Larry Lucchino went on the radio in Boston, and of course it's the David Ortiz stuff that everybody's talking about. But this is the part that got me thinking:
If Larry Lucchino were commissioner for a day, what would be the one or two things you’d like to fix?
One of them would certainly be an easy one for me and that’s realignment and the schedule. The structure of the league -- 16 [National League teams] and 14 [American League teams], some divisions with four, some divisions with five, some divisions with six. The length of the season, the grind of the season is enhanced because of the structural irregularities. The travel schedule is awful.
I think one of the things I would focus on would be coming up with a more orderly and predictable schedule that has more congruence, where the teams are essentially playing the same teams. That’s what baseball used to be when it was eight teams in each league and 154 games. You play 22 games against all seven teams in your league, and there was a nice, natural fairness inherent in that. We don’t have that now.
Lucchino's right. It's a mess, now. Of course there should be the same number of teams in each league ... But of course, how do you do that? With 30 teams, you have two 15-team leagues and that essentially means interleague games each day ... Which wouldn't be as terrible as Bud Selig thinks ... but would make hash of Lucchino's preference (and mine) that every team plays the same schedule.
Essentially, there's just one way to ensure (almost) complete fairness:
1. 14 (or 16) teams in each league,
2. No divisions,
3. No interleague play, and
4. Every team in a league plays the same schedule.
Do you think any of those things are going to happen?
I eat a lot of meals with the guy who invented shredded bubble gum, and the ideas are always popping. His plan (as I understand it) would mean shifting one National League team to the American League, giving each league 15 teams (and thus necessitating interleague games throughout the season). No more divisions. Everybody plays the same schedule. And the five teams with the best records make the playoffs, with Nos. 4 and 5 playing a quick series (or just one game) before the league semifinals.
This makes sense to me. Like Rob Nelson, I'm attracted to the elegance of league standings, divided into thirds. And I have to think you'd have just as much second-half interest as now, with any number of teams fighting for that fifth playoff spot well into September.
Would that second-half interest make up for the revenues lost with fewer games against geographic rivals? (Fewer Dodgers-Giants games, Yankees-Red Sox games, etc.) I don't know. But as I've written before (with tip of the cap to Bill James), these are not simply theoretical questions. They're empirical questions, with answers available to anyone at Major League Baseball who really cares enough to find them.
Or they could just keep guessing. Sometimes that works, too.