Injuries: AL | NL
  Weekly Lineup
  Message Board
  Minor Leagues
  MLB Stat Search


Sport Sections
TODAY: Friday, May 12
Owners postpone realignment vote

It isn't true that Bud Selig has been talking about realignment so long that when he started, there were only 16 teams. But it seems that way sometimes.

And it is going to seem that way for at least two more months -- because after spending most of yet another owners' meeting talking about the latest in designer realignment wear, owners tabled a vote until at least June.

"I'm hopeful we can get this voted on in June, July or August," Selig says. "We've delayed it long enough. But the idea is to get it right rather than get it quicker. Of course, sooner is better. But you have to get it right."

Current realignment plan
NL East
NL Southeast
Devil Rays
NL Central
NL West
AL East
Red Sox
Blue Jays
AL Central
White Sox
AL West

National League
  • 20 games against each division opponent
  • 9 games against each team in "sister" division (NL East-Southeast, NL Central-West)
  • 6 games against all other NL teams
  • 18 interleague games

    AL East and West
  • 18 games against each division opponent
  • 9 games against all other AL teams
  • 18 interleague games

    AL Central
  • 15 or 14 games against each division opponent
  • 9 games apiece against other AL teams
  • 18 interleague games

  • Then again, sooner is all relative in this marathon. But when all the haggling is done (assuming it's ever done), you can bet your Rand McNally Atlas that all this is going to lead right back to Selig's personally annointed plan:

  • Four divisions of four teams each in the National League.

  • Three divisions of 4-6-4 in the American League.

  • Arizona in the AL.

  • Tampa Bay in the NL.

  • No wild card in the NL.

  • No symmetry in the AL.

    But this is baseball. So that doesn't stop everybody from fighting over the details. And according to a variety of sources, Selig's constituents have plenty of suggestions for how to make this round of realignment work -- as long as it doesn't affect them.

    "Everybody wants to have their cake and eat it, too," said one high-ranking baseball source. "But that isn't going to work."

    So what is going to work? How 'bout that plan we laid out three paragraphs ago? But that would be too simple. So here is a look at where this battle stands on a variety of fronts.

    American League
    The grumbling in the AL is centered on two fronts.

    Some clubs in the only six-team division -- the AL Central -- think their division is unfair. They've complained that it's harder to win a six-team division than a four-team division. And they're right.

    But do any of the grumblers want to move from the Central to the AL East? Yeah, sure. They'd rather hire back Richie Phillips.

    Meanwhile, several clubs in the AL Central and AL West are upset about losing dates with glamour teams like the Red Sox and Yankees. None of them, of course, want to be in the same division as the Red Sox or Yankees. But if the Sox and Yankees would like to just drop by and give them money, that would be fine. Not happening.

    So no matter how many times they go round and round on this, the only quasi-workable arrangement, as long as you have a 14-team American League, is the 4-6-4 plan.

    It may be tougher to win a six-team division. But it actually helps those AL Central teams in the wild-card race.

    Why? Because the four AL East teams -- which have a combined payroll this year of $298.2 million -- will have to play so many games against each other (54 a year). So if the other AL clubs really want to fix their schedule problems, they're stuck with this arrangement.

    National League
    In the NL, there is very little griping. But what griping there is takes a whole different form.

    NL teams that have to live in the same division as powerhouses like the Braves -- and have no wild card to bail them out -- are looking for a better idea. But what?

    Two eight-team divisions? Not currently on the drawing board. Adding a wild-card team or two to the playoffs? Selig is opposed.

    Subtracting a team from the NL and going to two leagues of 15 teams each? Very symmetrical. But not workable. It would mean an interleague game every day and a much messier schedule.

    "That one was blown out of the water," says one source. "That's not going to happen."

    Then there is Arizona, a font of unhappiness unto itself. Owner Jerry Colangelo is now claiming his team's revenues would drop by about 40 percent if the club switches leagues, based mostly on what he considers to be a less attractive schedule.

    So Colangelo has made noises about wanting to be compensated for switching -- the way the Browns, Steelers and Colts were when they switched from the NFC to the AFC in 1970 -- even though the Diamondbacks have no veto power over this move (unlike the teams in the AL Central have on a move to the AL East).

    That, in turn, has inspired Devil Rays owner Vince Naimoli to suggest that anything that's done for Arizona ought to be done for Tampa Bay, too.

    Well, it will. They'll both get nothing -- except possibly a bronzed copy of the official voting tabulation.

    The one part of all this that teams do seem to like -- miracle of miracles -- is the new, rotating interleague scheduling plan. Here's how that would work:

    There still would be a portion of the interleague schedule reserved for rivalries. So the Yankees, for instance, would play the Mets every year -- and probably would also play another NL East team (on a rotating basis) every year.

    That would leave three or four interleague series still to play, however and those would be scheduled on an NFL-type rotation.

    How do you match four divisions in one league with three in another? By splitting the six-team AL Central in half. So ultimately, teams would be divided into four groups in each league.

    The National League, with its four divisions, is no problem. In the American League, the AL East would be one group, the AL West a second group. Half of the AL Central (probably Cleveland, Detroit and a third team to be determined) would make up the third grouip. And the other three AL Central teams (most likely Texas, Kansas City and a third team) would comprise a fourth group.

    Then the groups would be lined up and would rotate playing each other every fourth year. So the NL East could play one series against each team in the AL West one year, half the AL Central the second year, the AL East the third year and the rest of the AL Central the fourth year.

    For the most part, there is no significant unhappiness with the interleague piece of this puzzle. But with baseball owners, that's always subject to change.

    Eventually, this will have to get resolved. Matter of fact, the idea is for the entire plan to go into effect next year. So it has to get resolved by mid-summer. And Selig says he's now as confident of that as he has ever been. Except, what will the commish do with all that time he's spent worrying about realignment? Bowling? Game shows? Meeting with Pete Rose?

    Naaah. He'll be planning his next phase of realignment. So don't touch that cursor.

    Jayson Stark is a senior writer at

    Stark: Cal Hall-bound long before 3,000

    Stark: Rumblings and Grumblings

    Stark: Fields of dreams