Don’t miss Orioles players, John Means & Paul Fry, as they guest host at our Brews and O’s event!

Could a drastic realignment liven up baseball?

If you're an Orioles fan who's tired of seeing your team get slapped around in the big, bad American League East, David R. Craig has the solution.

Craig, 63, is the Harford County executive. He's also a huge baseball fan. And when he's not consumed with budget matters, county council issues and constituent complaints, he plays mad scientist with the six major league divisions, tinkering with ways to make them more balanced and beef up rivalries.

"We need to do something to make baseball come alive again," he says.

In a moment, we'll get into Craig's realignment proposal. Which, I should warn you, is pretty radical. In fact, if Bud Selig is reading this, he'll be spitting his coffee across the room after a few more paragraphs.

First, though, this is how nuts Craig is about baseball: he and his wife of 39 years, Melinda, honeymooned in Cooperstown, the game's Hall of Fame Valhalla, in 1971.

"She wanted to go there as much as I did," he says proudly.

They've visited major league ballparks all over the country, including ones that no longer exist. And that brings up the bizarre story of when they were in Philadelphia for the final game at old Connie Mack Stadium.

Let's see, how to put this delicately? Before the game, Craig was, um, in the men's room availing himself of one of the trough-style urinals when a crazed fan began dismantling it and eventually carted it off as a souvenir.

"The guy had wrenches with him!" marvels Craig. "It was obvious he'd come to do it."

Then there was the time the Orioles were playing the Red Sox at old Memorial Stadium and Craig came up with an ingenious way for his son, Randy, to get Wade Boggs' autograph.

Rumors about Boggs's serial womanizing had just begun to leak out. So Craig instructed Randy to stand next to an attractive blond woman lingering in the stands near home plate as the Red Sox took batting practice.

Sure enough, when he was through hitting, Boggs went over to the woman.

"My son reaches over with a program, Boggs signs it, and then he kisses the woman," Craig recalls. And within days, a fresh torrent of stories about the All-Star third baseman's bimbo issues began appearing everywhere.

Maybe you're getting the picture: Craig lives and breathes baseball. So it shouldn't come as a big surprise that at a Ravens game last November, he and his son-in-law Steve Overbay started talking about realigning major league baseball.

Sure, doesn't everybody do this at a football game?

But Craig stayed up all that night and worked up a plan that aligns the teams into eight four-team divisions that mirror the NFL's. In fact, the plan calls for baseball's divisions to be named after football's.

Thus, the Orioles would find themselves in the AFC North. So Instead of getting pounded for so many games each season by the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the Orioles' division rivals would be the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians. (Get it? Just as the Ravens' division rivals are the Steelers, Bengals and Browns.)

The Yankees and Red Sox would be in the AFC East with the Florida Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays. This mirrors the current division of the New York Jets, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills, with the Toronto Blue Jays fitting in as the closest team to Buffalo.

On and on it would go throughout the American and National leagues, each division breaking down similarly to the AFC and NFC.

Grouping MLB teams to mirror their NFL counterparts would guarantee fierce rivalries between the cities through two sports seasons, Craig says.

"Imagine," he adds with a chuckle. "We could hate people from Pittsburgh all year long!"

Plus the new alignment would help promote travel by fans to the other cities in their division, he says. And it would make seasonal play "perfectly balanced."

OK, sharp readers will already have spotted a potential problem with Craig's plan. Namely, it calls for 32 teams (eight four-team divisions) when there are only 30 teams in major league baseball.

But Craig has this covered, too. He proposes each league adding one team, ideally in New Orleans and Nashville.

If the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, were placed in the NFC South, they'd mirror the New Orleans Saints and their divisional rivals would be the Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers. (The Dodgers, because there's no NFL team in L.A., would be in a semi-awkward pairing with the Carolina Panthers.)

And if the Nashville Sounds, the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, were placed in the AFC South, they'd mirror the Tennessee Titans, with the Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels (another semi-awkward pairing with the Jacksonville Jaguars) as their divisional rivals.

Again, this is radical stuff. It's not just pushing the envelope, it's spraying it with napalm and setting it on fire.

But Craig says his idea "could revitalize baseball more than when the American League adopted the designated hitter or when interleague play started." And he's sent his proposal everywhere: to every MLB team, the mayors of each city where the team is located and selected media outlets.

He's heard back from a few teams, too. He said the Seattle Mariners and New York Mets liked the plan and the Kansas City Royals found elements they liked. ("But they wanted four eight-team divisions.")

Even though he knows there's almost no chance of baseball adopting it, Craig still pushes the plan to anyone who'll listen. And maybe he draws hope from what he says was the half-joking reaction of Orioles owner Peter Angelos: "Anything that gets me away from the Yankees is a good plan."

You can bet a lot of Orioles fans would agree.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kevincowherdsun

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
73°