Just Say No to Realignment and Commissioner Selig

Has anyone ever seen Bud Selig and Butt-head in the same place?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the MTV cartoon character and the Acting Commissioner for Life apart. Both have bad haircuts and goofy expressions. The sight of either induces many TV viewers to change channels. And no one in his right mind would hire either Butt-head or Selig to run a billion-dollar business.

Incredibly, Selig remains the front-runner for the permanent Commissionership. With insider Paul Beeston installed as MLB’s chief operating officer, in charge of day-to-day operations, the owners have a golden opportunity to restore credibility by naming a respected outsider as the next Commissioner. Instead they’re entranced by a car dealer from Milwaukee with no charisma and no credibility with the players, the fans, Congress or the media.

Even worse for fans who love baseball’s history and sense of continuity, Selig wants to Leave a Legacy. The three-division alignment, wild card and interleague play aren’t enough: like Butt-head in a lumberyard with a lighter, Bud-head won’t rest until he’s destroyed the American and National Leagues as we know them.

Selig has proposed the total realignment of Major League Baseball along geographic lines. A 14-team AL would be located entirely in the Eastern time zone, with a 16-team NL covering the rest of the country.

Defending his proposal, Selig proclaimed, “Its logic is overwhelming when you think about it. We believes the pluses far outweigh the minuses. This is returning to our roots. This is that way it was.'' Of course, MLB’s “roots” have never included geographic alignment. The minor leagues are organized geographically, though -- does Selig think the Brewers play in the American Association?

Under Selig’s proposal, the Sox would remain in the AL East, along with Baltimore, Toronto and the Yankees. They would be joined by the Expos, Mets and Phillies. Each team in the division would play the others 16 times a year.

The AL South/Central would include Atlanta, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Florida, Pittsburgh, and the new Tampa Bay expansion team. The Sox would play a three-game home-and-home series against each club in this division.

The remaining 16 clubs would be assigned to the National League, with the Cubs, White Sox, Astros, Royals, Brewers, Twins, Cardinals and Rangers in the NL Mediocre, er, Central and Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle in the NL West. Each year the Sox would play a single three-game interleague series against each team in one of these divisions.

If this radical realignment is adopted, the 1998 Sox would play fewer than half their home games against current AL teams! Ken Griffey Jr. would come to town once every two years instead of twice a year. Yet realignment’s supporters, including John Harrington, insist that the fans want this.

While MLB’s own poll claims that fans favor radical realignment by a 2-1 margin, every independent survey has found the opposite. Moreover, MLB’s poll is hopelessly tainted by respondents’ ignorance. 70% of these self-described baseball fans had never heard of any proposed realignment before the survey, thus forming opinions based entirely on what the questioners told them. 44% didn’t know the Arizona Diamondbacks or Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who got their franchises 2-1/2 years ago -- and 13% weren’t familiar with the Colorado Rockies or Florida Marlins, now playing their fifth seasons. Moreover, almost half of respondents said they planned to attend fewer than two games in 1997!

As Butt-head would say: “Hey, Selig. Realignment sucks.”

Copyright © 1997 Doug Pappas. All rights reserved.
Originally published in the September 1997 issue of Boston Baseball.

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