The Philadelphia Phillies face off against the New York Yankees this week in Yankee Stadium, providing baseball fans in the northeastern United States with an opportunity to enjoy interleague play, cast their All-Star Ballots, and enjoy a potential World Series preview.

And in this sense, this week’s Phillies-Yankees series presents yet another reminder that Major League Baseball is broken.

Here’s how you fix it.


Problem 1: The Designated Hitter Rule

The current broken state of the MLB began in 1973, when the American League first introduced the Designated Hitter. 

While the problems with the DH to baseball purists are many—it eliminates strategy, it unfairly inflates offense, it encourages one-dimensional athleticism, it allows players to hang on well past their primes—in my opinion, there is only one problem with the designated hitter.

They only use it in one league.

Baseball is all about great performances, milestones being crossed, and records being broken.  If Frank Thomas needs to DH in order to stay on the field each day, so be it.  If we get to watch Edgar Martinez enjoy a full and complete career because he DH’ed, fine.  If we get to be enamored of repeated David Ortiz heroics because he can be a DH, great.

Baseball should be all about allowing aging and lumbering superstars continue to play in the league, at the expense of a handful of sacrifice bunts here and there.

The problem with the DH, though, is that by allowing one league to use a DH, while the other league does not, Major League Baseball has two different leagues playing by two different sets of rules.  This creates problems both visceral and substantive. 

From an aesthetic perspective, it is annoying having to compare AL pitchers to NL pitchers, always remembering that Dave Steib, Jimmy Key, