By Steve Silverman
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Major League Baseball seems intent on turning the sport into a joke.
No, we’re not talking about the mess in the Boston Red Sox’s clubhouse or the Mets’ miserable performance in the second half.
This is far worse.
MLB announced its schedule for the 2013 season on Wednesday, and with it came the reality of the Houston Astros moving to the American League.
That means there will be two 15-team leagues and six five-team divisions. It also means there will be Interleague Play nearly every day.
Moving the Astros to the American League is a revolting development.
Interleague baseball is one of the best things about the regular season, but only when the schedule has a couple of chunks where it is exclusive.
When you have daily battles, it’s no longer special. Interleague baseball will become ordinary. Yankees-Mets might mean something in New York just like White Sox-Cubs will still mean something in Chicago. In two-team cities, there is something to be said for being the top dog.
But there will be no meaning in the other games. MLB has done this to itself.
Shifting the Astros to the American League is a major victory for the National League. The Nationals have been taking it on the chin for about 25 years. The Mets’ victory over the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series was the National League’s last stand. Since then, the American League has become the far superior league.
That fact played itself out in the All-Star Game and the World Series for many years. Now it plays itself out during Interleague competition. The National League can’t compete.
So it sent its worst team to the American League.
This never would have happened if George Steinbrenner were alive and well. He would not have allowed his buddy, Bud Selig, to orchestrate such a move. It doesn’t make sense at all.
If a team had to be moved to the American League, it should have been the Milwaukee Brewers, Selig’s old team. The Brewers were an American League team from 1970 through the 1997 season before switching to the National League Central.
The Brewers should have gone back to the American League, where they had been an established entity and a team that once featured Harvey Kuenn (Harvey’s Wallbangers) managing Robin Yount and Paul Molitor to their only World Series appearance in 1982.
Having an odd number of teams in each league is very untidy. It forces Interleague baseball every day because you can’t have teams having off days on a regular basis.
What this really means is that baseball is almost certainly going to have another expansion. Fifteen teams in each league does not work smoothly. Sixteen teams does.
That’s how the NFL does it, with 16 teams in the AFC and 16 in the NFC. You may have noticed that model works fairly well.
MLB is not talking about expansion now, but it will happen. Don’t be surprised if the “official” discussion begins this offseason and is finalized within a year. In 2015 or ’16, there will be two more teams playing in the Major Leagues.
We all know that there’s not enough pitching to support expansion, but that has never mattered in the past.
Finding viable cities will be a challenge. As romantic as it sounds, MLB is not going to infringe on the Yankees and Mets and put a franchise in Brooklyn.
It’s quite doubtful that baseball would have the nerve to go to Las Vegas, and the idea that baseball would return to Montreal is ludicrous.
New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Portland?
Studies will be done and decisions will be made.
Moving the Astros to the American League and having Interleague baseball every day means that expansion is coming.
If Major League Baseball is to expand, what city do you think would be a good fit for a team? Share your thoughts in the comments section below…