First Pitch: Why It’s Time For Baseball To Get Rid of Divisions

Last night I wrote about how the biggest problem for the Pirates was that they currently play in the same division as the best team in baseball. They are currently the third best team in baseball, and the second best in the NL, but they are six games out of first place. That’s more of an unfortunate circumstance than anything else, as it’s hard to expect a team to be as good as the Cardinals have been, much less expecting that team to be better than the pace the Cardinals are on.

I didn’t want to get into the division subject too much last night, since I was focusing on not judging the Pirates too much on how they compared to the Cardinals. But today, Jeff Passan wrote an article on Yahoo Sports suggesting that divisions need to be eliminated in baseball.

As with any change in baseball, I’m sure that this idea is something that won’t go over well, since it involves a big change in how things are done. The short of it is that the top five teams would make the playoffs, in that order, without arbitrary and meaningless divisions dictating the process.

All of this is being written right now because the Pirates and the Cubs own two of the three best records in the National League, but would currently be squaring off in a one game Wild Card, with only one team advancing. Meanwhile, the Dodgers and the Mets — who currently both rank behind the Pirates and Cubs — would automatically advance to the division series because they are fortunate enough to not play in the NL Central.

Without divisions, the Pirates would be battling with the Cardinals for home field advantage, and they’d be trying to fight off the Cubs still. The only difference is that they’d have the number two seed, rather than the one game play-in.

I asked today on Twitter if there was any reason to have divisions in baseball at this point. There were a few “this is how it’s done” responses. There were several people saying I couldn’t talk about this because it sounded like sour grapes with the Pirates being in first place. Neither of those deny that this isn’t a fair system.

One of the big responses that I got was that divisions create and maintain rivalries. I’d have to disagree here. As we’ve seen with the Pirates leaving the NL East, you can still have rivals without having those teams in your division. And as we’ve seen with the Pirates in the NL Central the last few years, rivalries really spark based on competitiveness. For example, the Cardinals and Pirates weren’t really big rivals until they were both successful. You put two good teams together and have them continue to face off in the playoffs over the years, and you will get a strong rivalry. An example of this in another sport was the Patriots and the Colts when Peyton Manning was with Indianapolis.

You’d still have rivalries without divisions. The best of the old rivalries would remain, while new ones would be created based on teams battling year after year to be the best in each league.

Another potential problem was the schedule and the travel. The schedule would end up being very balanced, as you could set it up where each team played every other team the same amount of times (which would leave a handful games left over to play rivals an extra time). This avoids a situation where one team gets to capitalize on playing a weak division, while another team is forced to play many more games in a division like the current NL Central. As for the travel, that is incredibly accessible these days, and shouldn’t be a factor. If the Pirates can play in a division where three of their division mates are located in another time zone (it used to be four when Houston was around), then there shouldn’t be any issues about working without divisions.

But let’s also take a moment to go back to that “sour grapes” complaint and get to the root of why this is really an issue now. It’s not because this is currently happening to the Pirates, where a team could be winning almost any other division in baseball right now, except the division they’re in. Instead, this issue comes up because this is happening at all right now.

MLB changed their format to add a second Wild Card team before the 2013 season, adding a one game play-in between the two Wild Card teams. This is the third year of the new system, but it’s the first time we’ve seen this problem where two Wild Card teams are posting better records than two division winners. Last year, every Wild Card team would have finished behind every division winner in their league. The year before there was only one Wild Card team who had a better record than one division team, and that was the Pirates over the Dodgers. But the system was new that year, and the Wild Card team didn’t always have a commanding lead over the Dodgers.

The problem this year is that the two Wild Card teams will end up better than two of the division winners, exposing a flaw in the system. You punish the Pirates and the Cubs for being in the same division as the Cardinals, while having no good reason for divisions.

The lack of divisions would still create interest. The Pirates would have the same shot at home field advantage as they do now, needing to only pass the Cardinals. They’d still be fighting to hold on to the second best record in the league, only this time it would mean an extended playoff series, rather than just having home field in the Wild Card game. And if MLB kept the one-game format, then you’d have the Mets, Dodgers, and Cubs currently fighting for the third playoff spot, with the Nationals and Giants fighting to get in to the Wild Card game.

The division format is old, and no longer makes sense, especially when you’ve got a two Wild Card system where the two teams play just one game to advance. Two of the best teams in baseball shouldn’t be forced into a one-off elimination while two teams who finished below them wait for their opponents in a longer series. Instead, the best teams should be in the playoffs, getting the highest rankings, with no arbitrary and meaningless battle lines keeping that from happening.

