Guest Author - Joe Mancini
Back in November 2011 I wrote:
"Get ready for realignment! The General Managers’ Meetings in Milwaukee this week were the stage where Commissioner Bud Selig announced that the Houston Astros would move to the American League West in 2013 creating two fifteen-team leagues. We will now have Interleague Play all the time; not everyone is happy about that, but it’s an unavoidable by-product. If you read my series a few months ago detailing an alternate plan for realignment into five six-team divisions, it gives additional force to my argument that the “National League” and “American League” distinctions are obsolete and should be discarded.
What wasn’t announced this week was the fate of the Designated Hitter. As you know, it creates a discontinuity in MLB that would never be tolerated in any of the other major sports. Can you imagine an NFL where the AFC had the two-point conversion and the NFC did not? Ridiculous! It is time for MLB to man up and either dispose of the DH for good (unlikely though highly desirable) or make everyone use it (which seems inevitable).
The realignment announcement was coupled with the announcement of the sale of the Astros to Jim Crane, and he got a discount in his purchase price from $680 million dollars to $615 million for his trouble. On the plus side, the Astros will gain a viable rival in the Texas Rangers, on the downside they will have a minimum of 27 late starts versus AL West members Oakland, Los Angeles and Seattle. That will almost certainly impact their television ratings and their TV-generated revenue. It’s worth noting that in their 50-year tenure in the National League, the Astros really never established any kind of long-term rivalry in the nature of Cubs-Cardinals, Yankees-Red Sox or Dodgers-Giants."
With over a third of the 2013 season in the books, how is it working out? The novelty of inter-league play, which was a feature of late May-early June, now is matter-of-fact, an everyday occurrence and I suspect more of an inconvenience to American League teams who now have to have their pitchers prepared to bat on an on-going basis. MLB did try to put some sparkle into "Rivalry Week", home-and-home two-game sets featuring the "traditional" arrangements, e.g., Yankees-Mets, Dodgers-Angels. With the Astros now in the American League West, their "traiditional" rival, the Rangers, are now a divisional foe, so that marketing ploy was negated.
On the whole I will say let's wait until the pennant races a fully heated. Then, for sure, there will be complaints as aspirants get to beat up on doormats from the other league while their rivals face top-shelf competition.