Sunday, December 26, 2004


Ok, I was wanting to run this idea up the flagpole to see if it sticks. (I apologize, I couldn't come up with the exact quote - but I still remember William Peterson saying something like it in that jury room.) We've heard all the talk about the differences and inequities between teams that spend a lot and those who don't. Obviously, the players don't want a salary cap. Obviously, the owners don't want to share revenue. The monetary structure won't be changed due to the power on both sides. So, if we want to make things better between teams that spend a lot and those who don't, we would have to change something else. I say we change the divisions.

This idea came about because of the distance I saw between the spending of the Yankees and Red Sox (57 million) and then the difference between the Red Sox and the Angels (27 million) where most of the rest of the teams were on a more even distribution with only a maximum of 7 million dollars separating one team from the next. I thought, well, if these two long rivals are that far above everyone, let's give them their own division. Winner takes all. The rest of the AL playoff teams come from the remaining three divisions. Kind of puts a damper on the spending.

But, then I thought that would obviously be unfair to both the Yankees and Red Sox (no cheering from the peanut gallery) so, what about divisions based on salary? Two divisions in each league. Seven teams in each in the AL, 8 in each in the NL. Instead of a wild card, you give it to the top two teams in each division. The top division in each league would contain the 7 (or 8) largest payrolls as of March 25th of the year of the season. The lower division would then contain the remaining teams with lower payrolls.

There would be two consequences with going with March 25th. One, it is so close to the start of the season, schedules couldn't be altered. So, we'd have to go to a balanced schedule - playing every team the same number of times. This would obviously take away some of the great rivalry games. Two, to keep the balance, we would have to get rid of interleague play. (I love saying that.) If you are going to keep things balanced, you can't have schedule makers putting in interleague games where you don't play everyone so that one NL team plays the Yankees and Red Sox and another in the same NL division just plays the Royals and the Devil Rays.

The great thing about March 25th is that it gives every team time to jockey for division placement before the start of the season. Once the 25th hits, you can't change divisions. Now, for some fun economic incentives. Once the divisions are set, if any team falls below the lowest payroll in a division as of March 25th, they pay the difference at the end of the season to anyone in their division. (Is this a salary floor? You betcha.) So, in 2004 if an NL team in the lower division fell below the Brewers $27,528,500 to $26,528,500 - they would have to pay each team in their division $1 million - bringing their payroll back up to $33,528,500. On the converse side, if any team goes above the highest payroll in their division as of March 25th, they have to pay each team in their division the same amount of the overage - serving as a kind of luxury tax cap.

Well, I'm tired of talking in hypotheticals, let's look at what the divisions would have been in 2004. (I don't have salaries as of March 25th - so I am just going to use the same link numbers to craft divisions.)

AL Top Division
New York Yankees - $184 million
Boston Red Sox - $127 million
Anaheim Angels - $101 million
Seattle Mariners - $81 million
Chicago White Sox - $65 million
Oakland Athletics - $59 million
Texas Rangers - $55 million

Salary floor - $55 million; salary ceiling $184 million

AL Second Division
Minnesota Twins - $54 million
Baltimore Orioles - $52 million
Toronto Blue Jays - $50 million
Kansas City Royals - $48 million
Detroit Tigers - $47 million
Cleveland Indians - $34 million
Tampa Bay Devil Rays - $30 million

Salary floor - $30 million; salary ceiling $54 million

(Some of you might be wondering about the salary ceiling in the second division - that is to keep teams from dropping artificially low and then outspending their division to win it - assuming money has a good correlation with winning.)

NL Top Division
New York Mets - $97 million
Philadelphia Phillies - $93 million
Los Angeles Dodgers - $93 million
Chicago Cubs - $91 million
Atlanta Braves - $90 million
St. Louis Cardinals - $83 million
San Francisco Giants - $82 million
Houston Astros - $75 million

Salary floor - $75 million; salary ceiling $97 million

NL Second Division
Arizona Diamondbacks - $70 million
Colorado Rockies - $65 million
San Diego Padres - $55 million
Cincinnati Reds - $47 million
Florida Marlins - $42 million
Montreal Expos - $41 million
Pittsburgh Pirates - $32 million
Milwaukee Brewers - $28 million

Salary floor - $28 million; salary ceiling $70 million

So, if we assume there were balanced schedules last year, here is how the divisions would have looked if we use last years standings.

AL Top Division W-L
New York Yankees - 101 - 61
Boston Red Sox - 98-64
Anaheim Angels - 92-70
Oakland Athletics - 91-71
Texas Rangers - 89-73
Chicago White Sox - 83-79
Seattle Mariners - 63-99

AL Second Division
Minnesota Twins - 92-70
Cleveland Indians - 80-82
Baltimore Orioles - 78-84
Detroit Tigers - 72-90
Tampa Bay Devil Rays - 70-91
Toronto Blue Jays - 67-94
Kansas City Royals - 58-104

NL Top Division
St. Louis Cardinals - 105-57
Atlanta Braves - 96-66
Los Angeles Dodgers - 93-69
Houston Astros - 92-70
San Francisco Giants - 91-71
Chicago Cubs - 89-73
Philadelphia Phillies - 86-76
New York Mets - 71-91

NL Second Division
San Diego Padres - 87-75
Florida Marlins - 83-79
Cincinnati Reds - 76-86
Pittsburgh Pirates - 72-89
Colorado Rockies - 68-94
Milwaukee Brewers - 67-94
Montreal Expos - 67-95
Arizona Diamondbacks - 51-111

The AL races would not have been as good - Anaheim would have been eliminated from the playoffs, replaced by Cleveland. But, the season could have been different with the different schedules and divisions - this is just an approximation. All the NL playoff teams would have been in one division - and that division would have been fun to watch. St. Louis and Atlanta would have made it, with San Diego and Florida rounding out the four. But, if you keep the wild card, the AL is the same and the NL replaces Houston with the Padres. Great races are still there, and a small-salary team gets an automatic bid. It's not two bids, but it might be a better solution.

It could be interesting to see - but, the sad thing is that there are only three teams above .500 in the second divisions. I would wonder if it is really a money thing - or more of a management thing that keeps those teams from developing talent they eventually have to pay or are willing to pay. The teams may be permanently bad and not just suffering from the oppression of the high spending teams.


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