MLB Map

The current layout of Major League Baseball makes sense, but scheduling issues present unfair play for unlucky teams.

Breaking down a radical, yet somewhat practical, idea for making America’s pastime a fair and honest game

–Brett Lyons (Follow on Twitter @BrettLyons670)

CHICAGO, IL — There has been plenty of talk about what Major League Baseball needs to do regarding divisional and conference realignment.

It’s not as simple as just moving one team from the National League to the American League, though. The Astros or Marlins can’t just all of a sudden be included in the American League. Despite the fact that it would balance the conferences at fifteen teams apiece, it would however present more issues that would have to be ironed out across the sport.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle would be the designated hitter and what role it would play in baseball. If MLB wants to have two leagues with an odd number of teams in each, interleague play would “occur” all the time. This would be unfair and odd for teams who would have their pitchers always scheduled for when the random interleague games would pop up on the schedule.

As far as the DH is concerned, MLB needs to rule whether or not it wants the position for all 30 teams or for none of them. Either way, teams would be at a disadvantage. If MLB abolishes the DH, AL teams have a major player in their line-ups who they signed not for defense that are not forced to play them in the field. If MLB makes the DH a staple for its entire clubs, NL teams would have missed out then on the chance to sign a permanent slugger.

My personal theory would be to make a hybrid position. In softball, teams have a Designated Player, which is in essence allows a DH for a team’s worst defensive player. This does not necessarily mean for the pitcher. Why couldn’t MLB make this rule and link it directly to the pitcher? A team’s starting lineup could consist of eight position players and a DH. The strategy would be when the starting pitcher is taken out of the game, the DH will be lost and teams must bat personnel from their bench. I’m sure there are flaws, but it’s a jumping off point.

Baseball writer Jim Bowden from ESPN.com and Sirius XM radio (Twitter: @JimBowdenESPNxm)  recently presented what he considered to be a “radial” adjustment to modern day baseball. This plan would include an absolute shake-up of the former AL and NL teams, totally dismissing historical roots. The proposal would call for two “conferences,” not “leagues.” Similar to the NBA, NFL, and NHL, these conferences would be geographically determined and promote rivalries with teams from their closest proximities.  Here’s what the continental bombshell would look like:

AMERICAN CONFERENCE NATIONAL CONFERENCE
Eastern Division Southeast Division
Boston Red Sox Atlanta Braves
New York Mets Baltimore Orioles
New York Yankees Florida Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays Washington Nationals
Central Division Western Division
Cincinnati Reds Arizona Diamondbacks
Cleveland Indians Colorado Rockies
Detroit Tigers Houston Astros
Minnesota Twins Seattle Mariners
Pittsburgh Pirates Texas Rangers
Midwest Division California Division
Chicago Cubs Los Angeles Angels
Chicago White Sox Los Angeles Dodgers
Kansas City Royals Oakland Athletics
Milwaukee Brewers San Diego Padres
St. Louis Cardinals San Francisco Giants

.

The “radical” comment would certainly be an understatement for this realignment. However, modern day baseball fans should be totally open for this much needed face lift of America’s pastime. There would be historical implications but the league would be even, fair, and much more simple.

The first point being is that MLB attendance and television ratings are down across the board. What better than a nice shake-up to regain interest and make for more local rivalries in heavier doses. Rivalries like Yankees-Mets, Indians-Reds, Rays-Marlins, Angels-Dodgers, Giants-Athletics, Astros-Rangers, and Cubs-White Sox would all be “divisional” games and we could see those matchups 18 times a year. This would be most appealing to the fans, who ultimately matter the most in this process. The only drawback would be if the teams in these local rivalries were non-competitive and didn’t draw the crowds like they would have if they only played six times a season.

