TWO BIG HAPPY FAMILIES?
Over the weekend, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that serious talks are underway between Major League Baseball and the players union on revamping the composition of the American and National Leagues. The odds of any change are said to be a little less than 50-50, altho word that the union is apparently not adverse to the changes is key. There are several ideas being bandied about, foremost being evening out the number of teams in each league, which is currently 14 in the AL, 16 in the NL. One idea is to move the Houston Astros from the 6-team NL Central to the 4-team AL West, to create 6 5-team divisions, and also establish a Texas rivalry. Heck, the Rangers could even change their name to the Dallas Rangers, or the Dallas Texas Rangers if you wanna get cute about it.
This idea is fine, except for the fact that none of the other “natural”…which is to say geographic…rivalries would be division-mates: Mets/Yankees, Cubs/White Sox, Nats/Orioles, St. Louis/KC, Dodgers/Angels, Giants/A’s, Tampa/Miami, Cleveland/Cincinnati…altho ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden has the obvious solution:
Oddly, he misses Pittsburgh/Philadelphia, putting them in the same league but different divisions. But less radically, might I humbly submit that if one team is going to switch leagues, it should be the Milwaukee Brewers returning to the American League…us Old-Schoolers still think of them as the “AL team that’s in the NL,” pretty much how we see the Seattle Seahawks in football. But there’s more.
Another proposal would eliminate divisions entirely, and list all 15 teams top to bottom, with the top 5 making the playoffs…presumably the pennant-winner getting a first-round bye…altho a week’s layoff would be controversial to say the least. I have no problem with this, especially if this geographic realignment encourages teams to name themselves after their cities, not their states. One problem is in scheduling an odd number of teams…every day, one from each league would be idle…unless, as is being floated, there is always one inter-league series going on. Me no like, especially if at the end of the season a playoff contender in a tight race closes it out with a team from the other league.
Still in all, one big happy league harkens back to the good old days of 10-team standings…and if you recall, there were unofficial divisions…the top 5 teams being the 1st division, the bottom 5 the 2nd division. And some seasons, it was meaningful to be chasing a 1st division finish. Anyway, these are the standings after Jim Gentile belted 2 grand slams on May 9, 1961. You’ll notice the bottom section “RUNS FOR THE WEEK”…not a real baseball stat, but, incredibly, an aid to gamblers…altho I followed it like it was a real stat, and the Red Sox were once over 60…
And here’s our man…if the % of players from the 1960s in the Hall of Fame, based on how many played in that decade, were the same as the % of players from the 1920s, Jim Gentile would have a plaque…he finished 3rd in MVP voting that year, behind the M & M boys.
So whatever happened to Chuck Witherspoon? Actually, his last name was Weatherspoon, and he toiled for 15 years in the minors, never making the Bigs…finishing in 1969 with a .265 career batting average and 230 homers…altho that year, 1961, he set what’s said to be the Organized Baseball mark for grand slams in a season with 7, playing for the Wilson Tobacconists, or “Tobs” as they were called…those were days, weren’t they?
shameless plugs, with the infield drawn in…
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