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by Zane Heiple

Late last month Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association came to an agreement on a new five year collective bargaining agreement.  Some of the major points of this agreement were blood testing for human growth hormone, provisions around how teams can spend money on the first year player draft, the addition of a second wild card team in the playoffs, and an increase in the minimum salary from $414,000 in 2010 to $480,000 in 2011 and eventually $500,000 in the future.

The last key point was the movement of the Houston Astros from the National League Central Division to the American League West Division in 2013.  This move will create three five team divisions in each league and cause interleague play to take place throughout the season.  For me the question now is why doesn’t Major League Baseball just totally realign and dissolve the NL and AL into a Western and Eastern Conference?  I know baseball traditionalists will think I’m crazy, but hear me out first.

First off a breakdown of the new conferences and divisions, the Eastern Conference will have three divisions.  The Northeast Division will be made up of the Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, and Toronto Blue Jays.  The Central Division will include the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Pittsburgh Pirates.  Finally the Southeast Division will consist of the Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, and Washington Nationals.  In the Western Conference’s three divisions you will see the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, and St. Louis Cardinals in the Midwest Division.  A Southwest Division would include the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, and Texas Rangers.  Finally the Pacific Division would host the Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, and Seattle Mariners.

After reading the new alignment where are the drawbacks?  Simply there are none.  If you are worried about rivalries, they are all still there.  Yankees still play the Red Sox, Cubs and Cardinals are still together, along with the Giants and Dodgers.  Plus look at all the new regional rivalries that will take place.  The Mets and Yankees would be going at it for division titles, Pittsburgh and Cleveland would no longer just be about the Browns and Steelers, the Beltway would be abuzz over the Orioles and Nationals, and maybe Florida could get excited about baseball with Marlins and Rays fighting over the division crown.  In the west the Windy City and Show Me State would have a division battle going all season, Texas would have a shootout between the Rangers and Astros and the battle of California would be going on between four teams.

So how do we schedule this?  Glad you asked.  Each team would play 12 games against their own division.  7 games would take place against each of the teams within your conference.  Finally 3 games would be played against teams in the opposite conference.  In total one game would be added to the schedule which owners would love since its one more game of revenue that would be added.  With an odd number of games teams would alternate yearly between having 81 or 82 home games.

The All-Star game could still be the deciding factor in home field for the World Series, and the playoffs would still consist of three division winners and two wild cards.  The other big question is what to do with the Designated Hitter?  Well I hate to say, but since there is no way that the MLBPA will let MLB to get rid of this position it will be adopted by both conferences.

Still not convinced?  Well look at this, the differences between the NL and AL have been fading for years.  With interleague play, umpires covering both leagues, the draft no longer alternating between leagues, no more league presidents, players switching leagues more often with free agency, both leagues feel the same other than the DH.  If keeping the National and American League names is so important just name the Western Conference the American League and the Eastern Conference the National League.

Major League Baseball has slowly been moving in this direction for years, so why not just pull the trigger and set this in motion.  Maybe having two separate leagues made sense before all this expansion took place, but face it the game has changed.  This format works for the NBA and NHL and I see no reason why it can’t work for the MLB.