Another area of concern would be divisional fairness. For example, look at Toronto in the Eastern Division. The heavy hitting financial division which consists of four of MLB’s highest spending franchises. The Yankees (1st – $201.7M), Phillies (2nd – $173M), Red Sox (3rd – $161.4M), and Mets (7th – $120.1M) all have more than twice the salary of the Blue Jays (23rd – $62.5M). This would have to call for a gradual salary cap to even out the dollars and cents. Also, The California Division would be ideal for teams to play in because of the short amount of travel between the divisional games as opposed to an Astros-Mariners divisional series in the Western Division.

What really seemed to have gotten this realignment ball rolling was the talks about playoff expansion, adding an additional wild card team in each league for a total of ten postseason berths. With an even playing field, MLB would be able to adapt a similar system to the NFL playoff bracket. Three division champions and three wild cards from each conference could make a total of twelve teams. The one and two seeds would get a quick three to four day bye while the 3-6 and 4-5 matchups could be quick best-of-three series. The advantage for the higher seeds would be they get the short (key word: short) rest to revamp and rest their starting rotations and be able to watch their potential opponents.

Last but not least, a change of conferences will result in a change of scheduling. The biggest complaint currently with interleague play is that teams like Milwaukee this year play at the Yankees and Red Sox while St. Louis gets the Blue Jays at home and would travel to the Orioles.  Because of the imbalance in teams per division, no one division can have all of its teams play the same teams. Working the geographic interconference rivals into annual play too throws a wrench into the schedule but that issue will be resolved with new divisions as is.

Here’s an example of what a sample schedule for any team would look like. Let’s do an example with the White Sox from the Midwest Division. The White Sox would play a total of 72 divisional games, as is the normal in modern day five team divisions. That would breakdown to be 18 games against the Cubs, 18 against the Royals, 18 against the Brewers, and 18 against the Cardinals. The White Sox would then play a series at home and away against every other team in its conference (30 games against the Eastern and30 games against the Central). Interleague play would be again like the NFL where divisions play entire other divisions on a rotation. The rotation would be set in advance. In 2012 for example the Midwest could play the Southeast, the Eastern could tackle the Western, and the Central would battle the California.

Now with the major issues ironed out, MLB would have a truly fair and balanced system giving every team a competitive chance to win. There’s even other things MLB could improve upon like starting the season earlier and perhaps out west and down south where the weather is nicer. All of this would equate to cherries on top of the sundae, but are certainly options.

Major League Baseball needs a drastic overhaul to level the playing field. It may take some tough love at first, but a news system could be the start to a new era in professional baseball.

 

Advertisements
.nick-gilbert (larrybrownsports)

Cavaliers representative Nick Gilbert (right) celebrates receiving the No. 1 overall selection as Kahn (left) and O'Connor (center) can only stand and watch (LarryBrownSports).

Last night’s NBA Lottery selection show was just another chapter in the book of suspicious league behavior.

It seems rather odd that the NBA, a league that dominated national headlines this last summer with the sporting world’s wildest free agency period ever, would be able to paint a picture better than it did last night.

Nick Gilbert, the 14 year old son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, was the selected representative for Cleveland last night. Gilbert suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic defect which allows tumors to grow on certain parts of the nervous system including the brain and spinal cord. Side effects include difficulty hearing, learning, and cardiovascular problems.

When the dust settled last night, Gilbert’s Cavs were randomly chosen to pick 4th overall (a pick they acquired from the Clippers along with Baron Davis for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon) and 1st overall for the first time since 2003 when they took LeBron James.

Isn’t it funny that a league which doesn’t guarantee the worst team gets the highest draft pick would see such results like that? The Cavaliers, a nationally sympathetic team after LeBron broke their hearts, would send the owner’s sick son represent the team and it just so happens they get the first pick to make up for losing James to Miami a year ago.

That’s exactly how Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn felt when his team, who had the best statistical chance to land the top choice, was slated to choose second instead.

