Friday, March 12, 2010

Baseball Geography..101

Yesterday I said I would present my own fix for Baseball's re-alignment dilemma.  This is my third crack at this since I got home today.  I deleted the other two attempts already.  Then it dawned on me.  MLB already has the fix.  They already have a blue print.  Kinda.  I told you yesterday about my eerie feeling I had that all this grumbling over realignment, balanced and unbalanced schedules will ultimately lead to one thing:


That's right.  It is my humble opinion MLB is starting to plant the seeds for more expansion.
No...not contraction; Expansion.  You heard right.

The more I tried to poke fun at Selig and the GOOFY plan his hand picked staff of 14 Sun-Dried Tomatoes of On-Field Matters came up with involving a GOOFY re-alignment scheme, the more my better sense kept screaming at me, telling me, reminding me there is already a blue-print in place.  Damn it!!  I hate it when I know too much Baseball history.  Truth is I came up up with my own little realignment plan and designs for suspending reality.  I really wanted to give Selig a good Wedgie tonight, but the baseball fan on my left shoulder is winning over my brain.  The punk on my right shoulder will  have to wait.  Instead of having a good laugh at Bud's expense, I offer you something a little more creative.  My "id" is not happy right now!

Like EVERYTHING, History is the road map to the present.

The National League was formed in 1876..blah blah.  We pick up this story in the year 1901.  Nothing prior to that is really relevant for this post.  It was quite simple then with eight teams.  They are the Senior Circuit.  How baseball evolved to this point is a romp through 60 years (nice round number) of baseball's infancy and adolescence.

  1. Brooklyn Dodgers

  2. New York Giants

  3. Philadelphia Phillies

  4. Pittsburgh Pirates

  5. Chicago Cubs

  6. Cincinnati Reds

  7. Boston Braves

  8. St. Louis Cardinals
The American League was just the most recent come-lately formed to rival the National League.  The historic formation of the AL is a very different story than that of it's senior.  The N.L. was a continuation; the evolution of our original game only more organized.  The A.L. was a rival, like others before them.
Pay attention.  I'll make this short.

A minor league, the Northwestern League, operated from 1879 to 1887.  In 1888 they reformed and operated as the Western Association till 1891.  From 1892 to 1899 it was known as the Western League.
Ban Johnson was a cat with an axe to grind against the N.L.  He wasn't allowed to buy a team and the N.L. refused to expand to accommodate him.  He had a bad attitude, a good reason and most importantly, re$cource$ to declare war on the N.L.  He purchased the Western League, disbanded it in 1899 and in 1900 re-organized it as the American League, opening the 1901 season.  Ban Johnson's War vs the N.L. had begun.

As of 1895 the Western League operated in:

  1. Indianapolis

  2. St. Paul

  3. Kansas City

  4. Minneapolis

  5. Detroit

  6. Milwaukee

  7. Toledo

  8. Grand Rapids
Ban Johnson reorganized the league and this is what happened over 1899 & 1900

Indianapolis - OUT.  They continued to operate in a new minor league named the Western League est.1901.

  1. St. Paul - operations shut down, packed up and moved to Chicago to compete directly with N.L. team.  Ding ding ding!

  2. Kansas City - OUT.  Western League with Indianapolis.

  3. Minneapolis - OUT.  Western League too.

  4. Detroit - Ding ding ding!  Yep!  These aren't the Detroit Wolverines either!

  5. Milwaukee - operations shut down, packed up and moved to Washington D.C. for the 1901 season. Ding ding ding!  For the opening of the 1901 season, Milwaukee was given a second team.

  6. Toledo - operations shut down, packed up and moved to Cleveland.  Ding ding ding!

  7. Grand Rapids - operations shut down, packed up and moved to Buffalo.  They never did get to unpack their boxes.  They folded before 1901.
Between 1901 and 1902 there were still changes before things settled and 1903 gave shape to a more recognizable MLB as far as "we" are concerned.  Ban Johnson was a straight gangsta and wasn't joking. For the 1901 season he completed his new league by giving teams to cities and owners rebuffed by the N.L.'s monopoly.  Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore made eight and the A.L. was in business.

