterous - with both Atlanta and Cincinnati being members of the N.L. West. I could recall, as a child, reading the standings in the paper and pondering "What exactly is Atlanta west of?")

The purpose of this letter is to encourage you to continue your efforts for baseball’s betterment and consider the plan detailed herein. Alas, I fear this proposed realignment will most likely never happen - it makes too much sense.


Steve Lombardi, Curator
[e-mail: curator@netshrine.com]


Return to Ruminations Main Menu