“This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible story lines,” Kahn said following Tuesday’s draft lottery. “Last year it was [Washington Wizards owner] Abe Pollin’s widow and this year it was a 14-year-old boy and the only thing we have in common is we have both been bar mitzvahed. We were done. I told [Utah Jazz executive Kevin O’Connor]: ‘We’re toast.’ This is not happening for us, and I was right.”

While Kahn may have been smiling and slightly chuckling at his own remarks, he does seem to have a point. The NBA lottery has not been the most criticized league drafting process across American sports dating back to the mid-1980’s when the New York Knicks, one of the NBA’s most important franchises, just so happened to land a pick to get Georgetown center Patrick Ewing.

Just as the Knicks should never have been handed Ewing should the Bulls have never gotten Derrick Rose in 2008. Chicago, who that year had only a 1.7% chance on getting the top overall selection, actually did. Instances like this make the public raise an eyebrow and question just how dumb it is that the NBA leaves the future of it’s non-playoff teams to the odds of ping pong balls being chosen.

Question if you will the integrity of not giving the Timberwolves the outright No. 1 pick. It’s obvious why the league does this lottery, to try and make itself different from the NFL, NHL, and MLB. I can completely understand why the NBA would want to avoid having a cookie cutter draft, but this just seems unethical to leave things like this to fate.

Every league needs its own way of generating ratings throughout the off-season just as much as the regular season. IT doesn’t seem like anyone will be able to catch the current king of the hill in the National Football League however. The NFL absolutely dominates all sports in ratings, revenue, and off-season interest. Even the NFL Draft is televised on multiple networks over several days. No other sport can lay claim to that.

While it seems as though there is reason to doubt how the NBA lottery works, it did do enough publicity to inspire this and other articles to be written. So in retrospect, the “avoid-getting-lost-in-the-news” gimmick did indeed work this time. Just wonder what next year’s draft, if it is so “fixed” as these last two, will provide for its headline.

The NBA Draft will take place on June 23 at 7/6c on ESPN.

wnba_layups

Jokes like the one above certainly don't help the cause of women's leagues like the WNBA (Maxim).

All-time low ratings after this year’s last WNBA season reflect the national interest in women’s professional basketball – none.

The WNBA has been at the butt of jokes for years as being just a promotional tool by the NBA to attract a female audience to basketball.

The fact of the matter is that leagues cannot force product onto an audience that quite frankly does not care for it. Women’s basketball has never been a popular sport for fans to admire, and now it not going to change that.

When it comes to sports, the demographic will always be males. Not even women are interested in women’s sports. And unless there is some sort of sex appeal, men do not give a damn. Call it sexist, but you can’t argue with fact.

Women’s sports are more internationally-based. Consider the more “classy” sports, such as ice skating, tennis, and golf. Softball and soccer have become more popular in the last decade. Women’s college basketball has sky rocketed over the last few years thanks to the tournament being on ESPN.

However, the current attractions all include sexual aspects: gymnastics and volleyball. Tight leotards, bikinis, and spandex shorts are the real reasons a majority of men view at all.

The WNBA is the main perpetrator to this unscientific man law. The league’s numbers as of late have been pathetic. Since the WNBA was created in 1996, the regular season’s viewership is down 65% while the playoff ratings are nearly half of what they initially were.

“As a woman who once played basketball in high school, it is sad that professional women’s basketball has never really taken off,” said sophomore Erin Cox. “The argument that men are simply not interested because of the lack of eye candy may be true, which just goes to show that sex sells. Without capturing the male audience, no sport can survive.”

The WNBA only has 4 original teams from the 1997 season still in existence – the Los Angeles Sparks, New York Liberty, Phoenix, and San Antonio Silver Stars. Six franchises folded while three others had to relocate due to low attendance and loss of revenue.

Fan attendance has declined steadily over the last few seasons. Just from 2009 to 2010, the WNBA suffered a 10% decline in attendance with 178,000 fewer tickets purchased.

The future of women’s professional basketball is certainly debatable. The league will need a serious boost in order to stay afloat, or risk folding into history.

