Relegation round for baseball
Yesterday was Aug. 1. As I sat down in the morning to set up the agate of our sports section (the deep statistics section on page 2B), something caught my eye: the Baltimore Orioles were 32-75 on the season after a loss to the New York Yankees.
The Orioles are last place in the American League East, the same division that has the aforementioned Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. With the loss, they fell to 42 games back of the Yankees.
I fully admit that the East is an absolute gauntlet. The Yankees and the Red Sox had lost a combined 71 games going into play on Wednesday, which, of course, is four less than the Orioles have themselves.
To make matters worse, since it is seemingly impossible to catch the Yankees and Red Sox unless you are the Yankees or the Red Sox, the Orioles are 29.5 games back in the Wild Card chase.
This got me thinking, considering the fact that it’s already difficult to make the MLB playoffs due since only five teams make it in either league, the three divisional champs and two wild cards, maybe it is time for baseball to adopt a relegation round for teams who are so bad they are out of the running for a playoff spot after their opening weekend.
Now before you spill your drink and crumple up your sports section while shouting, “That’s not how professional sports work!” just remember, I know.
Obviously I am joking here, but bear with me a moment. I know it is hard to compete with the “haves” in baseball (Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers). However, the reality is there are a ton of really bad teams. When was the last time the Orioles were competitive?
As I am sitting down to write this column, I have the MLB standings open. In the American League, I see the Minnesota Twins sitting second in the AL Central. I see the Seattle Mariners in second in the AL West. The Milwaukee Brewers are tied with the Chicago Cubs for the top spot in the NL Central. The Colorado Rockies sit in a tie for second in the NL West, a division that is led by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
I bring up all of these teams because their owners are spending money and drafting well to build their teams up. When was the last time the San Diego Padres did that? The Cincinnati Reds?
A relegation round at the end of the season would tack on some more games for bad teams, which probably cannot be marketed easily when there is good baseball to be had in the actual playoffs, but think about it for a second. Rather than trading away all of their talent when a team is struggling at the trade deadline, they might want to keep their players because they will need them to win a relegation tournament. That would save two to three months of bad baseball for those teams’ fans.
A relegation tournament would give teams that aren’t in the hunt for a playoff spot a chance to possibly host a couple more games after the regular season ends, which would put more money in the coffers of the owners, perhaps driving them to spend a little more the following year.
If the MLB was interested in adding a couple more teams to the league in the coming years, they could replace a team or two that loses in the relegation tournament. This might make owners more willing to spend money as they would want their teams to remain in the top league.
Please keep in mind this is just a suggestion. I think it would be interesting to see this happen in American professional sports in general, as, in my opinion, each of the top leagues could lose a couple of teams without losing the quality of their product.
Oh, and as a side note, any baseball team that loses a game by 21 runs should be automatically sent to the relegation tournament, no matter what their final record is for the season. That would mean that my precious New York Mets, who lost Tuesday to the Washington Nationals, 25-4, would be the first team to qualify, if the MLB ran a relegation tournament this year.