The second Milwaukee team moved to St. Louis for the 1902 season to become the Browns. Ding ding ding!  And after the 1902 season, Baltimore was boxed up and mailed to NYC to become the Highlanders/Yankees.

Stay with me people.  That was the hard part.  Finally the A.L. of 1903:

  1. New York Yankees    head-on vs. NL

  2. (Milw) St. Louis Browns    head-on vs. NL

  3. Cleveland Indians

  4. Detroit Tigers

  5. Washington Senators

  6. Philadelphia Athletics    head-on vs. NL

  7. Boston Red Sox    head-on vs. NL

  8. Chicago White Sox    head-on vs. NL

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. 
Finally allied, the NL and AL firmly put down a challenge by the Federal League in 1914-1915.
The NL/AL War went Cold status.  It turned into a Golden Age Game of Franchise Chicken.
Who was going to blink first?
Throw in some planes, trains and automobiles and now it's a whole new game.

The Boston Nationals blinked.  The Americans win the battle of Boston in 1953.  Wicked!
Milwaukee gets a third team and supports the Braves to the tune of 2 million fannies a season and the rest of Baseball said, "Oh $hnap!!"
The Battle of St. Louis was won by the Nationals in 1954 and the Browns fled east to Baltimore where the Orioles had the rest of Baseball saying out loud, "OH $$HNAPP!!"

Now more and more teams were getting the fever and the only prescription, was more U-HAULS.
The Battle of Brotherly Love was won by the Nationals in 1956 and Kansas City was the new home of the American A's.  This time the owners just flat out declared, "Holy Chitt!!"

Just in time for 1958, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants got caught in bed together and eloped to the Left Coast.  This is where everything changes.  This is when everyone stopped being kids; when the Dodgers and Giants got caught wearing leather chaps, snappin whips with red rubber balls in mouth!  Filthy Hanzel and Dirty Gretel made all the wanna-be's take stock of the situation.  If the MLB was being run like a Roman Toga Party and they didn't let anyone in to their little club, a certain MLB who shall remain nameless was gonna get served with papers.

Better yet, a lawyer named William Shea, in concert and on behalf of interested owners (like Mrs. Joan Payson; a NY Giants season ticket holder who's team abandoned her), declared their intentions to establish a third Major League; the Continental League.

Greed made MLB compete head to head in 5 cities.
When the owners saw there was money to be made by moving, Greed made teams abandon their fan bases to pick another cities' pockets.
C'mon!?  How long did they think they could keep everything for themselves (16 owners) with all those markets out there?  I don't think they were thinking at all.  They were asleep behind the wheel because they were arrogant (just like your ENRON'S etc.).  So what happened?  In their drunken stupor, they got served.
The writing was on the wall and they had to open the doors of the club.  That's Capitalism folks.  That's America!  If your city has a team that was not one of the original 16 (and their movement), you can thank the Continental League and the MLB owners for being sloppy drunks.

There will not be contraction; Not likely; Not Soon.  Not happening.
The lawsuits are still pending in a sense and cities are still lined up waiting for theirs while they hold on to "Letters of Shut-Up and Wait Your Turn".

The Continental League, incorporated 1959;
a direct causality of the NL and NYC's lack of a representative.
Disbanded in 1960 based on MLB acceptance of franchise movement and expansion.
It's no different than the exclusion practices prior to 1947.  It was unspoken; the unwritten rule; it was understood.  Shut-up and wait your turn.