Another Day, Another Lewis Upset Win

Posted: March 6, 2011 in News
Sam Rinehart

Lewis' Sam Rinehart didn't miss a shot in Saturday's upset over Wisconsin-Parkside. Rinehart scored 9 points and had 6 rebounds in the victory (GLVCSports.com)

ST. LOUIS, MO — It’s becoming a routine for the Lewis Flyers women’s basketball team to pull off shocking upsets on the road day in and day out. That’s the beauty of being low seeds who advance in conference tournaments – there’s no pressure to win.

The tournament for Lewis University has turned from a feel good story to a legitimate chance to capture the school’s first GLVC Tournament crown and clinch a spot in the regional round of the NCAA Division II Women’s National Championship.

The Flyers (14-15) proved that its Cinderella run in this year’s Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament was more than smoke and mirrors. Lewis collected its third straight tournament victory be defeating division rival Wisconsin-Parkside 64-56 in Saturday’s semifinal matchup.

Lewis defensively won the ball game by controlling the basketball and taking slow-paced possessions while on offense. The team committed only 8 turnovers and shot 44.0% (22-50) from the floor.

Free throws were another component to the win. As a team, Lewis shot 17-24 from the charity stripe. Wisconsin-Parkside only took 4 free throw attempts all night, making just one. Senior Kady Currin led the way for the Flyers by making 7-8 from the free throw line.

The Rangers (22-6) saw their best players, forwards Brittany Beyer and Brittany Hogen, in early foul trouble. Both All-GLVC third teamers had success in the paint as Hogen lead UWP with 16 and Beyer chipped in 14 points. All-GVC first team guard Jadee Rooney was a non-factor in the outcome. Rooney, who averaged 15.3 points per game, scored just 5 and shot 2-10 from the floor.

The Flyers countered with big days from it’s bigs. Redshirt junior Devon Carbaugh was effective coming off the bench to score a team high 13 points. Currin’s performance at the line resulted in her scoring 12 points and dishing out 5 assists. Senior Jenny Turpel also posted double-digit points with 11. Junior Lory Shaw had a similar performance to her outing Friday against Drury, scoring 6 points but grabbing a team high 8 boards.

It seems almost appropriate that the Flyers finally advance to the conference tournament championship game after first defeating the Rangers. Wisconsin-Parkside had won both regular season meetings between the clubs. The Rangers won by 12 points both times, 73-61 on Feb. 4 in Kenosha, WI and 63-51 on Feb. 12 in Romeoville, IL.

On an interesting side note, this win keeps the women’s basketball team perfect in the state of Missouri this season. Lewis won on the road against Maryville, Missouri-St. Louis and Rockhurst in the regular season. The Flyers also have conference tournament wins against Missouri S&T in Rolla, MO last weekend and this weekend’s games versus Drury and Wisconsin-Parkside at Moloney Arena at Maryville University. The school this season is 5-1 against teams from Missouri, with the only blemish being a Drury win in Romeoville on Jan. 20.

The Flyers have defeated the conference tournament’s number 4, 3, and 2 seeds in succession. They now face the No. 5 seeded Indianapolis Greyhounds (15-12) for the conference’s automatic berth into March Madness. Indianapolis was originally seeded No. 8 for the opening weekend of the tournament prior to the re-seeding of the field. At that time, Lewis was the No. 9 team.

A No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup for a conference championship? Only in the month of March. Both teams are on the outside looking in at the region’s top eight teams who receive at-large invitations to national title field. The only absolute way to punch a ticket will be to win Sunday.

Tip-off is at 3:30pm live from the Moloney Arena in St. Louis, MO. The game can be heard live on WLRA Radio by listening online at www.wlraradio.com. Brett Lyons will have the call of the game. Pre-game begins on-air at 3:15.

