A possible expansion and realignment plan would bring drastic changes for the Washington Nationals. Here is what MLB is thinking for the future.
Major League Baseball is kicking the tires on huge changes for the Washington Nationals and the rest of the sport.
Tracy Ringolsby of Baseball America lays out a two-team expansion and massive realignment for teams to end the current league structure and go with four geographical-based divisions. Portland and Montreal are the likely expansion candidates.
You can argue whether baseball in either city is feasible, remember we are the old Expos, but some parts of this trial balloon make too much sense to ignore.
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Let’s get the controversial stuff out of the way. Pegged in the “East” Division, fellow National League East teams Atlanta, Philadelphia and Miami would join the Nats with Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Tampa. The New York Mets would join the “North” Division. On the surface that is not a bad set up. Baltimore and Philly are natural rivals. Games in Tampa are as thrilling as Miami.
To unify the leagues requires a universal designated hitter rule.
It is possible to abolish it, but you have a better chance of sharing a McRib and a Shamrock shake with Taylor Swift in April in Edmonton. Shake it off and never forget Bartolo Colon dancing while swinging. Regardless of this plan, there will be a universal DH rule soon.
The schedule, under the plan, goes to 156 games. A reduction of six off the regular season total, this ensures an off-day every week. Ringolsby says 12 games against the division and three versus every other team. The shaky math says 84 divisional games and 72 elsewhere. A cut down on travel makes a ton of sense. Fresher teams mean better baseball.
The four divisional winners advance to the MLB Divisional Series while the four next best records play in a Wild Card game. Like today no change in the length. But, teams seeded by record each round. No limit on where the wild cards come from.
From the Nats point of view, there is nothing to fear here. Re-establishing a true rivalry with Baltimore goes back to their days together in the American League. Purists will hate the universal DH and death of the individual leagues, but Washington has history in both. Cities such as Chicago and New York will struggle more in a unified league because of tradition.
The largest benefits are a reduced schedule and travel. The days of 21 consecutive days of games would end. This sport is a grinding marathon to begin with, taking part of a hill out of the race helps everybody.
Still, baseball fans hate change and these ideas are huge. You know expansion will happen why not make the rest a reality?