No one ever wants to hear about another person’s fantasy team. By that same rule, we can probably assume that no one wants to hear about another person’s baseball simulation. I’m hoping you stay with me a bit as I go through mine.

I like to play Out of the Park baseball, which is the best baseball simulation game on the market. I have MLB: The Show for Playstation, which is a great baseball game. But if you want to take over a team and act as the GM, there is nothing better than OOTP. It’s purely about making moves, building a team, and managing that team if you wish.

I don’t like to play as the Pirates, for the simple reason that it can frustrate me. OOTP does a fantastic job keeping track of every player in baseball, along with having most prospects involved. But it would be impossible for them to have a deep knowledge of every farm system, which leads to a lot of ratings I disagree with in the Pirates’ system every year. So I go the alternate route and create an expansion team.

My team is typically the Montreal Expos. I add another team in Portland or Las Vegas to make things an even 32 teams. I then raid the Pirates of all of the prospects with ratings I agree with, along with Jameson Taillon, to the extent that Pirates fans would probably burn down PNC Park as a reaction to all of the trades I pulled off. But that’s another story.

Tracy Ringolsby at Baseball America wrote about how MLB is thinking about expansion, and how Montreal and Portland could be the two potential additions to the league. This would lead to several changes, including the following four divisions:

East: Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington.

North: Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Montreal, both New York franchises and Toronto.

Midwest: Both Chicago franchises, Colorado, Houston, Kansas City, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Texas.

West: Anaheim, Arizona, Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.

Other features include a reduction to a 156 game schedule, with 24 games each against the other three divisions, and 12 games against each divisional opponent. There would be an off day every week, and the season would run during the same time period as the current season.

The playoff games would have the four division winners advancing, and the eight remaining teams with the best records having play-in games to advance to the division series. Basically, they would add two more Wild Card games across baseball, and remove two division winners.

Most of the changes seem to be built around reducing travel, giving teams more of a break during the season, and off-setting that with a slightly shorter schedule. Granted, you don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff in a baseball simulation, so I didn’t consider those factors. But I already know how I would do things if baseball added teams in Montreal and Portland, so allow me to give my suggestion.

I kept the AL and NL intact, and went with an NFL strategy of four divisions per league, with four teams per division. Those divisions and leagues are as follows:

NL East: Montreal, NY Mets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh

NL Central: Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, St. Louis

NL South: Arizona, Atlanta, Miami, Washington

NL West: Colorado, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco

I’ll stop here to explain the NL alignment. It might be a bit biased, but I worked the Pirates into the NL East, as I feel that is where they belong. They’ve got a natural rivalry with the Phillies, and better rivals in New York and Montreal.

The one flaw here is Arizona being in the NL South. They were the extra team, and I didn’t put too much consideration into their travel. You could move Cincinnati to the South, move Colorado to the Central, and move Arizona back to the West. That’s still not great for Colorado, but it might be slightly better overall.

Then there’s the American League:

AL East: Baltimore, Boston, NY Yankees, Toronto

AL Central: Chicago White Sox, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota

AL South: Houston, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Texas

AL West: Anaheim, Oakland, Portland, Seattle

The American League was easier. The East was the same, with the Rays being removed to make up the South. The Central sent Kansas City to the South. The West sent Texas and Houston, then added Portland.

After thinking about it further, I’d probably put Tampa Bay in the NL South and Arizona in the AL South, since the travel schedules would be better.

The playoffs I’d suggest would also be NFL style. The top two teams in each division would get a first round bye. The two remaining division winners would host the two Wild Card teams in a best-of-three game series at home. The winners advance to the Division Series to play the teams with a bye. The winners of the two Division Series games advance to the League Championship series, and then winners of those obviously go to the World Series.

I do not like the current Wild Card system, where a 162 game season all boils down to one game. So I don’t like the idea mentioned in the BA article, where there would be four of those games. Only four teams would be guaranteed a playoff series, while eight other teams would see their season boil down to one game. It makes the regular season feel a bit pointless, and ignores what is currently happening in baseball, where you have megapowers who will almost certainly win the division each year. Everyone else will be fighting for a one game playoff.

That’s why I like the NFL method, and why I’d propose a three game series for the Wild Card round. If you win your small division, you have an advantage in the playoffs. The best two records have a further advantage. And if you have a great season, but are unfortunate enough to be stuck behind one of the best teams in the league, you now have a three game series to advance in the playoffs, rather than just one game.

