The MLB has seen some major changes in the way the league is formatted over the past two years. Last season’s addition of the one game Wild Card play-in game marked the first change in playoff structure since the divisional realignment in 1994 which moved the Braves from the NL West to the NL East. The Astros’ switch from the NL Central to the AL West this year is the first change to the divisional rosters since the Devil Rays and Diamondbacks expanded the league in 1998. This means that instead of having just a few designated weeks of interleague play, there will be series’ between the two leagues year-round. A closer look at the way the schedule works can be found here. As with all changes this will take some getting used to, but as far as I’m concerned this is a welcome, if slightly overdue, change that will benefit the teams, league, and fans.
The MLB’s divisions have been unbalanced for years. From 1994-1997 each league had two divisions with five teams and one with four. The past fifteen years have been even stranger because of the six team NL Central and four team AL West. The Astros’ move finally balances the two leagues and all six divisions. Statistically speaking, the uneven divisions made it harder or easier to make the playoffs, respectively. It would be much easier to beat out three other teams to win a division than five other teams. This change technically evens out the Wild Card chances for both leagues as well. As this slideshow from Bleacher Report points out, this is just one step in bringing baseball back to its former glory.
Having year-round interleague play adds variety to the schedule. It allows for matchups that would not usually happen and let fans see some new teams. For example, this chart shows that the Braves have played a combined 75 games against their six American League opponents this year (30 of those games are against the Blue Jays). In comparison they have already played the Diamondbacks 106 times in their 15 years of existance. The Interleague games will generate more interest from fans, which in turn leads to more money for the teams and league as a whole. The MLB made a good choice by adopting a system similar to the NFL’s way of cross-confrence play. Having two divisions play games against teams exclusively in that division removes the issue of teams in the same division having uneven schedules. The only difference between Interleague schedules within divisions will be one 4 game series against a rival team. This is also a great idea because it ensures that at least one Interleague matchup will be interesting.
Time to show the American League the power of the Tomahawk Chop. Are you all excited for year-round Interleague play? Is it a terrible idea? Or do you think it will have little impact?