Column: A perfect Major League Baseball

By Wesley Mayberry

In a perfect world, the MLB that Americans know and love would fail to exist. That is because, in a perfect world, there would be a salary cap, additional playoff teams, manager challenges, and two leagues, aligned by location, that both use a designated hitter.

The institution of a salary cap results in increased parity. The existence of a salary cap has worked quite well in both the NBA and NFL in regard to competitive play and limiting true domination by a few elite franchises. With no salary cap, the MLB has seen its share of teams that do well every season, usually the large-market teams that have scads of money to spend on talent. The Philadelphia Phillies have been in the World Series the past two years in part because they are the biggest spenders in the NL. The biggest spenders in the AL, the New York Yankees, have won 27 championships. A team’s success should never depend on the amount of money they can spend, as this makes a game too predictable. In a perfect world, the MLB would have a salary cap.

Not enough teams get rewarded with a postseason berth after playing well during the regular season. In the current setup of the MLB playoffs, only four teams in each league can earn a postseason spot: the winner of each of the three divisions and a wild card team. Over the years, this has clearly proven to be an inaccurate way of determining a champion. A rule change should be particularly evident this season with so many tight division races so close to the start of the playoffs. The largest division lead is currently held by the Texas Rangers, who lead the AL West by eight games, but no other division lead is larger than six games. It looks as if several deserving teams will be left out of the postseason this year including the Red Sox, White Sox, Cardinals, and Giants. None of the aforementioned teams holds a division lead, but they all have very respectable records and could be a tough out in the postseason. The very least Commissioner Selig could do is to add one additional wild-card spot to each league and award the team with the best record within each league a first-round bye. In a perfect world, this would already be happening.

Allowing managers one challenge per game would ensure less blown calls. Jim Joyce’s erroneous call that cost the Tiger’s Armando Galarraga a perfect game this spring was one of the worst calls by an umpire in recent memory. The MLB should expand their use of instant replay anyway, but allowing each team’s manager one challenge per game should help fix umpire error. With only one challenge to burn, it would ensure that the managers would use them in important situations, much like NFL coaches do. Some calls will be missed; that’s just the nature of the game. However, the ones that get noticed and scrutinized are the big, important ones. That’s why, in a perfect world, each team’s manager would receive one challenge per contest.

Both the American League and the National League need to be equal in their rules. In no other major sport does there exist two leagues that play by different rules. In order to make everything equal, NL teams would need to institute a designated hitter into their everyday lineups. With this change, the rules could stay the same no matter what the venue is. The games would, in all likelihood, be more exciting and more runs would be scored. The NL has been the inferior league for quite some time, and this is likely due, at least in part, to their rejection of the use of a DH. In a perfect world, the NL would adopt the use a DH.

Leagues should be organized by location with appropriate division names. Many sports fans and media members have recently suggested a total realignment of MLB teams. This idea is enforced by the fact that, under the current rules, it is impossible for three teams in one division to qualify for the postseason. The three teams hinted at here are the AL East juggernauts: the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, and Boston Red Sox. These are all quality teams that will finish with 75-90 wins, but one of them will fail to make the postseason. In all likelihood, that team will be the Red Sox, and they would have a valid argument if they happen to finish with a better record than the Rangers or the Twins, who lead the AL West and AL Central, respectively. Another argument to realign the divisions is that it makes much more sense to have teams with similar locations to be in the same division. A better league alignment would look like the following:

AL Atlantic: New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and Washington Nationals.

AL Central: Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, and Milwaukee Brewers.

AL West: Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Seattle Mariners.

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, and Toronto Blue Jays.

NL Southeast: Tampa Bay Rays, Florida Marlins, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals, and St. Louis Cardinals.

NL Pacific: San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Oakland Athletics.

In a perfect world, MLB divisions would look similar to the ones suggested above, and the top five teams from each league would earn a postseason berth whether they win their division or not.

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