Tonight’s match-up at US Cellular Field brings together the future and the past with White Sox vs. the Astros. Memories of 2005 will be in all Sox fans head as it was the last World Series appearance for both teams, and it also signifies a preview of the 2013 season when the Astros move to the American League creating an even amount of teams in both leagues. The Astros move to the American League also raises a few questions; will there be less distinction between the leagues as the days of the pitcher batting are coming to an end, or is this simply a positioning move to jumpstart MLB expansion?
Let’s start with issue number one being that there will be at least one interleague match-up everyday, thus bringing speculation that the days of pitchers batting and the double switch may be coming to an end. Hardcore lovers of the National League style of baseball are crying foul, while AL fans are looking forward to the possibility of not sitting a slugger while visiting a NL stadium during interleague play.
Let me stop anyone who’s going to suggest getting rid of the DH, the MLB Players Association would never allow it because it extends offensive player’s careers. That topic is off the table.
Now, I can understand the argument to keep things the way they are in the NL for the purity of the game argument and all players in the field were meant to hit. I totally understand that and sympathize with the fans you are feeling that the pitcher not batting and the “art of the double-switch” would be removed from the game, but would you really care all that much? Really would you?
I did not like the expanded playoff system when it started back in the 90’s then I realized I was an idiot for not liking it. I think NL fans will enjoy having another offensive weapon in the line-up versus an almost sure out. Yes, yes, yes I know there are pitchers who can hit, but it’s so few and far between I think it would be more entertaining for everyone if the pitcher were replaced with a hitter. It would certainly not allow a NL pitcher with two outs in an inning to give a free pass to the number eight hitter in the line-up, and that alone seems a lot more compelling then the unintentional, intentional walk that usually happens in that situation.
This discussion may all be moot because the crafty Bud Selig may have asked the Astros to move to the AL to jumpstart MLB expansion by at least two teams for the 2015 season. What city those teams go to is the next question and speculation on that can be found in an article Smitty wrote last season (MLB expansion is more plausible than ever). I think the cities he speculated about are valid, so I suggest checking out that article. I’m pretty sure it’s the most read one on our blog.
It makes perfect sense for Selig to use this move as a springboard, as fans with emotional ties to the NL style of play will begin to voice their opinion and threaten never to watch baseball again. Selig will have no choice but to propose adding two new teams, one to each division in order to keep the sanctity of the game intact.
It felt ridiculous writing that as the sanctity of the game went out the window when MLB allowed steroids into the game and it went even further when they turned the All-Star game from an exhibition into deciding home field advantage in the most important contest of the year in baseball, The World Series. When they did that they should have stopped fan voting and let the AL manager and his staff pick the team, I mean what a joke. That’s a whole post in itself.
I truly do believe that there are two different motives at play here, and maybe even both come to fruition when it’s all said and done.
The MLB player’s association has a strong voice and they would like nothing more than adding the DH to the NL. That would create 15 more jobs for positional players and help to prolong careers. On the other hand, expansion creates 80-MLB roster spots, so from their perspective they would like to see both happen.
For Selig growth strengthens his position as commissioner of baseball and generates more revenue, at least immediately. What expansion also does is weaken existing teams, since it thins the pool of talent and may eventually lead to the implosion of certain franchises.
Let’s look at the Tampa Bay Rays and our own Chicago White Sox, both are in first place. The Sox are 26th on the list and the Rays are 28th on the list for attendance this season. The Sox are drawing a pitiful 21,274 per game and the Rays are under 20,000 at 19,504, not good for winning teams.
The team with the worst attendance in baseball has been in first place or near first place the entire season, the Cleveland Indians. They are averaging only 17,159 fans per game. That’s why you have to question expansion.
The last place Phillies and Cubs are near the top in attendance with the Phillies having the best at 44,894 and the Cubs at eighth best with 37,297 per game. In fact, only 13 teams in the league average over 30,000 fans a game and 12 teams average less than 26,000 per game with an average of roughly 54.8% of capacity. A little over half filled.
There are only two first place teams even in the Top 10 of attendance, the Texas Rangers and the LA Dodgers, that’s pretty sad.
Whatever happens one thing’s for sure, more change is on the horizon in baseball, so don’t fight it just go with it.