Baseball needs to consider the Buck Showalter Relocation Plan
Mark Cunningham/Getty Images
By Steve Berthiaume, ESPNSick and tired of Yankees-Red Sox? So am I, and I grew up in Boston going to Fenway Park. Every game is four hours long and they play each other 18 times a season. It's too much. It's way too much. The rivalry has become overblown and watered down. It's exhausting. Let's apply the less-is-more philosophy here. As Duane Thomas once said, "If the Super Bowl is the ultimate game, why are they playing it again next year?" So, yes, 18 regular-season Super Bowls is overkill, and it's taking the fun out of it. There is an answer. The NFL realigned its structure before the 2002 season, reassigning 11 teams within eight new divisions. That's worked out pretty well. The integrity of the MLB schedule could use an overhaul. Think the current schedule is fair or balanced? Go ask the Orioles. Because of the current format's emphasis on divisional play, the Orioles have to play the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays 18 times EACH. That adds up to 54 games against those three teams, meaning Baltimore is forced to play one-third of its schedule against three of the best teams in baseball. That's ridiculous. You think the Brewers or the Astros or any NL Central team faces a divisional schedule even remotely as difficult? The balance is completely out of whack. This isn't just an AL East/Red Sox/Yankees problem, either. Here's the other, perhaps uglier side of baseball's unbalanced schedule. Let's use the NL Central as the example again. Going into last weekend, we on "Baseball Tonight" came across the somewhat depressing reality that Friday night's Reds/Pirates game was the first of 13 more scheduled meetings between two teams that have already combined to lose 140 games. Why, going into the second-to-last weekend of August, would we want a system that has the Reds and Pirates scheduled to play each other 13 MORE times? Ugh. We need to fix this. For that, we need the man with the plan, Buck Showalter. Buck has been kicking around his own realignment plan for a while now, and this weekend we talked him into explaining it on "Baseball Tonight." If you missed it, here's the short version First, contract two teams. Baseball almost did this a few years ago and it might be time to look at it again. We're back to "less is more." Which two teams go is an entirely separate issue, so let's not get bogged down in that argument here. For the purposes of this discussion, we contracted the two Florida teams -- so, Marlins and Rays, you're gone. That leaves 28 teams, which Buck has organized into four, seven-team divisions. There is no more American League and National League. That idea is archaic and goes away as well. Every team plays every other team six times per season -- three at home and three away. There's your 162-game schedule. The idea embraces baseball's current love affair with interleague play; fans see every team, every year. It also gives you a uniform DH policy. You can decide for yourself if you want it or not; DH in or out. Either way is fine, but make a decision, everyone plays with it or no one does. The Showalter Plan realigns as follows, with four divisions of seven teams each, arranged geographically to keep all divisions as much within the same time zone as possible -- another simple, common-sense idea. Gee, how novel. Here it is:
|Buck Showalter Realignment Plan|
|Babe Ruth Division||Jackie Robinson Division||Roberto Clemente Division||Hank Aaron Division|
WEB GEMS SCOREBOARD
Here is this week's leaderboard, with points still transferring between leagues despite Steve Berthiaume's protests.
Web Gem points will be calculated by awarding five points for the night's top defensive play, four points for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. Scoring will be based on the Web Gems from the last "Baseball Tonight" show to air on a given night.
|Web Gem points leaderboard|
|Web Gem appearances leaderboard (players)|
|Ryan Zimmerman||Washington||Third base||13|
|Brandon Inge||Detroit||Third base||11|
|David Wright||New York Mets||Third base||9|
|Web Gem appearances leaderboard (teams)|
|New York Mets||24|
BBTN ON THE AIR: MONDAY
|12:30 a.m. ET
|Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Peter Gammons, Chris Singleton
BBTN MINUTE: RETURN OF THE OLD BARRY ZITO?
TOUCH 'EM ALL
Who went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page. For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.
|Home Run Tracker|
|Ryan Zimmerman, WAS||26||Parra||Bot 4: 3-2, 1 Out. 1 on.|
|Miguel Cabrera, DET||25||Wuertz||Top 8: 0-0, 1 Out. 1 on.|
|Curtis Granderson, DET||24||Tomko||Top 1: 2-1, 0 Outs. None on.|
|Hideki Matsui, NYY||23||Beckett||Top 8: 2-2, 2 Outs. None on.|
|Michael Cuddyer, MIN||22||Farnsworth||Top 7: 1-1, 2 Outs. 1 on.|
|Hideki Matsui, NYY||22||Beckett||Top 2: 0-0, 0 Outs. None on.|
|Alex Rodriguez, NYY||22||Beckett||Top 5: 3-2, 2 Outs. 1 on.|
ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.Tonight, he looks at Ubaldo Jimenez, who beat Tim Lincecum and the Giants on Sunday as the Rockies stretched their NL wild-card lead to three games:
|Ubaldo Jimenez (2009)|
|BB per nine innings||3.9||3.1|
SUNDAY'S BEST AND WORST
|• Eric Bruntlett did something that had been done only once before in baseball history: He finished a game with an unassisted triple play as the Phillies held off the Mets in a 9-7 win at Citi Field. With the Mets putting the runners in motion with no outs in the bottom of the ninth, Bruntlett caught a line drive from Jeff Francoeur, stepped on second to double up Luis Castillo, then tagged Daniel Murphy to end the game.||WORST|
|• Paging Josh Beckett, paging Josh Beckett. He served up five homers in an 8-4 loss against the Yankees. Homers have been quite the problem for Beckett. Over his past three starts, he has given up 10. In his previous five, he had not given up a single one.|
ON DECK: MONDAY'S BEST MATCHUPSPhillies at Mets, 1:10 p.m. ET The Mets endured a game-ending triple play in Sunday's loss against the Phillies. They can't be feeling much better about coming to Citi Field on Monday, since waiting for them will be Cliff Lee, who is only 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA in four starts since jumping from the Indians to the National League. Giants at Rockies, 8:40 p.m. ET Barry Zito is having a solid August, going 2-1 with a 2.74 ERA over four starts. Jason Marquis is also 2-1 this month, but he is carrying around a 4.15 ERA. The Rockies lead the Giants by three games in the NL wild-card race. Tigers at Angels, 10:05 p.m. ET, ESPN2 The two division leaders come in under similar circumstances. How similar? The Tigers are 6-4 over their past 10 games. The White Sox, the second-place team in the AL Central, are 5-5 over their past 10. The Angels are 6-4 over their past 10 games. The Rangers, the second-place team in the AL West, are 5-5 over their past 10. For the rest of Monday's schedule, click here.
NUMBERS TO KNOWMonday's matchup between the Tigers and Angles features a pair of division leaders and a pair of the AL's best arms in Los Angeles' Jered Weaver (13-4, 3.89 ERA) and Detroit's Justin Verlander(13-7, 3.29 ERA). The power of Verlander's fastball is well known, but the quality of Weaver's slider is often underrated. Weaver is likely to rely on his devastating slider as the Tigers are below the MLB average against sliders. The Tigers are also more likely to strike out on Weaver's top-notch slider.
|Slider breakdown (2009)|
|BA against Weaver||.138||.230||31.9|
FANTASY: PREVIEW OF MONDAY'S GAMES
Adam Madison examines the nine games on Monday's slate.Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Monday. Daily Notes