**Prospect Watch: Big Day at the Plate For a Slick-Fielding Shortstop. Willy Garcia and Max Moroff are among those who homered tonight, while Wilfredo Boscan returned to the Indianapolis rotation.

**Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire Pick Up FSL Honors. The Pirates continue to get recognition in Baseball America’s Best Tools lists throughout the minors.

**Willy Garcia’s Power is Returning, Now With Fewer Strikeouts. Garcia cut down on his strikeouts in Altoona, but didn’t have the same power. His strikeouts are still down a bit, but the power is starting to return in Triple-A.

**Morning Report: Looking Back at Baseball America’s Best Tools From 2013

 

  • In a 3-division league, only the top 2 division winners should have their 1 & 2 seeding protected. The team with the next best record should have the opportunity to steal the #3 playoff seed.

  • The Central division started in 94, the East and West in 69. Certainly 2 of those are old. Don’t think that really matters much. I think what does matter is whether or not this system is working and what can be done about it.

    Personally, I think 1 game playoffs in baseball are blasphemous. This isn’t football. We play 50 something 3 game series and we have to boil it down to 9 innings? I just don’t think that’s right. Its not even a playoff, its a tie breaker, but not even a tie breaker, since its not even a tie. So that’s my first problem; no 1 game “playoffs”. The minimum the league could do is make that a 3 game series. You can’t have it be a game of who has the Cy Young candidate.

    I don’t think we’ll see the end of divisions, its not going to be purely equal, there’s simply more miles to travel; you can minimize that best you can, but its still there. I wouldn’t mind seeing it just go back to east/west again, but that would end up changing the number of playoff teams again, maybe, I think.

    So do it how you like, but for the love of pete, no more one game “playoffs.”

  • I don’t know if getting rid of divisions would help with making it more fair. If, for example, the Pirates have a better record against the Cardinals then they would have a better chance to win the division than they do now. The divisions, in my opinion, make for keeping the same teams fighting one another year after year to get better and move past them to play the other division leaders. The same argument comes up in the NFL for their structure but I have to say I think what they have in place makes more sense than what Baseball is doing and I would like to see them replicate that.

    It has always bothered me that baseball is so odd with their numbers selection on games and teams in each league. I think 150 games and 32 teams would be more beneficial for them. Taking away from regular season to add a full Wild Card round to the playoffs and one more team to play in it as well as an extra team in the American and National leagues for the season.

    With 4 teams per division it would mean you would have to beat the teams you play most, say 60 of our 150 games against the division, 72 of 150 against the league, and 18 of 150 against interleague teams. The breakdown would be 40%-48%-12% with about the same percentage of division games as the NFL and time to have a Wild Card round with a 3 game series with the bottom two division leaders and the top two wild card teams and then the LDS and LCS remaining the same with two teams on byes per league.

  • At least it isn’t like football where we’ve seen division winners with worse records going to the playoffs than teams whom are forced to go home

  • I’m not sure if you watch Football Tim, with it’s 2 wildcards and 4 divisions- but it’s the same. It’s not going to change, ever

    • The more reasonable thing to do is keep divisions and seed the teams based on their records and throw divisional placement out the window.

  • And while we are on the subject, if we are keeping 2 wild cards and divisions, here is how to make the wild card system fair.
    1. We go back to the season ending on the last Sunday in September or 1st Sunday in October.
    2. A quick three game series (one league starts Tuesday, one on Wednesday, rotating each year)
    3. Game 1: Tuesday night at the top seeded wild card team.
    4. Game 2: Wednesday afternoon at the same location.
    5. Game 3: Thursday evening at the lesser seeded team for the rubber game. (Hey, make the lesser team earn a home game by splitting at the top team’s site.
    6. Division Round begins Saturday and Sunday.
    I think it would a competitive and fun way to keep up the interest as opposed to a one and done playoff.

