03/10/10 8:55 PM EST
Realignment idea spurs discussion
Rays offer opinions; Maddon doesn't endorse floating setup
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
In a recent column on SI.com, Tom Verducci referenced a 14-person committee named by Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig that is designed to look at different topics within baseball and how they might change the game. Verducci suggested that floating realignment could be one of the topics examined by the committee.
Under the floating realignment scenario, teams would not be married to one division but would have the flexibility to change divisions each year based on geography, payroll and their plans to contend or not.
One example of floating realignment from an "insider" cited by Verducci would involve a rebuilding Indians club opting to leave the American League Central by trading places with the Rays. In doing so, the Tribe would profit from having 18 home dates against the Yankees and Red Sox, while Tampa Bay would have a better chance at making the playoffs by not having to play New York and Boston 18 times each.
According to Verducci's column, the floating realignment idea is nothing more than a concept at this point, but Rays players and the team's manager found it a point worth discussing.
Skipper Joe Maddon said realignment is "not something I think about."
"I like the way it plays [now]," Maddon said. "I mean, of course, I'd be open to anything. But it's not like I want to be in another division. I really like playing in the East. I like the fact, on an annual basis, whoever is representing this division in the postseason is a pretty good ballclub. I like the idea of playing in probably the best division in baseball."
Maddon does not approve of a floating realignment.
"I don't like that at all," Maddon said. "Then you're assessing groups. I'll go on record as saying I don't like that at all."
However, Maddon wasn't vehemently opposed to geographical realignment.
"If there was a good argument made based on geography that somehow produced cost in a manner that made it more sensible, and then if you really thought it would impact rivalries and things of that nature, then it makes sense to me," Maddon said. "But to do it in a floating way based on the perceived potential of a team or the lack thereof it, I don't like that. ... But if you want to go ahead and re-do it for the right reasons, that makes sense."
Reliever Dan Wheeler called the American League East "a hard division to play in, but it's a fun division to play in," and he wasn't for realignment of any sort for the most part. Still, the right-hander did seem intrigued by the possibility of doing away with two separate leagues and realigning geographically. When asked what he would think of a geographical division that included Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Florida, Texas and Houston, Wheeler responded: "That would be interesting."
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"Yeah, I'd like to see that," Wheeler said. "I think that would be interesting to see, to kind of see what they had on that. I'd definitely be open to that."
Wheeler felt like Interleague Play compromised the sanctimony of the old days, when the two leagues met only during Spring Training and the World Series.
"Now we play the National League so much," Wheeler said. "I think every five years, you end up playing every team, so I don't think that comes into play anymore. Yeah, I can see how that would work. You wouldn't have to go to the north at all. Some of the games we play, we'd be in good weather the whole year."
Gabe Kapler had not seen Verducci's column and did not address the possibility of a floating realignment, but he did like the idea of the powers that be addressing realignment.
"I absolutely think it needs to be addressed, but whether it gets changed is a completely separate entity," Kapler said. "Everything should always be examined. We should always be striving to find ways to do things better. That's certainly one area to look at."
Kapler went on to say that tradition should not be a stumbling block to improvement.
"I'm not a big believer in tradition over efficiency," Kapler said. "I believe in efficiency over tradition. So if there's a way to do something better, and if it isn't the way it's always been done, I'm for that. I don't think digging in your heels is right because, 'Hey, this is the way it was done 100 years ago, so this is how it should be done now.' To me, that just doesn't make sense."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.