This would remove the spectacle of the one-game Wild Card format, which creates a lot of drama and excitement. MLB is obviously thinking about capitalizing on that and expanding the format to four games. But in turn, it would add more drama and excitement to the regular season, since those games would now mean more, rather than being seen as almost meaningless due to the one-game format.

Unfortunately, I feel that MLB would be making their plans with costs (reduced travel) and ratings (Wild Card games) involved, rather than trying to create a fair atmosphere for teams, and allowing more teams a better shot at the playoffs. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up going the route that BA reported on if they end up expanding and realigning the league.

At least I’ll still have my OOTP franchise, and my 2021 Expos World Series championship to show for it.

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61 COMMENTS

  1. Cut the games in half, institute a clock and penalities, have more white people play, I don’t like MEXISPICS.

  2. Tim, this subject of radical realignment has been something I have pondered about in regard to baseball for some time. While I do agree that I think MLB will return to Montreal at some point, I think MLB would be better suited adding a second east coast team. Why do people think that just because it failed in Montreal once that it’s definitely going to fail again? If history has taught us anything, it’s that Montreal for the majority of their franchise history was playing in a stadium that was initially built for the 1976 Summer Olympics. Atlanta faced the same situation when they moved into the Olympic Stadium built for the 1996 Summer Olympics and finally realized that wasn’t working for them and moved into the newly built SunTrust Stadium this past season.

    If we are going to talk about radical realignment and reducing the travel costs from the owners’ perspective and reducing the jet lag (and ultimately the players’ performances) from the players perspective, wouldn’t it make more sense to make one league feature 16 teams all in the eastern time zone. The one thing neither this article nor the Tracy Ringolsby / Baseball America article touch upon is time zones. Currently there are 14 teams in MLB in the eastern time zone. There are 8 teams in the Central and there are 8 teams in the Mountain and Pacific time zones. To me, I would add a team to Charlotte, North Carolina and Montreal, Canada. This would put sixteen teams in one league and 16 in the other.

    I’m not really going to assign NL and AL to each league as I think the DH rule would need addressed nor am I going to assign titles to each division, but this is how I would break it down:

    Division 1
    Montreal
    Toronto
    NY Yankees
    NY Mets
    Boston
    Philadelphia
    Baltimore
    Washington

    Division 2
    Pittsburgh
    Cleveland
    Cincinnati
    Detroit
    Charlotte
    Tampa Bay
    Miami
    Atlanta

    Division 3
    Chicago Cubs
    Chicago White Sox
    Minnesota Twins
    St. Louis
    Milwaukee
    Kansas City
    Houston
    Texas

    Division 4
    Colorado
    Arizona
    San Francisco
    Oakland
    Los Angeles Dodgers
    Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
    San Diego
    Seattle

    If Oakland were to move elsewhere, such as Portland or Las Vegas, MLB could even go to 4 divisions of 4 teams in each league. I would think in this instance you would see the two Canadian teams in the same division and both NY teams in the same division. I also think you would see Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia in the same division, due to their close proximity to each other. This would mean that both NY teams and both Canadian teams would make up one division while Boston would join Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia.

    If MLB were to go to 4 divisions of 4 teams, I think you would see Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Detroit in one division and Atlanta, Tampa, Miami and Charlotte in the other division.

    For the eight teams from the Central time zone, I think you would see both Chicago teams in one division, both St. Louis and Kansas City in the same division and Texas and Houston in the same division. Most likely, St. Louis and Kansas City would be in the same division as Houston and Texas, while Milwaukee and Minnesota would join the two Chicago teams.

    Lastly, if Oakland moved to Portland / Las Vegas, I think you would see Seattle, Portland / Las Vegas, Arizona and Colorado in one division while the other division would consist of the four teams still based in California, those being San Diego, San Francisco, and both Los Angeles teams.

    As for the DH rule, one idea that I think MLB should try if they decide to implement radical realignment and expansion to 32 teams would be to add a 26th man to the active roster (to appease the players’ union, of course) and the home team would decide whether the game would be played with or without the DH prior to game time. The home team manager would inform the home plate umpire several hours before game time whether the DH rule would be used or not. I think you could create some great strategies there on a series to series basis. For example, if you are facing a team with a killer line-up, you may opt to have the pitcher bat or if you are facing an ace starting pitcher, you may opt for the DH to have the extra bat in your line-up. I think over time, you would eventually see some sort of consensus, most likely that the home manager would opt for the DH, irregardless of who the opposing starter is or who they have in their lineup. Somewhere down the line, MLB could then eventually adopt the DH rule for both leagues all the time with very little outcry from traditional fans.