  • You hear this same complaint in the NFL over the occasional 7-9 division winner, hosting a 10-5 wild card team. In football these things are rare and, because of the limited number of games, each game means more. Also, the difference between 7-9 and 9-7 is essentially a coin flip or one freak play oftentimes.
    Baseball with it’s longer regular season means it’s more of a marathon to get to the post season. The team that proves it’s worth over the long haul makes the post season. The one game wild card game is an atrocity for a sport that plays series, not “one and done” during the regular season. Baseball already cheapened that with the first divisions in 1969. How many times did you see a Pirates or Phillies team win the NL “Least” with a worse record than the Dodgers or Reds in the other division during the 70s. So, there’s that.
    Baseball can improve that by making a “records rule” rule where the playoffs get reseeded after the wild card game. If the wild card winner has a better record than the division winner or winners than they should be rewarded for an excellent season and get to host a playoff series and not just be thrown at the Cardinals again!
    In short, the top two records get to host the divisional round. I think you would see a lot of teams in weak divisions with big leads playing hard into late September to avoid the ignominy of this!

  • The problem with divisions of just a few teams – and football is the best example of this – is it highlights the uneven distribution of good teams and bad teams. It’s happened every few years since 1972, when the second place team in the AL West (White Sox) had a better record than the best team in the AL East (Detroit) but stayed home. At least now the snubbed team gets a play-in game.

    I would be in favor of moving back to 2 divisions and staging best-of-3 series between the 2nd and 3rd best teams, crossing divisions (i.e., NL West #3 at NL East #2). Keep scheduled unbalanced, maintain rivalries and the importance of divisional play. The division winners rest up for the Best of 7 NLDS.

    You’d have to shave a few games off the schedule to allow for the expansion of series, but it would generate more revenue within the playoffs and adding another playoff team per league would maintain fan interest in at least one more city through September.

    If and when baseball expands, you’d have 4 divisions of 8 teams each, with STL, CHC, MIL, MIN, KC and CWS moving west, and presume Charlotte and Montreal join the existing Eastern Division teams plus those relocating from the Central (DET, CLE, CIN, PIT).

  • Apparently I’m in the vast minority, but I actually like the divisional format and do feel like it adds value to rivalries, which in turn make the game more exciting. Regardless of record, what’s better….an upcoming series against the Brewers, or the Diamondbacks? I don’t want to see those teams an equal amount of times.

    What IS ridiculous though, is that baseball plays by far the most regular season games of any sport, and then eliminates teams in one game playoffs. Of course the only real way to change that would be to shorten the regular season and lord knows the owners would never agree to that.

    • One could argue taking games away from us playing teams like ATL, NYM, WSH, etc takes away potentially great rivalries. Imagine we play the Mets more each year. For the next 3+ years thatd be must see baseball and those teams/fans would start to love to hate each other.

      If divisions create rivalries with teams inside each division, they can also help ruin potentially good rivalries elsewhere.

      • That is certainly possible, but my feeling is that familiarity breeds contempt, and no matter how good two teams are, the best way to develop a rivalry is to play each other more often. For example, the article mentions the Patriots and Colts rivalry, but I don’t think any Pats fan would consider the Colts a bigger rival than the Jets, who they play twice every year instead of once like the Colts.

        Having more games against the Nats and that area that we seem to have a great general sports rivalry towards does appeal to me though…

  • I agree with eliminating divisions. I’d like to see the top eight teams from each of the NL and AL to engage in a three round, seeded by regular season record, playoff to determine the participants in the World Series. The first two rounds would be 5 game series, with the NLCS and ALCS being 7 games. In each series the initially higher seeded team gets home field advantage, which puts a premium on the regular season.

    This would mean the season would have to start a week earlier, but that could be accomplished if somehow MLB could acquire the wisdom to schedule all games in the first couple of weeks of the season in the southern half of the country. It’s ridiculous that they don’t do that already.

  • Thought provoking piece I must say. Great job! I agree with Daryl that the first thing needing to be addressed is expansion. Too many really great locations available to be sitting with only 15 teams in each league. Just to name a few: Charlotte, New Orleans, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Portland, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Montreal, and San Juan. Picking the first two would be tough, but I go with Charlotte and New Orleans. I would have liked to pick two from out west, but you have to make substantial subtractions from existing franchises to go with locations like Portland and Vancouver.

  • I agree that divisions are silly, but one other thing to consider is that the division format almost guarantees a geographical distribution amongst playoff teams. I imagine baseball would not be thrilled if the 10 teams in the playoffs were all from the Eastern half or even worse the West and Central. They want to keep the entire country somewhat engaged. Now, I don’t buy that they’d lose too many viewers, but can imagine this argument being made.

    • Au contraire. Baseball would love an all eastern format, since MLB’s apparent entire reason for existence is to cater to the Yankees and Red Sox.
      On that regard, after the Pirates play the Royals in this year’s World Series, MLB will immediately make plans for next year to cross seed the Leagues so the Yankees and Red Sox CAN meet in the World Series.

