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Time For Baseball to Align Geographically?

Wow. Still amazing that, going into tonight, the Rangers still have 10 games left against the Houston Astros.

And I don’t just mean that because it should mean at least seven more wins on this season.

I mean, it may still take some getting used to that now each year there will be three opportunities to make just that four hour trek down Interstate 45 to catch the Rangers in a venue other than Arlington.

The Rangers do now have it lucky that they finally have a division opponent within more than decent proximity to them after years of nothing but West Coast hell. But more than that, the inner state rivalry between these two teams takes on much new meaning (It might take on even more if the series was competitive, but there’s only so much we can do).

Major League Baseball first experimented with this when they debuted interleague play in 1997, finally allowing the Mets/Yankees, Dodgers/Angels and Cubs/WhiteSox to play in actual meaningful games. The rivalries between inner city/inner state teams was stoked further.

Except for the Rangers and Astros, who were prevented form such games because they weren’t in corresponding divisions (American League West vs. National League Central). Chalk up one more negative to the Rangers’ division.

Funny enough, it was supposedly years ago that MLB first gave them this opportunity by offering to move the Rangers to the National League; Tim Hicks turned it down in favor of giving

But in the end, it all worked out as it led to freeing up the chance to break baseball from the monotonous division-only interleague play, and now the Rangers get their state division rival while remaining in the better American League.

And now perhaps MLB should take the next step toward expanding this in it most radical change ever.

I can be very critical of the NBA, and likely will once its season starts up, but the one thing I do like is the basis for how they align the league. They definitely need improvement in their current alignment (stay tuned), but the fundamental principle of organizing everything geographically is there.

And the NBA is not alone in this. It’s the same format that the NHL uses and college sports… Well they USED to do.

Maybe it’s now time for baseball to consider this and look to a complete realignment based solely on regions and not an antiquated league format.

Don’t think I’ve always had this idea. When I was a kid, a Rangers/Astros World Series was my dream. (And believe it or not, there was a time when the Astros had a team with the potential to do this.) But now, the idea of the league having more opportunities for fans to travel to games looks like a much more beneficial option.

Can you imagine what Yankees/Mets or Giants/Athletics would be like if they got to play 18 times a year and were actually fighting for more than bragging rights?

How much would attendance and ratings jump if not only were there even more games with even closer proximity, but the fact that an entire region was battling for a single playoff spot?

And from our own perspective, how much better would it be to maybe, just maybe, have the Rangers in the same division as teams in their own time zone??

Baseball has always been the slowest to change, and that has hurt it in more recent years. Many purists would scream and cry against a change like this to the bitter end.

But 20 years ago, the prospect of inter league play was still unheard of. Even after that, the possibility of a team changing leagues was preposterous. Heck there was a time when divisional play was considered heresy.

But times change. And it may be time for baseball to get even closer, geographically speaking, to its audience.

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