  3. I love the idea of an expanded Wild Card format of 3 games, but sadly I don’t think MLB would go for it simply because of the concerns over travel and TV. Right now, you have the division winners getting 3-4 days off to start the postseason while the WC games are played. I wonder how they would go about scheduling a 3 game WC format. Would it start the day after the season? Would it be played on 3 consecutive days or would there be a travel day built in? I suppose they could make the 2nd game of that 3 game format a day game since it could end up being a “getaway” day like we see in the regular season with day games.

    I also like the comparison to the NFL format, because I think of all the leagues they have it setup the best. However, I have long said there is one thing I would change with the NFL’s format and I would argue the same for MLB.

    Currently in the NFL, you have the top 2 division winners getting a bye, with the bottom 2 hosting a WC game. However, there have been several times where that division winner hosts a WC team with a better record. You saw this last year where the 9-7 Houston Texans host the 12-4 Oakland Raiders and the 10-6 Green Bay Packers hosted the 11-5 New York Giants. I would argue that in these instances, the WC team with the better record should be the home team, so the Raiders would have hosted the Texans in my format.

    I think this should be in place already in MLB because we all know that in 2015 the Pirates and Cubs had better records than the Mets and Dodgers but were forced to play in the WC game.

    So basically, the team with the better record should be allowed to host. I know this can diminish the importance of winning the division but it would give the teams with the best record the reward of being the home team.

  4. I like the 4 eight team divisions the best. Some time ago, I thought of the same thing. I didn’t choose the teams, but I thought of East, East Central, West Central, and West.

    I really don’t like inter-league play. And, I don’t like not playing the same teams the same amount of times. I remember the excitement getting to the World Series and having no idea who would win, because the leagues never played each other during the year. Ahh, the old days! of

    I wonder what happens to the designated hitter under the this plan. Hopefully, it’s gone.

  5. I play OOTP as well, and since it’s a fictional universe and I can ignore travel, I just removed all the divisions but one so each league has a single 16 team division. The top 4 teams go to the playoffs and I use a balanced schedule with no interleague play.

  6. Whatever happens, please let the Astros and the Pirates play each other more often (I live in Houston and miss going to see my Buccos here). HATE they were forced to go to the AL

  7. MLB would be insane to expand right now – for financial reasons and for the fact that talent is already spread too thin as it is. I do agree that some realignments could improve fan interest by taking advantage of city rivalries.

    For the Pirates, they should be in a division that includes Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Cincinnati. That would be a very interesting division.

    • Not that anyone has asked but hereโ€™s my plan to settle the DH war. Replace DH with limited free substitution and expand it to both leagues.

      Three times in a game, you can replace a player who has been removed from the game. If you want to go the traditional DH route, pinch hit for the pitcher and send him back in. If the pitcher comes up in a non-leverage situation, let him hit.

      On the other hand, you could use a lefty specialist to get out of a jam in the fourth inning and go back to the starter in the fifth. You could replace a slow-footed slugger with a base steeling specialist and then bring him back.

      You can minimize dead ABs while keeping managerial strategy.

      • I really like this idea, William. You have my vote for commissioner. ๐Ÿ™‚ Ideas to refine yours: a player can only sub once per game and can only appear in a single half-inning or he is considered a replacement.

  8. Adding two additional teams reduces the pirates and all other teams chances of winning a championship. Do the math you have a one out of 32 chance to win, instead of a one out of 30 chance to win. Expansion is all about the owners getting a pay day and the players getting more jobs and money. Expansion does nothing for the current fan.

    • That’s not the way to do the math.

      Currently there are 10 playoff teams out of 30 teams. That’s a 33% chance of making the playoffs.

      In my idea above, there would be 12 in 32, or a 37.5% chance. So your odds of making the playoffs slightly increase.

      There would then be better opportunities in the playoffs, like a three game series in the Wild Card round, and more opportunities to win a division.

      • Thanks but you still have to complete against two additional teams regardless of whether there is a higher percentage of making it info the playoffs or not. Adding more teams mathematically reduces one’s chance to win. I bet you are a great card player and gambler.

  9. I don’t like small divisions because it increases the likelihood of mediocre teams making the postseason. If they expand, two 8-team divisions within each league would be ideal. The “original” AL and NL had eight teams each, so there’s a nice connection to tradition there.

