Friday, November 18, 2011

Change is a Constant

Benjamin Franklin once said (something to the effect of), "Nothing is certain except death and taxes." I know this, not only because I just looked it up online (because I wasn't sure if it was Mark Twain or Franklin that said this…this is a dig on somebody from years past…let's see if he's reading this), but because if anyone remembers those typing drills when first learning how to type, this was one of the lines I had to repeat over and over again (or something to that effect).

But the one thing that was also mentioned in that typing drill was something that Mr. Franklin didn't consider:


There is no greater constant in this world than change. Whether it is controlled or not, whether it is wanted or not, whether if it necessary or not, whether you like it or not, change happens. You are not the same person you were yesterday. Heck, you aren't the same person you were two hours ago. I'm not talking grand changes, but even the littlest things can change your life every second of the day. Everything you do causes change. Everything that is done is due to change.

People change. Blogs change. Heck, this taco stand of a blog was supposed to be solely about Topps Baseball Cards. It still is. But there is now a bit more of a focus on new products, commentary, opinions, and other things that I never intended when this blog first started. Heck, there may be more things that will come soon to this humble little blog that will change how this blog is perceived (no, it doesn't involve an increased presence of those other company's cards).

And such is life for baseball card collectors. Think about it. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, changes were occurring in the Hobby of ephemera, specifically, in sports card collecting. Those who have studied the history already know this. Changes happened in 1951, 1956, 1963, the late 70's, 1981, 1989 through the 1990's, 1997, 2006 and 2010, and every point in-between.

Change. It was hard to accept then, but now it's the norm. Until change happens again.

It is this change that is affecting our baseball landscape in these next few years. First, the Florida Marlins are no more. They are now the Miami Marlins. Then the Houston Astros, a NL team since 1962, a team celebrating 50 years in the National League in 2012, will become an American League team in 2013. Because of this, there will be two leagues with fifteen teams each. Each league will consist of three divisions with five teams a piece. Interleague play will become a daily occurrence now only because of the uneven number of teams in each league. And then there will be an extra playoff game, maybe starting in 2012, for sure in 2013, that will require the need for an extra wild card team. This means that the drama that we saw this past season would be moot because all four teams involved in it (including the ousted Braves and Red Sox) would have had to play a play-IN game just to get to the postseason.

Now, people have problems with change. Is it because of the number of changes, or the changes in general that is causing people to gather the torches and pitchforks? Have we all forgotten the uproar in the mid 90's when they changed the number of divisions (from 2 to 3), requiring the need of a wild card team in the first place? How about it in the 60's when they decided to split the leagues into divisions and then have a playoff series between division winners instead of just the first place teams in either league getting to the WS. I'm pretty sure that if they kept that format, the Cubs would have made it to the World Series somehow. And how about it when MLB consolidated the two SEPARATE LEAGUES into one huge conglomerate, meaning that offices were closed and umpiring crews were no longer league-exclusive? Okay, back to the point.

This is a necessary change. It was something that Paul White of the then Baseball Weekly said needed to be done. And I agreed with it then as I do now. It really wasn't working when one division has four teams and another has six while everybody else was content with five teams. The fact that it took this long to figure it out is just outright insane. But it will be done. FINALLY.

Now I think the next thing that needs to be discussed is how to schedule a 162 game season with six five-team divisions. USA Today proposed a schedule that would require every team to "play 16 games against each of its division rivals, eight games against each of the other 10 teams in its league, three games against each of the teams from a division in the opposite league, plus three games against a natural Interleague rival." (Compliments of an article "Astros move means year-round Interleague Play") The benefit of this scenario is that, besides three games, all of the teams in a division would play the same schedules." The only thing I don't like about this is that it means that instead of three game series, you have four game series with every other team in the league. Who determines where the rivalry game is played? How would this be even executed?

Another suggestion "would be to eliminate the unbalanced schedule and go to 10 games against each of the other 14 teams in your league (144 games), plus 18 Interleague games." (Again, this quote is from the article). While I actually like this idea (hey, it means we see more of everybody), it kind of kills the idea of how important the division rivalries are. Sure it would be nice to see for the Cubs to see the Mets more often, but it would also mean more games out in the west coast for everybody (and we know how people in the east like to stay up late to watch ballgames…how did those Fan Cave guys do it if they were based in NY???).

The Los Angeles Times set up a scenario suggesting that the schedule be set up so that "teams are expected to play 72 games -- 18 each -- against division opponents, 60 against teams in their league's other two divisions and 30 Interleague games." Do we really need THAT MANY INTERLEAGUE GAMES??! While I like the approach regarding playing teams within their league, I don't think I like the idea 30 interleague games unless you do a home and home with one exclusive division WITHOUT A RIVALRY SERIES.