Kady Currin

Senior guard Kady Currin showed great endurance playing the entire game. She contributed 12 points and 5 assists in the Flyer's second consecutive GLVC Tournament upset win (GLVCSports.com)

The upset streak for the Flyers has reached two victims as No. 6  Lewis University (13-15) defeated the Panthers by a final of 62-55 Friday night.

Lewis advanced to play Drury (19-9) after first defeating Missouri S&T 79-74 in overtime in the opening round. That game was played in Rolla, MO and at the time was thought to be just a good road win.

It is clear Lewis has taken it’s time but now is finally peaking as a team. The Flyers did almost everything well against the Panthers. The team shot 43.8% (21-48) from the floor, including an astounding 64.7% (11-17) from distance. Despite being outrebounded, especially on the offensive glass 15-7, the Flyers were able to shoot their way out of any issues.

The veterans paved the path to victory for Lewis. Senior point guard Kady Currin was the only player in the game to play all 40 minutes. She was one of three Flyers to lead the team with 12 points along with senior forwards Jenny Turpel Kelly Monaco. Sophomore Labrinthia Murdock was the fourth Flyer with double-digit points, scoring all of her 10 in the second half.

Three pointers were a big story in this game as well. Not only for Lewis but Drury as well. The first half featured a back and forth battle of raining treys. Lewis dropped 8 of 11 attempted three pointers in the first half, while Drudry drained 5 of its 14 tries. The teams combined for a streak with consisted of nothing but back and forth threes for five possessions.

With a 28-27 lead at halftime, Lewis never looked back. The Flyers never trailed in the second half. The closest Drury got to taking the lead was when the game was tied at 36-36 with 13:50 remaining in regulation.

Panther senior guard and All-GLVC First Teamer Ja’Nell Jones had a solid game offensively. She scored 15 points to lead Drury. GLVC Freshman of the Year Bethanie Funderbunk scored her 8 points in the first half while junior Erica Groose chipped in her 8 points in the game’s second half.

The victory sets up a GLVC North battle Saturday night between Lewis and No. 2 Wisconsin-Parkside (22-5) for the rights to advance to the conference championship game Sunday. The Rangers took both regular season contests from the Flyers, 73-61 on Feb. 4 in Kenosha, WI and 63-51 on Feb. 12 in Romeoville, IL. The semifinal matchup is set to begin at 6:00pm CST.

Alex Hall

Sophomore Alex Hall was tied for the team lead in points, scoring 17 in only 25 minutes (GLVCSports.com)

The combination of a 11:13 field goal-less scoring drought in the first half, 17 total turnovers, and a -10 rebounding differential proved more than the Lewis University men’s basketball team could handle as they fell to Drury University 72-58 in the GLVC quarterfinal round at Maryville University Friday.

The No. 6 Flyers (17-14), fresh off an upset 69-67 win in Indianapolis last weekend in the conference tournament’s opening round, came out of the gates with guns a-blazin’ showing they could go punch-for-punch with the No. 3 Drury Panthers (22-6).

Thanks to a solid start from junior forward Matt Toth, who scored 8 of his 15 points in the game’s first 7:50 when the Flyers took a 19-14 lead. It would prove to be the final lead Lewis would have in the game.

Toth’s 3-point shot with 12:10 remaining in the first half would be the final field goal the team would score until sophomore guard Chris McClellan’s 3-pointer with 0:57 left. Lewis was unable to score a field goal for 11:13 of the first half, shooting 0-8 in that stretch. The Flyers mustered up only 5 points in the final 12:10 of the half, all coming by McClellan.

Momentum was clearly on the Panther’s side at halftime when Drury led 34-24 going into the locker room.

Very little was seen of standout sophomore guard Alex Hall in the game’s opening half, where Hall picked up three personal fouls. He was subbed out with 6:35 remaining in the period and scored only 6 points, but would prove to be the difference in the second half.

Hall did not re-enter the game until the 14:53 mark of the second half. But when he did, he made sure his presence was felt. Hall stroked long distance 3-pointers at will, many of which were multiple feet behind the arch. Hall shot 6-9 from the floor, including 4-7 from downtown. He ended the game with 17 points in 25 minutes of play.

