I was reminded this week via an article that Grant Brisbee wrote at the mothership, that prior to the 1998 season Bud Selig had propsed a radical realignment to the leagues and divisions of Major League Baseball to prepare for the arrival of the 29th and 30th teams in the league.
You can read about it in more detail here (as well as a possible proposal in the future should MLB expand to 32 teams.) It would have split the two leagues up geographically, like the NBA and NHL do. The American League would have been the “Eastern Conference” and the National League would have been the “Western Conference.” The oddest thing that would have come of it would be the two Florida teams and Atlanta being relegated to the “AL Midwest.” You know, those famous Midwestern US cities, Miami and Tampa. I can’t imagine people in Atlanta would have taken being grouped in the Midwest in stride either.
(As a side note, this would have had the effect on the two participants in the 1997 World Series, Cleveland and Florida, being in the same division the following season.)
Here is a dramatization of that thought process, probably.
The short version of how it went down was this: The owners hated it, and so the solution of moving the Brewers to the NL Central and the Tigers to the AL Central to accommodate the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays was reached.
It’s probably for the best that Radical Realignment didn’t happen the way it did, but a fun thought experiment to consider is this: What if it did happen? How would that have affected the overall zeitgeist of the Diamondbacks?
Frpm the perspective of Diamondbacks fans,his NL West would have been almost exactly the same as this dimension's NL West, but with the added flair of the three west coast current day AL West teams in the (then) Anaheim Angels, Oakland Athletics, and Seattle Mariners.
It’s odd to think that through on-field circumstances the majority of Diamondbacks fans developing deep seeded antipathy for any of these teams on the level they feel for, say, the Dodgers, but it would have at least been on the table. It’s odd to think about how all sports feelings are created from the seed of the whims of already rich people trying to maximize their revenue (Like pretty much all decisions in sports, the major driving force behind realignment, expansion, stadium building, etc, boils down to “Let’s have more cash for ourselves, eh?”)
You definitely would have had a bunch of traditionalists up in arms, and it would have made sense, you don’t call it “Radical Realignment” if it isn’t radical, but traditionalists are never happy. Us fans would have gotten used to it, though, eventually. We got used to the Wild Card, then we got used to two Wild Cards then we’ve gotten used to the always on switch of Interleague Play. We’d be good. This would have been the 20th year of such alignment, assuming a different one didn’t take its place, and Baseball probably would have gone on as it does.
It’s something to keep in mind in the future should MLB expand to 32 teams and divisional realignment occurs as a result. Should the game of Baseball remain fundamentally the same (though with Rob Manfred, that’s not guaranteed, but that’s a different column) it will probably be fine.
I’m going to foment a deep-seeded hatred of the Portland MurderBeavers now. They know what they will do. Jerks.