    I’d do away with wildcards, but that won’t happen so instead I’d go with a best-of-three WC series in the city of the team with the better record. The series could be played over two days with a day/night DH scheduled on one of the days.

    • If they did big divisions, I would hope they would also get rid of the idea that winning a division is the most significant thing. They should just have the playoffs by record. Number one record gets the first seed. Number two gets second, regardless of division.

      • This doesn’t make sense to me. The larger the division, the more a team should be rewarded for winning it, no? If a team beats out 7 other teams, wouldn’t they be more deserving of a bye than a team that has only beaten out 3 other teams?

        • To follow up, the Pirates would have won your 4-team division (assuming a bad expansion Expos team). The Angels would have won their division. Neither team was deserving of a playoff spot (though perhaps if the Pirates had a bunch of games against the Phillies, Mets, and Expos, they would have appeared deserving).

          Things like this would be very unlikely to happen with 8-team divisions.

          • I’m thinking of situations like 1990, for example.

            https://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/1990-standings.shtml

            Oakland wins the AL West with 103 wins. White Sox miss the playoffs with 94 wins. Red Sox win the East with 86 wins.

            In the NL East, Pirates win with 95, and Mets miss with 91. Reds win the NL West with 91.

            And if we’re just looking at four divisions, and no leagues, then it makes things worse. The standings would be:

            1. Oakland*
            2. Pittsburgh*
            3. White Sox
            4t. Reds*
            4t. Mets
            6. Red Sox*
            7t. Dodgers
            7t. Blue Jays
            9t. Giants
            9t. Expos

            Those are seven team divisions, so if you’re looking at it as one big league, two of the top five teams get relegated to the Wild Card.

            I think you have these situations no matter how big the divisions are.

  10. Tim, can you please set up an ootp roster with what you think are accurate ratings for the Pirates and the farm system? That would be amazing.

    • I don’t think I’ve ever done a full roster. But some stuff drives me nuts.

      I just started a new game, and Mitch Keller has 40 potential. Prospects with higher potential: Elvis Escobar, Mitchell Tolman, Cole Tucker, Kevin Kramer, Clay Holmes, Jordan Luplow, Kevin Krause, Kevin Newman, Ke’Bryan Hayes, and the only one above a 50 potential grade: Will Craig! (Don’t tell anyone in the comments).

    • i kinda like the idea of watering it down. Gives smart teams a chance to get creative with the periphery of their rosters. The smart teams will profit off of expansions and dumb ones won’t.

  11. Is there any likelihood that expansion is actually going to happen? That seems like a long-term proposition at best. On the other hand, Philadelphia and the Muts (sp?) would be a real rival as opposed to Detroit or Cleveland or more mid-west teams like the Cubs and Cards.

    • So would you be happy if two of the divisions were:

      National: Pirates, Phillies, Cards, Cubs, Reds, Braves, Dodgers, Giants
      American: Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Orioles (Browns), Twins (Senators), A’s.

      ?

      • Funny, but this is what I’d do:
        NL East–MTL, NYM, PHI, PIT
        DC, ATL, MIA, TB

        NL West–CHI, CIN, STL, MIL
        LAD, SD, SFG, COL (or AZ)

        AL East–NYY, BOS, BAL, TOR
        CLE, DET, SOX, MIN

        AL West–LAA, SEA, PTL, OAK
        HOU, TEX, KCR, AZ (or COL)

        So you’d have either two eight team divisions or four four-teams in each league. You would need two teams to change leagues. I think Tampa might benefit playing their Florida rival and might go for it.

  12. What about having divisions based on revenue rather than geography? Has anyone ever explored such an idea?
    This would be an attempt to create through divisional brackets some parity, so that teams with similar incomes are competing for playoff spots, given the seeming impossible politics of moving toward the revenue share/salary cap approach as used by the NFL.
    As a fan I could care less about travel – if its THAT hard, expand the rosters by a spot or two to allow more depth and ability for teams to rest players.

    • that’s actually a pretty interesting idea. i’m sure there’s some logical argument against it, but i like it.

    • I’ve had that thought and tried to float it on another site some years ago. The response was not encouraging, but I still think it addresses the fundamental problem with Baseball which is the mismatch of revenues and resources between big market and small market teams. I’d also suggest that Baseball adopt the system (there’s a name for it, which I forget) which requires a significant cash payment to the team that discovers and develops the star player. As things stand now only the free agent and his agent enjoy the payoff. The Club which developed him gets a bonus pick, maybe, which may pay off in four or five years, but rarely provides replacement value for the departed (just my opinion).

    • Your suggestion will never happen. MLB does not want the small revenue / small market teams in the playoffs because they bring a smaller audience for all the commercials. That is also why small market teams aren’t shown very often nationally on TV during the regular season.

      • I already thought about what you bring up.

        but my counterargument in my head is that the big market teams will play each other in the regular season all the damn time. That’d probably be more profitable than a handful of playoff games.

  13. Moving The Pirates out of a Division they haven’t been able to win for the past 25 years, and into a Division they might have a chance to win every so often (especially since one of the opponents doesn’t exist) can only be a good thing ; )

  14. A team in Montreal did not work in the past,
    and I do not think it would work in the future.
    I went to a couple of games in a couple of
    different years. Attendance was just a
    few friends and family members of the team.
    (I think the largest crowd for a game I attended
    was 1700 and the other two were less than 1000.
    Nice baseball. Sit anywhere you want.
    Crowds in Canada just view the game differently.
    Very quiet and polite.

    • The problem with the “Canada doesn’t support baseball” argument is that we have proof they do. Toronto has averaged over 2 million in attendance in each of the last five years, and two of those years were losing seasons. They made the playoffs and got over 3 million fans a year in the following seasons, even during a 76 loss season.

      Toronto supports their team more than Pittsburgh and a lot of other smaller markets.

      I think the issue with Montreal was more Loria.

      • As a former Expos fan, couldn’t agree more. The fan base is there, it just was so alienated by management. Oh, and you could save the expansion talk and just move Oakland to Portland and the Rays to Montreal, and re-align from there.

          • The Trop is in a terrible location, maybe the worst location in baseball…Combined with a dated stadium that was originally designed for arena league football.

            • Yeah, I can see the strategy behind it. They wanted it in a location to get people from St. Pete, people from Tampa, and people from the south areas of Bradenton and Sarasota.

              The problem is that anyone going to St. Pete has to take a bridge with a ton of traffic. The south has to take the skyway. Tampa has to take the Howard Franklin. And no one here really likes to drive more than five minutes from their home area anyway, killing the idea of having a centralized stadium that everyone will travel to.

              Meanwhile, the Lightning are in downtown Tampa, and sell out all the time. That’s because it’s easy to get there for most people in Tampa, easier to drive up 75 than go through St. Pete for us in Bradenton/Sarasota, and the St. Pete people are the only ones who need to take a busy bridge, which isn’t as bad that direction in the evening.

              They’re talking about putting the next stadium in that location, near where the Lightning play. I think that would be good. Also, I would then just go to Angry Chair or Coppertail after a Rays game, instead of going to Cycle.

      • Oh, I never said Canada does not support baseball.
        I find the stadium in Toronto to be a real fun place
        to watch baseball. I would recommend it to anyone
        wanting to see a game. Toronto is also one of the
        largest metro areas in all of North America.

        • Montreal would support baseball more if they switched cleats with skates, replaced the dirt with ice, and allowed full body checking when sliding into second and home. JK

    • I went to a couple of games in Montreal as well in the last few years. Only had about 7000 fans at one game and maybe 3000 at another, The game with 7000 fans was only because they were playing the Yankees and there was about 3000 Yankee fans in the place.

      That being said I do not necessarily think they could not support a team. In the 80s they got pretty good attendance and supported the team pretty well. It was just in the late 90s and 2000s when they started to fall off in attendance. Toronto is a little different though. The population around Toronto is almost twice what it is around Montreal, and there is a lot of money in Toronto. Someone would really have to analyze the demographics and economics of it.

      On another note, I have been playing OOTP for years. Most realistic baseball game on the market. I agree, I sometimes disagree with the ratings, but when I do I just change them.

    • I strongly disagree with that. I was on Montreal this past summer and that city is thirsty for MLB. There are plans to build a downtown park and if youโ€™ve never been to Montreal I can tell you it is between them and Nashville for the best cities in North America. It is a thriving metropolis and I believe it would work. Cities that lose teams tend to value them much more the 2nd go around. Look at Winnipeg with the Jets

      • Oh, I agree that Nashville is an awesome city and
        Montreal is a nice place to visit as well. Some
        amazing churches.

      • Nashville is the best city in USA?!!!

        Bless your heart.

        Seriously, I’m curious what criteria you consider when making this claim?

      • Nashville may very well be among the best in America for a certain niche of people…but overall? For everyone? mehhh

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