  • Tim, two things really need to happen in MLB. The first is expansion of two franchises, bringing the total number of teams to 32. The other thing that needs to happen is radical realignment. This realignment, although not perfect would have many benefits to both the owners and the players. I believe I have suggested in the past that MLB should realign based upon the time zone each team plays in. To take into account the two potential MLB expansion franchises, I added a team in Montreal and a team in Charlotte, North Carolina into the mix. Here is what I came up with. I did not label one league National League and another American League. What I did do was place those teams who play their home games in the Eastern Time Zone in one league and those teams who play their home games in either the Central, Rocky or Pacific Time Zones in the opposing league. As far as divisions, each league could be broken down into 4 divisions of 4 teams or 2 divisions of 8 teams or one division of 16 teams. I don’t think MLB will ever become drastic so as to institute one division of 16 teams in each. I could see them going back the the 2 division format. Here is what it would look like:

    League A

    Division 1

    New York Yankees
    New York Mets
    Boston Red Sox
    Toronto Blue Jays
    Montreal
    Baltimore Orioles
    Washington Nationals
    Philadelphia Phillies

    Division 2

    Pittsburgh Pirates
    Cleveland Indians
    Detroit Tigers
    Cincinnati Reds
    Atlanta Braves
    Tampa Bay Rays
    Miami Marlins
    Charlotte

    League B

    Division 1

    Minnesota Twins
    Chicago Cubs
    Chicago White Sox
    St. Louis Cardinals
    Milwaukee Brewers
    Kansas City Royals
    Houston Astros
    Texas Rangers

    Division 2

    Colorado Rockies
    Arizona Diamondbacks
    Seattle Mariners
    Los Angeles Angels
    Los Angeles Dodgers
    San Diego Padres
    San Francisco Giants
    Oakland Athletics

    • This is not a bad idea for realignment. People will cringe at doing away with the traditional AL and NL alignment, but interleague play has already made a mockery of that. So why not let, say, the Mets and Yankees battle it out for a division title instead of just playing in these silly rivalry match-ups? Because a team would be competing with their regional rivals, division titles would become very meaningful. Kind of like college football–maybe an SEC team, for example, doesn’t win the national championship, but winning an SEC title is still a really big deal to the fans. With your divisions, MLB could become that way too.

      My only improvement would be that teams within the same state should be in the same division. The only necessary change is to swap the Phillies and the Tigers.

      • I think we are in agreement that I have the leagues right. As you stated your only issue was with the Phillies and the Tigers. I’m not so sure it would be necessary to swap the Phillies and the Tigers. The shortest distance, according to Google from PNC Park to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia is 310.2 miles. Here are the distances from Philadelphia to various cities that would be in Philadelphia’s own division based on my radical realignment. These numbers come from Google.

        Fenway Park (Boston) – 307.6 miles
        Yankee Stadium (New York) – 107.9 miles
        Citi Field (New York) – 116.7 miles
        Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore) – 98.5 miles
        Nationals Park (Washington, D.C.) – 133.5 miles
        Rogers Centre (Toronto) – 475 miles
        Olympic Stadium (Montreal) – 460.3 miles

        Under the alignment I suggested, Philadelphia would have four division rivals that are in the proximity of a 2 1/2 hour drive (roughly 150 miles).

        As for the distances from PNC Park to what would be their seven division foes based upon my radical realignment suggestion look like this (again based upon Google):

        Comerica Park (Detroit) – 284.5 miles
        Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati) – 287 miles
        Progressive Field (Cleveland) – 132.8 miles
        Turner Field (Atlanta) – 686 miles
        Tropicana Field (Tampa) – 1048 miles
        Marlins Park (Miami) – 1075 miles
        Charlotte – 448.5 miles

  • The second wild card game was added for the 2012 season. This is the 4th year for it.

  • Amen. The WC system with imbalanced schedules and small divisions just doesn’t make sense.

    Two options that would be a compromise are:

    1. Two divisions with more balanced schedules (NL East would be all teams (7) in the Eastern Time Zone, for example). Division winners could get a bye while the next four teams play best-of-three for the right to face a division champ. This still rewards division champs, reduces the chances of an undeserving division winner, and is more fair for a very good second-place team.

