A lot of Major League Baseball fans complain about this season’s Interleague Play setup. Instead of having a set time period when all teams play someone from the other league, and teams playing all of their interleague games in a row, now there is an interleague series going on at all times. This is due to the fact that since the Houston Astros were moved to the American League so that the leagues would have the same amount of teams, each league has had an odd number of teams (15), so someone has to play interleague at all times.
I personally have no problem with ongoing interleague play. It allows for novel matchups on a daily basis, and a variety of teams to watch oppose your favorite team.
While I agree that both leagues should have the same number of teams, I also think they should have an even number of teams. This could be resolved by contracting two teams, one from each league, leaving each with 14 teams, while weeding out teams with poor attendance and low-spending owners. This idea was proposed by Major League Baseball several years ago, and probably should have been done. The league wanted to contract the Florida Marlins and the Minnesota Twins, but I only agree with half of that plan.
First off, the Florida Marlins must go. I don’t think too many people will disagree with that. Their ownership has a history of disappointing their small fan base. They almost always underspend, fielding what amounts to a minor league team, while charging Major League ticket prices. The few times the team has succeeded were ALWAYS followed by a fire sale unloading of their talent. The local fan base doesn’t care, ownership doesn’t care, so why should the team even exist? It shouldn’t. Let’s be honest, a summer sport like Major League Baseball will never succeed in Florida, there are just too many other things to do, which brings me to my next point.
No matter how many exciting young players they bring in, no matter how well the team plays, no matter how many AL East Titles or World Series Championships they win, the Tampa Bay Rays still struggle to fill their stadium. It’s time to face the facts, the MLB and Florida are not a good mix. If the always-exciting Rays can’t draw fans, no Florida team will. That being said, there is no way the league would or should contract the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s certainly not the fault of the team or ownership that the seats are empty.
My solution? Move the team. Considering growing television markets and rising population, combined with the league’s oversaturation in the East, everything points towards moving the Rays out West. MLB has been salivating over the Las Vegas Market for a while now. I’m not completely convinced their transient population can sustain a Major League team, but that seems to be the most likely destination for any new or relocated team. Hopefully the tourist population will fill the seats well enough. The Rays certainly have a better chance of drawing fans in Vegas than anywhere in Florida.
That leaves the question of which 2nd team to contract. I say no to the Minnesota Twins. They are a major presence in the Midwest, in one of the most important markets in the region. They have a better track record of spending and on the field success than several other teams. Contracting the Twins is not the answer. So who?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Toronto Blue Jays. Canadians will never fully support baseball, and the Jays don't draw crowds now that the novelty of the new stadium is gone. Plus they are the only current MLB team outside of the US, causing the need for passports, work visas, international flights, etc. Ownership has gone out of their way to spend money on the stadium and big name players, but there just isn’t a large enough interest in the sport of baseball in Canada. How did the Expos fare? Sure, the franchise could be relocated like the Rays, but then we’d have to pick another AL team to contract. This is an easy way to cut each league down to an even 14 teams, while confining the league to the continental US.
How would I reorder the remaining teams? Move the Rays from Tampa Bay to Las Vegas, and put them in the AL West. Move the Houston Astros to the AL Central. Move the Cleveland Indians to the AL East. The AL West goes back to having 4 teams (or leave Houston in the West and leave the Central with 4 teams).
The National League East could be left with 4 teams. If the league prefers for the East to have 5, move the Pittsburg Pirates to the East, setting up an intrastate rivalry with the Philadelphia Phillies. I’d leave the NL Central with 4 teams, as the East and West are somewhat more important markets for the league. The Midwest Region can just be happy they didn’t lose the Twins.
So, for what it’s worth, this is my proposed solution on how to get each league down to an even number of teams, while having the same amount of teams in both.
©2014 Denim McDemus