According to Sports Illustrated baseball writer Tom Verducci, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is weighing a plan to realign baseball's divisions -- sort of. Basically, teams at a competitive disadvantage would be able to switch temporarily into other divisions, so they could play more games against less competitive opponents and therefore have a better shot at making the playoffs.
Of course, it's easy to understand why the Tampa Bay Rays or Toronto Blue Jays would want to leave the AL East -- which the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have dominated since the 1994 realignment -- and play more games against the AL Central's typically weaker teams. But making that switch would naturally require someone to move to the AL East and, in turn, accept a tougher schedule. Sadly, Selig and his committee haven't really considered this obvious pitfall, as evidenced by their shoddy logic:
"Cleveland, which is rebuilding with a reduced payroll, could opt to leave the AL Central to play in the AL East. The Indians would benefit from an unbalanced schedule that would give them a total of 18 lucrative home dates against the Yankees and Red Sox instead of their current eight."
Basically, Selig expects that "rebuilding" teams will accept a temporary move to more difficult divisions because it will give them more games against teams that typically draw larger crowds on the road, such as the Yankees and Red Sox. Of course, teams like the Yankees and Red Sox mostly draw larger crowds because they're better funded, so Selig's "solution" to payroll disparities isn't a solution at all. But more importantly, everyone knows that the real way to sell tickets -- i.e., to maximize the number of "lucrative home dates" -- is to field a winner. So why would a team like the Indians agree to a tougher schedule that makes them less likely to be a winning team? And why would the Indians announce -- well before the season even starts -- that they are probably going to have the kind of season in which they will depend on a few extra home games against the Yankees and Red Sox to draw a decent-sized crowd?
Seems like a good recipe for telling fans that the other sixty or so home games aren't worth attending. How does a team "rebuild" using that formula?
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