    2. Simply make schedules more balanced and change the WC match-up from a best-of-1 to a best-of-3.

  • I have never considered baseball without divisions but it makes complete sense to me after reading your article. Nice job

  • Alternate:
    Keep the divisions, re-seed the teams when the season is over.

    3 division winners automatically in.
    2 next best records in.

    seed 1-5. Bottom two play the play-in game.

    This allows regional travel, regional TV to stay in the game through the entire season (especially for a down year in weak division where the teams are still in the game through the end of the year).

  • Let’s be honest. Although this is a great idea, the league would never look into making a change this significant until the dodgers, yankees, or red Sox had it happen to them. Manfred and the entire league office are all about what’s best for the large market clubs. The pirates could go 161-1 and the cards 162-0 and they wouldn’t make a change to it.

    • To add to that bmp, Baseball holds on to tradition longer that any other sport. They still have to throw 4 balls on an intentional walk. The players are lucky their allowed to have their pants down to their shoes. No salary cap. I could go on and on. Still, the greatest sport on earth (my opinion.)

  • I think a hybrid approach could work. A couple different ideas:

    1) You still have divisions and division winners still automatically qualify for the postseason, but seeding would be based on overall conference standings.

    2) Everything works the way it does now, unless the Wild Card team is 5+ games ahead of a division leader, then they jump them in the seeding.

  • piraterican21
    August 14, 2015 9:19 am

    When I read the title the sour grapes comment quickly came to mind, after reading it and the comments below I’m changing my stance. One other valid point is the fact that divisions afford some the advantage or to play weaker teams more often.n so perhaps a no division, no inter league and a true even schedule would be the solution.

  • I’m in favor of eliminating the divisions and expanding the amount of teams that make the playoffs. I’ve never felt a rivalry with any team in central the way I felt about the Mets and Phillies. I’d rather we just play everyone evenly. More fair that way and the overall record outcome would be more meaningful.

  • I like this idea in theory, playoffs are dumb, and I’m all for any move that increases the value of the regular season. Baseball is the American sport that was closest to awarding the championship to the “best” team.

    However you cannot dismiss the impact of travel. Passan cites the NBA, but the NBA has reduced four games in five nights for teams, and almost eliminated them. Removal of divisions in baseball would lead in the opposite direction. Travel has an impact and with amphetamines being less widely available that impact could be growing.

  • No, for us old folks, the division format is NEW.

    There used to be just the National League
    and that was it. The best team advanced to
    the world series.

    Then they added a playoff to have the top two
    teams to play off with the winnerer
    advancing to the WS.

    Its the original concept. Division are what is new!

  • On the other hand, I grew up with an 8 team NL and watched team after team with really good records not make the playoffs (aka World Series). I esp agonized over those 1965 Bucs.

  • Tim…I totally agree with you, however, I never expect to see this in my lifetime.

    Unfortunately.

  • If this happened the league would almost certainly expand the playoffs, which I am vehemently opposed to. And they may do it in the current format anyway.

    At the Pirates level, I would want a new cable deal before this went down. I strongly feel, other than the Dodgers, we havent seen the full effects of those yet, IMO.

    I kind of like the Pirates pond where its at with the Reds and Brewers rebuilding. I think its much easier to build, scout, and plan against 4 other teams, as opposed to 14 or 15. Especially since you play those 4 more often and they are weighted.

  • Tim- I would so love to agree with you, but this happening as it does this year only appears to be adding more parity across TV regional coverage, and more teams still in the hunt. Ie) San Fran- they likely won’t catch the Cubs, because they are too good, but can still win a weak division – theoretically that could play out to where the Giants could still make the playoffs w/o divisions. However, in a year with a REALLY weak divisions – all the teams would be out- creating a TV black hole.

  • One complication of this would be the need to come up with some type of tie breaking system since it would only be a matter of time until multiple teams would end with the same record. If only 2 teams tied you could still do a one game head to head but a 3 team tie is much more likely if there are no division so an entire new tie breaker would needed.

    • If two teams tied you could use head to head results from the season. If that was tied, then yeah a one game playoff maybe. 3 team tie is more difficult, but plenty of ways (none that are perfect obviously) to potentially solve that.

  • First of all, the argument stating MLB has always had divisions is wrong. Division play didn’t begin until the 1960’s. Beforehand each league champ squared off in WS.

    If be in favor of this if they got rid of inter-league play. Otherwise, there will be too few games vs other NL teams.

    I’m not holding my breath on any change coming to system.

