If it weren’t snowing on a Friday in late February, I probably wouldn’t give Ken Rosenthal’s latest the time of day, but this 36-hour snow storm can cloud our better judgment for a few minutes. His thesis: The Yankees and the Red Sox are too good to be in the same division, and it’s bad for baseball to keep them both in the AL East. Thus, when the CBA comes due in December 2011, baseball should push to realign the American League.
Nutty, right? After all, why would Major League Baseball want to lessen the impact of its greatest rivalry? Why would Bud Selig take his Boston/New York cash cow — the two teams funding the vast majority of this year’s record-setting $433 million revenue sharing outlay — and stick them in separate divisions? The Red Sox and the Yankees play each other 19 times a year simply because it’s so good for the sport.
Rosenthal’s piece is hard to wade through. He’s writing one-sentence and sentence-fragment paragraphs, and his radical realignment plan is really far out there. He would flip the Red Sox and the Nationals. Boston would wind up in the NL East and the Nationals in the AL East. The league-flipping doesn’t stop there. The Rays would join the NL, and the Mets would move to the AL. The White Sox and Royals would move to the NL while the Pirates and Reds, two of baseball’s oldest clubs, would join the Junior Circuit. The Rangers would become an NL team, and the Dodgers and Giants would play in the AL. It would shock the baseball world.
Yet, on an individual level, for the Yankees and the Red Sox at least, the move might make sense. He writes:
The Yankees and Red Sox violently oppose the most obvious way to level the economic playing field — by putting a third team in New York and second team in New England. They will howl if they are asked to give a dollar more to penny-pinching teams such as the Marlins. But neither could protest too strongly if baseball assigned them to separate divisions.
Both teams draw well at home regardless of who they are playing; reducing the number of games between them would have minimal impact financially and benefit both competitively. The Yankees and Red Sox could forge easier paths to the postseason if they did not play each other so often.
Fans love Yankees-Red Sox games. The sport’s television partners, including FOX, love the ratings that the rivalry produces. Still, it’s not as if the teams would never play under an unbalanced schedule, and the networks are more concerned with the postseason, anyway.
In a certain sense, Rosenthal’s plan complements our look at the over/under lines. The AL clearly has something of a competitive balance problem. Early season indicators put the three best teams in the AL East, and they’re the best by a significant margin. (For what it’s worth, PECOTA’s Depth Charts agree.)
Furthermore, when the CBA negotiations commence, the Yankees and Red Sox are going to dig in. These two teams will push hard to overhaul revenue sharing rules. They’ll want to overturn the charitable contributions they make on an annual basis to the Marlins and Pirates of the game, but they’ll probably have to settle for a soft salary floor and the promise that revenue sharing will go toward improving the on-field product. The economic carrot of something new could placate these richer owners.
This major realignment though won’t happen. Would the Nationals consent to moving in with the Yanks? Or would the Mets, for that matter? Why would the Phillies, Braves and Marlins agree to compete in the same division with the Rays and Red Sox? Yankee fans would love to see Boston and Tampa elsewhere, but would anyone else? As the snow falls, it’s intriguing to contemplate these crazy plans, but when the skies clear and baseball is back, no one will think it a realistic solution to a problem that might not need fixing.