Major League Baseball has been steadfast in its efforts to grow the game and increase action within the sport, as drastic measures like bigger bases, shift bans, and pitch clocks will all go into effect in 2023.
Outside of the actual game action, the league is also introducing a new scheduling format this season, which will have each team playing each other across MLB, chipping away at the amount of times divisional opponents will play each other each season.
Other changes could be coming as well, like expansion teams, which seem like a certainty at this point with commissioner Rob Manfred listing multiple cities as candidates to host new teams, like Charlotte, Nashville, Las Vegas, and Montreal.
With scheduling changes and expansion on the way, one former MLB general manager says the changes should be used as an opportunity to change things up even more drastically, and realign the divisions based on geographic location. Under this proposed format, the Yankees and Mets would be divisional rivals.
Jim Bowden, now with The Athletic, says a dramatic geographical realignment, one that would still see the American and National Leagues changed to the Eastern and Western Conferences, would “arguably maximize revenue and certainly improve the travel burden on teams.”
“With significantly more interleague play and the universal designated hitter, there’s no reason — beyond tradition and losing some rivalries — to keep the present infrastructure,” Bowden wrote. “Think about what MLB would gain. Leaning into geographic rivalries would likely increase attendance and excitement in the regions where each team is located.”
Bowden proposes keeping the current playoff size, with 12 teams making the postseason, but there would now be four divisions in each “conference,” with four teams in each division. The winners from each division, plus two wild card teams, would advance.
As for the divisions in each conference, the East Division of the Eastern Conference would be comprised of the Mets, Yankees, Phillies, and Red Sox. The Rays, Braves, Marlins, and a new Nashville team would play in the Southeast Division. The changes upon first glance are jarring, to say the least, but Bowden insists that it would be valuable in the sake of travel and maximizing on the current regionalization of baseball. Traditionalists will certainly balk at the proposal, and there’s no telling whether it’s something MLB would even entertain after expansion teams are brought in, but that’s an argument for another day.
Follow Ryan Chichester on Twitter: @ryanchichester1
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