    • True!!
      1969 was the begining of divisional play. MLB was without divisions longer than it has had them.

  • Just say no to 15 team leagues.
    Imagine the angst of finishing 15th at maybe 40 games out of first.
    Cycles occur in baseball, like most other sports. Remember when the Pirates were in a 6 team division with the Astros. The NL Central was considered weak most of those years. The AL East has been competitive for years.
    Doing away with a one game WC looks like the best solution.

  • With 28 teams, each team could play:
    The other division (7 teams) 6 times (3 home/3 away) = 42
    Rotating AL division (7 teams) 6 times (3 home/3 away) = 42
    Their division (6 teams) 12 times (6 home/6 away) = 72
    156 game season!

    With 32 teams, each team could play:
    The other division (8 teams) 6 times (3 home/3 away) = 48
    Rotating AL division (8 teams) 3 times (rotate home/away) = 24
    Their division (7 teams) 12 times (6 home/6 away) = 84
    160 game season

  • I think divisions (like leagues) make sense when there are only two. That would set up a true “east/west” championship series. In that set up, the more ‘east/west’ schedule is unbalanced, the better. In the playoffs, the first/second place team can battle it out one final time with the 1st place team owning the advantage due to an extra home game. Each division champ would therefore truly earn the division title.
    In this set up, the argument that ‘we should have lost to the Cards in the League Championship instead of the Division Series’ becomes silly.
    Now should we add or remove two teams to make this happen?

  • Or just keep every single thing the way it is (the 3 division winners and 2 wild cards) but seed them based on record – so, for this year, as of right now, the Mets and Dodgers would be in the wild card game (with the winner facing the Cards), while the Pirates and Cubs would meet in the NLDS…one simple change that requires no major changes and would force division winners with a massive lead down the stretch to play until the end of the season to still avoid the wild card game

    • I think the NFL is headed this way.

    • I like your seeding idea.

    • That doesn’t really give a reason to keep divisions though. There’s no incentive to winning the division. The only thing you’re keeping the same would be the schedules.

      • You may laugh, but Tshirts and hats;banners. I still see 2013 NL Wildcard shirts at the gym. Tell me you wont buy a Division Champions shirt in the next year or two. 🙂

        Those things make money.

        • Hahaha, alright. I guess I’ll give you that. Although, I’ll only buy a World Series shirt should they win one. I have a Steelers AFC North champs shirt from I think 2007. But I don’t wear it much.

          • I like Tim’s idea, but the only way they do it if there is a financial benefit. Which is possible, it just involves adding playoff teams most likely. Then you have the other leagues random champion effect, which I dont care for. Like Andrew said below, keep the regular season meaningful.

      • Because it will (theoretically) keep a lot of people who like the divisions format and some other baseball “purists” from bitching, and would allow everything to stay the same as far as scheduling is concerned – while whoever mentioned unbalanced schedules below is correct, I was just offering the simplest solution to the problem presented in the article, not the solution to fix everything or the one I necessarily want

    • I fail to see how this is different from Tim’s scenario. Why keep the divisions in name only? They wouldn’t serve a purpose in this scenario, so why not just throw them out

    • I was a part of a conversation on WHYGAVS a couple days ago, and that seeding setup is what we came up with as well. It works, keeps the division rivalries/champion crown, and everyone will be happy.

    • This is still problematic with unbalanced schedules. Say a division is super tough and the winner is only a little above .500 while another division has two super teams and three really weak teams (this was my concern going into the season with the NL Central vs. the NL East though it hasn’t played out that way). The division winner of the tough division is more deserving than the WC in the weak division.

      Your idea could work with balanced schedules, but then why keep divisions at all (as Zach H notes)?

  • Tim, also there is the fact that The Pirates and Cubs would have to play a one game playoff, just to face the Cardinals again in a best of five series without homefield advantage.
    In the no division scenario, The Pirates ot Cubs wouldn’t play The Cardinals until the best of seven NLCS

    • I was just thinking the same thing. Not only will the two worst records get the automatic trip to the division series, but they’re also granted the privilege of having a 4/5 seed automatically make it to the NLCS, while the 1,2,3 seeds have to canabalize each other for that chance. It’s frustrating to me to think that a best case scenario (and I’m aware the bucs could still catch the cards, but it is looking unlikely) is burning Cole in the wild card game and having to play a 5 game series with the only team in baseball with a better record, all while the dodgers and Mets, both noticibaly worse teams, are guaranteed a typical series.

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