MLB’s “divisions” plan would create a competitive imbalance that would give the New York Mets and Yankees a competitive edge.
MLB’s new “divisions” plan would destroy the AL and NL, and instead create three unified division based on region. The New York Mets and Yankees would play in a unified AL and NL East, with one change. The reigning NL East champion Atlanta Braves would be replaced with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
That would mean the East division would have four of the bottom seven teams in MLB from 2019. Considering that each team is going to play each other at least 12 times in the upcoming season, that would mean the Mets and Yankees would each play 48 games against some of the worst teams in baseball.
The same can’t be said for the other divisions, especially the West. The West would be stacked with the Dodgers, Astros, Athletics, Angels, Diamondbacks, and Rockies. All teams that were expected to compete for playoff spots in 2020.
That gives the teams in the East a huge competitive advantage in the search for playoff spots. It’s not yet clear how the postseason would be determined, but it would make sense that the league would follow a similar pattern to the one they usually use.
Potentially setting it so that the top two from each division make it along with two wild card teams. That would send eight teams to the playoffs to create an NBA or NHL style playoff bracket. The downside to that is that it means two fewer teams make the playoffs in 2020.
Naming playoff teams based on divisions seems to be the only fair practice though. With some divisions stacked with talent and some lacking in talent, it makes life too easy or hard on certain teams.
The Mets and Yankees are poised for success with this temporary alignment, but it still doesn’t come without risk. For instance, with a unified league, how would MLB handle the DH? It’s a rule that only exists in the AL and would need to be figured out.
AL teams are often built with the DH in mind. For example, the DH allows the Yankees to configure their defense appropriately based on their opponent for the day. Take that away and they become a weaker team by proxy.
On the other hand, NL teams aren’t built with a DH in mind. Many of them don’t have the bench depth to support adding another bat to the lineup. The Mets aren’t one of those teams though. In fact, they’d probably love the DH. It would allow them to play Pete Alonso and one of J.D. Davis or Dom Smith on any given day.
The same can’t be said for the Washington Nationals who don’t have the depth necessary to make use of the DH. The Philadelphia Phillies’ complete lack of depth is what led them to an 81-81 record in 2020. With a DH, that would only be further exposed.
That makes the already clear competitive imbalance even worse. There doesn’t seem to be a fair way to enact this plan. It’s going to hurt some teams significantly, teams that thought they had a shot at the playoffs.
That’s not true for the New York Mets and Yankees though. This plan would make life a whole lot easier for them.