The original idea; 8 teams:

  1. New York

  2. Buffalo

  3. Ft. Worth

  4. Denver

  5. Houston

  6. Minneapolis (St. Paul)

  7. Atlanta

  8. Toronto

As you can see, since 1960, everyone got their team, except Buffalo.  The Senators were allowed to move in to MINN, and the void left behind would be filled by a 2nd Wash team.  In the 60's Buffalo had a population of 600,000 strong.  Today they sit at 250,000.  You can see how they just might loose their football team.
The Continental League also had plans for expansion of their own; in concept of course:

  1. Montreal

  2. Indianapolis

  3. Miami

  4. New Orleans

  5. Portland

  6. Seattle

  7. Honolulu

  8. Jersey City
You see what's going on here, don't you?  As far as the present day dilemma, MLB has to give Seattle someone closer to home.  Their travel is ridiculous and they're not happy about it.  Besides, after the Seattle Pilots folded after one year and Selig purchased and moved them to Milwaukee (their 4th team!), Seattle was working on a promise the next team would be theirs.  They got it in 1977.  MLB made a lot of promises.  If MLB doesn't expand, they have to shuffle the deck if they want to be in relative geographical harmony.  That means LA/LAA in the same division  OR  breaking up the CUBS/CARDS  OR  having NYM/NYY/BOS in same doesn't have to be those but this is certain - A new rivalry must be created or an old one must be broken up.  It's the only way without expanding the league.  Like I said, there are still cities waiting  to collect on their I.O.U.'s.  The only scenario the Twins would have been contracted was if Mr. Pohlad retired and folded the team.  That's it.  That's law 101.  The team was his and he held that right but DUD Selig couldn't deny a buyer if the Twins owner was selling.  Contraction is a myth people.

Like I said, MLB will address Seattle's burdensome travel by getting them another team; Portland maybe.  My Spidey Sense tells me they are dying to get in Las Vegas.  Both cities work for Seattle if it means they won't have to fly to Los Angeles or Texas anymore.

And you can bet, the owners know there is labor strife ahead when the current contract expires.  They might want to pad their pockets with some expansion fees to dull their nerves.  Expansion has to come in a pair, obviously.  Portland and Las Vegas just might be the winners.  They make the most sense geographically.

Getting back to the teams, after MLB realized their mortality, Baseball moved into LA(A), Washington (2),
NY (Mets) and HOU.  The A's bounced from K.C. and landed in Oakland.  The Milwaukee Honeymoon Effect wore off and the Braves broke for Atlanta.  K.C. got a team again.  S.D. and Montreal got theirs.  Seattle got one then lost it and Selig was there with his Pooper-Scooper and made Brewers out of them.  The Washington Senators Junior got tired of D.C. too and went to Arlington.

Then MLB started making good on their promises.  Seattle got another and Toronto their first in 1977.  Florida, Colorado, Arizona and Tampa bring us up to date.

What options does MLB have?  Left on the original Continental League docket is:
  1. Buffalo?   Not happening.
  2. Indianapolis?     Would make the region too crowded.
  3. New Orleans?  Fits perfectly between Texas and Florida.  Hmmm?!
  4. Portland?    Discussed, very viable!
  5. Honolulu?     MLB is crazy enough to do it!!
  6. Jersey City?    Maybe...not exactly,  but north New Jersey is dense and has always been a location of interest.
Ten of the original Continental League cities have been satisfied.  Six have not.  After having said all this, Las Vegas, Portland and New Orleans seem most likely.  I'd like to add Vancouver to this list of most likely candidates.

Dark Horse candidates?  Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Orlando

Does anyone remember plans for the United States Baseball League?  In 1995, this League was to be an equal equity system between players, owners, agents, and whatever other interested parties and municipalities.  This was their idea:
  1. Washington -     since filled by the Nationals.
  2. Buffalo
  3. Tampa Bay -     since filled by Rays
  4. Baltimore
  5. New York
  6. Toronto
  7. Los Angeles
  8. Texas
  9. Kansas City
  10. New Orleans
  11. Oakland/San Jose
  12. Phoenix -     since filled by D-Backs
They even had ideas for foriegn expansion into Mexico City, San Juan, Monterrey and Vancouver.

In conclusion, all this was just to say, Bud Selig, I think you're full of Chitt.
You don't want re-alignment or competitive balance.  You're buddies want expansion money.

Say good night Gracie!

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