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Sunday August 9, 2009 12:26 pm
The Toughest League in Baseball
Baseball has been widely criticized in recent years for its “unbalanced” schedule. Thanks to 18 interleague games per season, teams in each league face teams in other divisions an unequal amount of times, which seems unfair since every team not in first place competes for the same Wild Card playoff berth. This makes it extremely hard for some teams to compete, especially in a division such as the American League East, which is arguably not just the toughest division in baseball, but also the toughest division in professional sports.
If you’re a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, or Baltimore Orioles, you need to face a grim reality. There are 27 other teams in the majors who have a better chance at making the playoffs than your team. With money-spending powerhouses like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, teams with smaller payrolls need a lot more to go “right” for them in order to compete. A lot of people argue this with the fact that the Rays made it all the way to the World Series in 2008, but face it – that was the only AL East team in the last 11 seasons who were not the Yanks or Sox to make it into the playoffs, and it was also the first time in franchise history that the Rays had a winning record.
The Toronto Blue Jays have had six winning records in the last 11 years, but have only finished better than third once. With an 86-76 record last year, they actually finished in fourth place in the AL East. It took the Los Angeles Dodgers 84 victories to win the NL West by two full games. The Orioles haven’t been as fortunate. Ever since Cal Ripken Jr. left town, the O’s haven’t finished with more than 78 wins and have only reached as high as third place once.
It’s very likely that the AL East has three or four of the best teams in the league, but only two can get into the playoffs. The only way to make it fair – to give the four best teams a chance to be in the playoffs – is to eliminate divisional play. But we all know that isn’t going to happen. At the very least, balancing the schedule and eliminating interleague play would give every team a chance to face every other team an equal amount of times, giving value and fairness to the always important Wild Card team. But while baseball stands to make money by sending the Yankees and the Red Sox to any city in the majors, don’t hold your breath.
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