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News Opinion Editorial

A few out-of-line ideas about baseball realignment

Major League Baseball is considering realigning its leagues and divisions. Proposals have ranged from adding two teams to the 14 currently in the American League, thus equaling the number in the National League, to moving the Houston Astros to the American League and creating two 15-team leagues.

Everyone from ESPN's Mike Greenberg to NBC's Bob Costas to baseball writers struggling to come up with a story have weighed in with various schemes or analysis. Virtually all agree that every solution is, to a certain degree, unfair and imbalanced. There is little agreement, for example, on whether to abandon the designated hitter or continue inter-league play.

Since some of the best brains in baseball have failed to come up with a workable solution, we figured there was an opening for lesser lights. So we offer some off-center ideas for how to realign the major leagues.

•Time Zone Solution: You create three time zones, Honestly East Coast, Mostly Midwestern, and Way out West and designate 10 teams that will play in each time zone during the regular season. These time zones roughly correspond to the existing Eastern, Central and Pacific, but for the good of baseball the residents of some cities are going to have to change the way they tell time.

The Honestly East Coast zone, Baltimore's zone, is overcrowded, and so gerrymandering will be required. Three cities — Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit — which already have more of the feel of gregarious Midwestern communities than gruff East Coast burgs — will be transferred to Mostly Midwestern time. In this zone folks eat "supper," not dinner, at 6 o'clock. The residents of Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit would feel at home here.

Meanwhile two Texas cities — Houston and Arlington — will move into the Way out West Zone.

This zone is composed of teams whose fans wear boots and turquoise jewelry, and/or casually talk about "auras." In other words it is made up of California, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado and Arizona. Now there is an hour or so separating some of these cities — Arizona is amazingly shifty about what time it is on — but these differences could be overlooked. Residents of this part of the country have a lot in common: great sunsets and worries about wildfires. It could work.

A chief advantage of the time zone scheme would be that players would never have to change their watches. This, in turn, might lead to increased harmony and serendipity, and since everyone would be "in sync," fewer bonehead plays. Another advantage could be that fans would rarely pick up the morning paper and read that the result of the game that their home team played last night was "too late for this edition."

•Nickname solution. Here we create two divisions of 15 teams each, grouped by the nickname of the teams. One division would consist of teams named after "critters and characters," the other, whose nicknames are a little hard to figure out, would be called the "whatevers."

The critters and characters division would start out with teams named after animals: Blue Jays, Cardinals, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Orioles, Rays, Tigers, then add the easily identifiable human characters: Braves, Brewers, Pirates, Giants, Padres, Indians and Rangers.

The "whatevers" would be composed of teams whose nicknames test the powers of the imagination. Basically the icons of these teams are disconcerting to draw and would easily finish this sentence: "What the heck is a …?"

Those would be the Phillies, the Mets, the Nationals, the Reds, the Rockies, the Red Sox, the White Sox, The Yankees, the Dodgers, the Athletics, the Royals, the Twins. Granted The Angels, Astros (short for Astronauts) and Mariners, don't easily fit this category. But this category needs teams, so we lump them in for the good of baseball. Alternatively, these teams could be required to change nicknames for the sake of consistency. The Seattle Caffeine, for example.

In addition to giving Major League Baseball nickname symmetry, this scheme also allows teams to play their own kind.

Finally there is the ZIP Code solution: Here there are two divisions (15 teams each) divided by whether the ZIP of their clubhouse falls above or below 55000. This ZIP Code number becomes the Mason-Dixon line, not the Mendoza line, of baseball geography.

The above 55000 zips would be St. Louis (63102), Kansas City (64129), Chicago Cubs (60613) and White Sox (60616), Houston (77002), San Francisco (94107), Arizona (85004), Colorado (80205), the Dodgers (90090) and Angels (92806) from the Los Angeles area, San Diego (92101), Minneapolis (55403), Texas (76011), Seattle (98134) and Oakland (94621).

The below 55000 zips would be Baltimore (21201), Boston (02215), New York Yankees (10451) and Mets (11368), Tampa Bay (33705), Cleveland (44115), Detroit (48201), Philadelphia (19148), Atlanta (30302), Washington (20003), Florida (33056), Cincinnati (45202), Pittsburgh (15212) and Milwaukee (53214). That leaves this division one team short, so we toss in Toronto, which doesn't have an American ZIP Code.

In addition to creating geographic harmony, the chief advantage of this solution is that anyone who is unhappy with it can blame a familiar scapegoat: the entity that gave us ZIP Codes, the federal government.

Rob Kasper

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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