Bad AL Pitchers Dominating the NL: What All Sports Can Do About Lopsidedness

September 3, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

Last night Brad Penny pitched eight scoreless innings in his first appearance back in the National League this season.  This from a pitcher who had not sniffed the seventh inning once in his 24 starts in the American League.  This also from the pitcher, who in his final five starts in the AL, gave up 27 runs in 26.2 innings pitched, for a 9.27 ERA.

Against American League teams this year, Penny has a 5.95 ERA; versus the NL (including interleague games), his ERA is 2.23. 

Penny’s performance in the National League is just another reminder of the dominance of the AL as compared to the NL.  This isn’t exactly breaking news for anyone, I hope.  You have to go back to 2003 to find a season where the NL had a winning record in interleague play. And does anyone even remember when the NL last won an All-Star game?  Maybe somebody should let them know “this time it counts.”

Yes, there are some good teams and good players in the NL, but the two leagues, top to bottom, don’t even compare.

Which, after that long introduction, brings me to my point.  Maybe it is time we eliminated all leagues and division within sports.  Get rid of them all.  All the teams in one league are vying for one thing—the championship at the end of the year.

Not just in baseball, but in all sports.  The goal should be to have the top teams and the best matchups in the postseason.

This isn’t about a preference for one team, or one division or one league.  And I completely acknowledge that the balance in any sport can swing very quickly, and over time, these things very well might balance out.  No, this is about simply wanting to see the truly best teams, and only those teams, competing in the postsseason, and as a result, hopefully the legitimate top two teams battling in the championship game or series.

Why do we as fans have to sit through hyped-up championships that far too often have become nothing but letdowns from the earlier rounds?  Why do we have to see finals where we debate and wonder if the team that won did so only because they had the significantly easier path to the title game.

I can hear it already—tradition, tradition, tradition.  You know what, I don’t care.

Some might also point to travel as another consideration – but that isn’t really relevant.  The AL and the NL span coast to coast, and same for the AFC and the NFC.  Maybe a completely balanced schedule for the regular season could create a problem, but with the ease of travel for professional teams, citing travel as a reason not to do this is not a valid reason, but simply a copout.

The ultimate prize in any sport is the championship, so shouldn’t the goal be to have the two best teams meet for the championship? And to reach that point, shouldn’t we have the top eight or 16 teams making the playoffs to begin with, and not get stuck with a team that really isn’t any good but just gets to compete all year against a lot of other teams that aren’t any better.

Looking at basketball, how many years straight now has the Western Conference clearly been superior to the East? The Miami Heat won the 2006 title, but a strong case could be made that the league’s top three teams that year all competed in the West (Phoenix, San Antonio and Dallas).

Does anyone really get excited about who wins a division in a sport anymore?  Do the players even care?  What matters is making the playoffs, getting a bye if there is one to be had, securing home-field advantage, and most of all, winning a championship. Ever hear a player talk about the great season he had where he led his team to the Atlantic Division Crown in the NBA?  Oh yeah, they lost in the first round of the playoffs, but that team that won the Atlantic sure was something special.  

Maybe years and years ago, those types of things mattered.  But that was years and years ago—what else did they have to get excited for.  We have much more to occupy our time now, and we really only care about the bottom line—winning championships. 

I guess in baseball the players do still pour champagne over themselves when they clinch the division.  But is that true excitement about winning the division, or is it just a release at the end of a marathon season when they know they will be one of just eight competing for the World Series?  The wild card winners pour the same champagne, remember.   

What would sports really lose if the format switched to one big league, everyone competing against everyone else for playoff spots. There would be a few teams cut out from the playoff hunt, but really not that many.  You would have nearly as many fights for seeding and home-field.

For example, if baseball this season was just one giant league, with teams competing for eight playoff spots, the seedings would look like this:

  1. Yankees
  2. Angels 6.5 GB
  3. Cardinals 6.5 GB
  4. Dodgers 6.5 GB
  5. Red Sox 7.5 GB
  6. Phillies 7.5 GB
  7. Rangers 10 GB
  8. Rockies 11 GB

That would create some interesting races over the final month for home-field advantage and seeding.  Six other teams are also all within five games of the final spot.  There still would be excitement down the stretch, just as there is now.

It should be noted that those eight teams above are the same teams that would reach the playoffs under the current format.  That wouldn’t be the case every year, and it also might not be the case if we eliminated the leagues, forcing teams to play a more balanced schedule. 

But even this year, the top two teams by record are the Yankees and Angels, but they have no chance of playing for the World Series.  If they are the two best teams, let’s give them a chance to prove it in a fair playing field in the postseason and then truly give baseball a Word Series featuring the game’s top two teams.

Or how about a potential Red Sox-Dodgers first round matchup with the winner likely taking on the Yankees.  More than a few storylines there.

I know many fans are probably sick of both teams, but don’t you think the powers that be in MLB would drool over the chance for a Red Sox-Yankees World Series one of these years?  Under my suggestion, it could happen.

Think about the buzz around the first sport to try something like this.  Wouldn’t that alone make it worth it?  Someone out there, take a chance and try something new.

And while no system can guarantee that the two top teams make it to the finals in any sport, this way at least you don’t end up in a championship series with one team that just does not belong.  Think back just a few years in the NFL to the Colts-Bears Super Bowl.  Was that really the best match-up in the league that season?  No, it was Patriots-Colts, which took place the round before, and the Super Bowl was just a letdown.  Pats-Colts for the AFC title was an amazing game that year.

The NFL seems to like marketing—think they could have done something with a Brady-Manning, Belichick-Dungy Super Bowl? Instead, the two top teams played in a game that wasn’t the sport’s marquee event.

No more seasons like the NBA seems to have every year where Western Conference teams see teams from the East with worse—and sometimes below .500 records—make the playoffs, while they start their vacations early. Or last year, in the NFL, where not only did an 11-win Patriots team not make the playoffs, but even worse, a 12-win Colts team had to travel to an 8-8 San Diego team in the opening round all because of this stubborn reliance on divisions.

It’s 2009.  Sports have been around for a long time.  Tradition is fine for some things, but when we are talking about competition, and what might be the best way to produce real results in the playoffs, maybe it is time we think about changing some things up.

I guess there is a third option – have some convoluted computer system at the end of each season just determine who the top two teams are and let them play for the championship.  On second thought.

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  1. andre on July 27th, 2014 4:17 am



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