I know that other baseball card bloggers have their ideas and wrote about them earlier in the week. I spent time thinking about this as well and came up with my own schedule formula. It takes some aspects of the NFL schedule formula and still keeps the importance of division games and provides a couple of interleague proposals (one with and WITHOUT the need of an interleague rival).

First, each team would play 162 games, same as always. No sense in reducing the number of games (I don't think the owners would like the idea). Each team would play eighteen games against each team in their division (just like the LA Times set up). That's nine home and nine away games. That's the easy part. From here, it gets a bit crazy. Each team will also play every team in the other two divisions six times (three home and three away…60 games). BUT!!! Depending on the finish of each team within their division, they will play the team with the same finish from the other divisions. If we go with the finish of the 2011 season, this would mean that the while the Cubs would play every team six times, as the fifth place team, they would also play Miami and San Diego an extra six games (meaning that the Cubs would have two series home and away with both Miami and San Diego while playing every other team at least once). This is similar to the NFL scheduling formula that requires a first place team from one division to play the first place team in the two other divisions outside of the full division they play during the season. That's 72 games total. Adding the 72 games played within the division, we're at 144 games. That leaves us with 18 games for interleague play; the ideal number of games for each team to play during the year. With 2,430 games during the course of a MLB season, only 270 of them will be interleague.

Now depending on if you like the "rivalry series" or not, I propose two different solutions to the interleague scheduling formula. Starting with the non rivalry series, the teams from one division would only play games with the teams from only one division (just like the NFL) and rotate so that every three years, every team would have played against all fifteen teams from the other league. For example, one year the Cubs would play against all five teams in the AL Central, next year all five teams from the AL East, the following year, all five teams from the AL West, and then repeat. There would be a formula based on where each team finishes that would determine where the games are to be played. (for example, as the fifth place team in the NL, the Cubs would visit the second and fourth place teams from the other Central division (the Indians and the Royals) and play host to the first and third place teams (the Tigers and White Sox) if we were following last year's standings. So what about the fifth place Twins? As the fifth place team in that division, the Cubs and Twins would play each other home and away. This would be in effect, the "rivalry" series.

For a quick summary (if you got tired of reading the above), it would mean that in this scenario (based on 2011 MLB standings) that the Cubs:

  • would play eighteen games each (nine home, nine away) with division rivals Brewers, Cardinals, Reds, and Pirates (72 games total),
  • would play twelve games each (six home, six away) with fellow fifth-place finishers Marlins and Padres (24),
  • would play six games (three home, three away) each with interdivision teams Phillies, Braves, Nationals, Mets, Diamondbacks, Giants, Dodgers, and Rockies (48),
  • would play three games each as host to the Twins, Tigers and the White Sox, and as visitors to the Twins, Indians and Royals for Interleague Play (18).
If there has to be a rivalry home-and-home series (like the Cubs and White Sox) that has to be played EVERY year, the formula would have to change from division to division (as the Cubs were fifth in their division and the Sox in third, slots would have to be adjusted for everything to fit…and it does as long as the rivals are from the same division – central to central, east to east, west to west). So the only change to the above schedule would be that the Cubs:
  • would play three games each as host to the White Sox, Tigers and the Twins, and as visitors to the White Sox, Indians and Royals for Interleague Play (18).
Now what if the teams in the Central division play teams from the East or West? Well, the above formula without rivals would work just fine. Based on last year's standings, the Cubs would play a home-and-home series with either the Astros (AL West…hey they finished sixth, they're the fifth place team in this scenario) or Orioles, and then play the rest of the teams from the divisions. But if there was a need for a home-and-home "rivalry" series (with the White Sox), then the Cubs would just play four of the five teams from the other division based on those teams respective finishes (they might not play the fourth place team for example, but play host to the first and fifth place teams and visit the second and third place team).

For a quick summary, if the Cubs and the rest of their NL Central mates were to play the AL East, their schedule would remain the same except the Cubs:

  • would play three games each as host to the White Sox, Yankees and the Orioles, and as visitors to the White Sox, Rays and Red Sox for Interleague Play (18).
The advantages of the schedule above include extra games with SPECIFIC teams from other divisions (in this case, the teams who finished in the same place in their division). There is still the feeling that playing teams within your division is important (72 games goes far in determining where a team is in the standings) and still get to visit every other team in your league at least once (and play host to them too).

It's all about change. If we don't accept it, we will be left behind. Not only within Major League Baseball, but in every other aspect of our lives change is important. Think about it, the names of the players in the game change, the rules change, the records change, the numbers change. The only things that don't seem to change are the basic rules of the GAME (one person throws ball, other person tries to hit it with bat, to determine an out or hit, run home). The people in our lives change. People will always be resistant, but eventually come to accept it.

Change. The game needed it. It will eventually be better. We just need to give it time.


JayBee Anama

No comments: