Guest Writer: Emilio Gladstone
Follow Emilio On Twitter (@EmilioGladstone) And Voice Your Thoughts On “What Chaps My Taffy”
I feel bad for the Orioles. I know, Emilio Gladstone is not supposed to have compassion or empathy, yet the Baltimore Orioles cut through the armor-like casing of my heart and stir feelings in my chest of what, after extensive research, I have to assume is pity. The Orioles have been irrelevant since Cal Ripken, Jr. retired in 2001, but even as Cal was breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played, the Orioles were a doormat for other teams in the league. Besides the inept ownership and management at the top of the organization, a major reason the franchise is so terrible is the division it plays in which it plays. In the AL East, Baltimore goes up against two of the biggest spending clubs in Major League Baseball: the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. This means these two behemoths are on Baltimore’s schedule a disproportionate number of times over the course of the season. I propose a new system to allow small market teams like the Orioles a chance to compete on a more regular basis: divisional rotation.
Instead of having teams stuck in a single division year after year, being outspent by their larger-market rivals, why not rotate divisions every few years? With the league expanding inter-league play and including two extra Wild Card teams in the playoffs, the time is now to make this change. It will still be limited geographically as to how exactly how to align the teams, as you couldn’t very well have the Mariners and the Marlins in the same division because of travel considerations, but a reasonable shuffling of the clubs could be managed. The first step to doing this is picking ONE system between the American and National Leagues regarding the designated hitter.
As this free agent season has shown, the big bats favor the American League. As Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder showed us, the AL allows the transition from everyday position player to designated hitter at the twilight of a player’s career. Pujols in particular could see clearly how he could still contribute at the end of his 10 year, $254 million deal that takes him to the age of 42 when the terms expire. Besides eliminating the unfair practice of making AL pitchers take hacks in the playoffs when they haven’t had to all year and the inconsistent rules between leagues, putting designated hitters in across the MLB or eliminating them completely would level the playing-field for landing big-time free agents and pave the way for divisional rotation. This way, as teams switch divisions and possibly leagues year to year, the rules will be the same across the board.
The plan would be simple: shuffle teams around divisions every two or three years. Pick whatever system you want for determining the division alignment; lottery, specific rotations every certain number of years, drinking contests, fights to the death. I don’t care HOW they pick who plays in what division as long as they do it. Imagine the Braves playing in the NL or AL depending on the year, or the Brewers playing in the NL or AL West. Yes, the Brewers could play in a Western division. The travel is not that different from the Texas Rangers playing in Arlington on a Thursday and hopping a plane to Seattle for a series over the weekend. These centrally located teams could shuffle around more than any others, bringing their fans new and exciting match-ups every year.
People will object to my proposal on the grounds that it tosses traditions out the window. But what has baseball been doing for the last 30 years? We’ve seen realignment before with expansion of the league. We’ve seen rules changed and Wild Card teams added. Hell, we’ve seen camera umpires and replays for homeruns. The game has changed already. Plus, with inter-league play going year-round now, you could still keep traditional rivalries alive without over saturating the airwaves with coverage. This way we won’t have to listen to ESPN take up 45 minutes of an hour SportsCenter thirty times a season as they cheapen the rivalry between the Yanks and Red Sox with over-coverage. It’s a win-win situation here, folks.
If the NFL has taught other major sports anything, it’s that you have to adapt.The NFL has changed, shifted, and tweaked until we have rabidly consumed everything about the league that we can possibly get, from injury reports to the actual games. It’s how football has replaced baseball as America’s pastime. Baseball cannot keep its head in the sand as other sports adjust to the reduced attention spans of our nation’s citizens. Update the game, and throw in a new twist with divisional rotation. As doubtful as it sounds, the Orioles just might end up winning the World Series someday soon…