The talented sophomore also accomplished a personal feat in this contest, surpassing the 1,000 career point mark. He had 990 coming into Friday’s competition.

Hall was tied for the team lead in points scored with Dennon Mitchell, a junior guard who came off the bench to score 17 points and grab 6 rebounds of his own. Mitchell has a track record with the Flyers, having burned them in last year’s GLVC Tournament in Springfield, IL.

Drury outrebounded Lewis 34-24, having grabbed twice as many offensive boards. The Panthers also saw the free throw line 13 more times than the Flyers.

This marks the end of the Flyers season. Scott Trost will feel comfortable next year with a majority of his team returning. Seniors Dennis Thomas, Jr. and Dalonte Burns will graduate this semester and end their careers at Lewis University.

With the win, Drury advances to play the tournament’s No. 2 seeded University of Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles Saturday at Maryville’s Moloney Arena. Tip-off will be at 12:00 CST.

NBA Trade Deadline Shifts Power to East

Posted: February 24, 2011 in News
Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony dropped 27 in his Knick debut, proving that New York has indeed become serious on winning (everyjoe.com)

As the countdown to the trading deadline arrived this week, three large deals were done to help solidify the futures of certain franchises.

The trades of Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Baron Davis, and Deron Williams to Eastern Conference teams this week in anticipation of the league’s Feb. 24 trade deadline has made one thing crystal clear – the Eastern Conference has jumped the West in the power standings.

The New York Knicks started the power shifting earlier this week when they acquired Anthony and Billups in addition to Sheldan Williams, Anthony Carter, and Renaldo Balkman in exchange for Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, one pick a year for the next three drafts, and $3,000,000 cash.

Feeling like they got the short end of the stick after failing to land Anthony, the Nets wanted to make a power statement of their own. In fact, they did just that by picking up Utah point guard Deron Williams for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, and two first round picks.

Not to be outdone, the Caviliers made an eleventh hour move to get Baron Davis and a first round pick, sending Mo Williams and Jamario Moon.

All three trades were inter-conference moves where the teams in the East landed the star power and the teams out west picked up youth and future selections.

These moves may sound fair and balanced, but one must look underneath the deals themselves to truly analyze what’s going on here. The NBA has become a player-driven league, as was made evident by LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh this last summer. Players are now forming together in trios to try to create the next great dynasty in the NBA. While it may sound good for league ratings and popularity, the idea has consequences.

The NBA has become a game of Robin Hood where the rich are getting rich and the poor are getting poorer. These moves to absorb and drain stars from small market teams so that the popular contenders can use them in a pair or trio is dangerous to the security of the league’s bottom markets.

James joked earlier in the season about the NBA shrinking so that each team would have more star power and fewer low-followed franchises.

For fun, I named out loud eight teams from each conference to keep and seven from each to implode. Sadly, what I found out was that the NBA might be better off without some of the horrible markets.

I took into consideration how often the franchises win now, their recent relevancy, their past successes, rivalries, and markets. Here’s who I felt should remain:

EAST – Boston, Miami, Chicago, Orlando, Atlanta, New York, Detroit, New Jersey (after the move to Brooklyn)

WEST – San Antonio, LA Lakers, Dallas, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Denver, Utah, Phoenix

In this example, the NBA would be ridding itself from Philadelphia, Indiana, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Washington, Cleveland, Toronto, Portland, Memphis, Houston, Golden State, LA Clippers, Sacramento, and Minnesota.

While this idea sounds ridiculous from a dollar and cents standpoint, think to yourself what this kind of radical change may do to the game. Then think to yourself that this is actually what is happening. The players from these fourteen low-end teams continue to be stolen away by trades and free agency. This year is a golden example of that very act.

Think the league has to do something to keep the power somewhat balanced between the markets and the conferences? You’re not alone.