Sunday, March 14, 2010

Separating Yanks, Red Sox is a no-go

In a bold column today, Joel Sherman of the New York Post offers some interesting suggestions on how to solve baseball's competitive problem. Actually, first Sherman derided the notion that baseball has a competitive balance problem, suggesting that the real dilemma was that the two biggest, most resourceful teams are in the same division. His first suggestion: moving either the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox to the American League Central.

I give Sherman credit for offering a suggestion he acknowledges will be considered blasphemous, but messing with the Rivalry is not the way to go. The timing of it makes sense in a way, with the Red Sox having won two World Series championships to forever banish the curse and the Yanks finally coming out on top to open and close the decade with titles. But it's just unrealistic. Yankees-Red Sox is too much of a box office boon, critical for both the Yankees trying to squeeze every dollar out of their new stadium and the Red Sox trying to squeeze every dime out of their old one. I doubt the suits at ESPN or Fox would go for it either. And Sherman failed to answer a key question: which team moves? Do you really think either the Yankees or the Red Sox would agree to a realignment that would have them making less money and longer road-trips to the middle of the country to play in a different time zone? Good luck with that.

The second suggestion of eliminating the unbalanced schedule doesn't really work either. As much as the Blue Jays and Orioles want to be more competitive, they also love the revenue that comes with frequently hosting the Yanks and Red Sox. I've been to Yankee and Red Sox away games in Toronto and Baltimore and NY and Boston fans fill up the stands, spending thousands of dollars not just at the stadiums, but at the hotels and nearby attractions.

In the other divisions, do the Twins and Tigers really want to face either the Red Sox or Yankees more when their races are already so tight that they needed Game 163 to decide their playoff fate? Plus, the move would essentially concede the AL Central to NY or Boston, leaving the rest of the division fighting over a wild card berth rather than a division title.

I don't see as much of a problem implementing Sherman's third suggestion of adding another wild card team. It would add more spice to the playoff races and probably more dollars to baseball's coffers. My main objection is that I don't want to get into an NBA-like situation where the playoffs last for six weeks so baseball would need to figure out a way to ensure the playoffs don't drag into November. Also, I'm not sure how much benefit it would be for the division-winning teams to have so many days off before their first playoff series. The number of days off last year was great for a Yankees team going on a 3-man rotation, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia hated it and he wasn't alone. An intriguing idea, but let's see if it gets any traction.

Thanks to M@ via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

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