Wooden's World of Baseball

Saturday, March 27, 2010

An Update To The CanAm League Saga

Though I no longer have a dog in the Can-Am League "fight," I still am a big fan of the independent game and keep tabs on the league that I followed very closely for five years.

Last month, it was officially announced that the team formerly known as the Nashua Pride would relocate to Pittsfield. Earlier this month, the team name was announced.

Without further ado, it's the Pittsfield Colonials.

While I would have preferred a revival of the Berkshire Black Bears*, the Colonials ain't so bad. It appears that they've hired the same marketing folks that launched the Worcester Tornadoes, and from what we can see from the "coming soon" website, it looks like yet another red-white-and-blue team. How novel.
* Contrast that with the new tenants of Dodd Stadium in Norwich who are renaming their team the Connecticut Tigers instead keeping the old name of the Connecticut Defenders. I'm sure it's probably a case of not owning the rights, but it still smacks of greed. I strongly suspect the name could have been negotiated for something simple; something is better than nothing.

Overall, though, this is good news for the folks in Pittsfield. Wahconah Park is one of my favorites, probably because it's one of the few remaining wooden-grandstand ballparks still standing. It's also one of the first places I went to see a minor-league ballgame as an adult, as I used to drive out to Pittsfield once or twice a summer in the late '80s and early '90s. Somehow, I suspect it's not changed much, as these shots taken in 2001 (link1, link2*) demonstrate.
* Yes, that's the sun setting and yes, there are sun delays.

Time will tell if these folks can hit the ground running as successfully as the Tornadoes did. The last time a team got such a late start — the New Haven County Cutters in 2004 — attendance, etc. suffered greatly. It's also not going to help that the NECBL may have adjusted folks' expectations/tolerance for pricing, as these outfits are run much more cheaply than professionals because, well, they're not.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Waxing On Realignment

A friend of mine commented about a radical realignment plan that was floated this week and I began to write a long-winded comment that's more suited to a post.

So here goes...

I've always felt that the solution to this problem is simple: weight the schedule NFL-style. The wild card has already cut into the meaning of a division title and has already given us a World Series winner that had a losing record against its own division.

Instead, why not regroup into six five-team divisions based on geography. This is the hard part, actually, but for the sake of speed/simplicity, add Arizona to the A.L. West move back Houston to the N.L. West. Ideally, you'd have the Texas and Florida teams in the same division with the team from Georgia.

Then... play an equal number of games (10) vs. the other 14 teams in your league. Reduce interleague to six games against your opposing league's equal finisher. The remaining 16 games are then scheduled against the four teams closest to your finish in the previous year.

There would always be a World Series rematch in season — satisfies the TV angle.

Interleague play wouldn't be as much of a luck-of-the-draw that could affect a playoff spot — and every team would play an equal number of games.

And those extra 16 games? Four more games against four teams of your caliber.

A team like Baltimore would benefit the most — they'd face Boston and New York 20 times instead of 38 (last year, 7-31 against). Sure, that'll hurt at the gate, but then they'd be playing more games against Cleveland and Kansas City (6-9 against).

Let's say the Orioles are potentially a 70-win team with the current schedule. With a weighted schedule, they could be 75-80 wins. And it cuts both ways... the Cardinals would be playing the Pirates and Astros 10 times fewer and the Phillies and Dodgers 10 times more. Likewise, St. Louis could drop from a 91-win team to an 81-86 win team.

And the thing is, this plan isn't all that radical. It's more of a swing back to the scheduling prior to the three-division format, which folks initially thought would be a disaster but has turned out to be a pretty good thing by keeping teams mathematically alive longer. So-called purists hate it, but these are usually the same folks that think that baseball's golden era was when the World Series was always played in New York.