So taking a look at some early projections, courtesy of RLYW, and it just confirms what we already knew: the AL East is amazingly strong. You could argue that the 4 top teams in the AL and 4 of the top 5 teams in baseball are in the AL East. That makes for some good baseball but it also makes life difficult for the teams that reside there. In general, most people see the AL East being a three horse race (Red Sox, Yankees, Rays), but if the Blue Jays were in any other division, they’d be a favorite to get to the postseason.
I saw one projection earlier that didn’t have a single AL West team over .500 (that was pre-Abreu though). Either way, it is within the realm of possibility that both the West and Central won’t have a team that wins 90+ games while the AL East will have 3. And of course, one of those teams won’t be in the playoffs.
Doesn’t it make more sense to go back a two division system or even eliminate divisions altogether? Thanks to the wild card, winning a division doesn’t really matter anyways. Why not just let in the 4 best teams? As far as scheduling is concerned, sure you could make a system where teams always play their geographic rivals a number of times, but otherwise it could rotate. Or just keep the division system for scheduling purposes, but change the way the playoffs participants are chosen.
It is true that the Rays have proven that the East superpowers can be beat. But how many times can the Rays accomplish that feat? They may have a team good enough to be in the postseason for years, yet only sporadically make it. And how do Blue Jays fans feel now, knowing that despite having a very good team, they need a perfect storm to overcome 2 of those 3 teams?
The argument for the current system is that it provides “competitive balance” by letting in some teams that don’t really deserve to be there and of course once a team is in the playoffs, anything can happen (see Cardinals, 2006). But competitive balance should be about rewarding the best team.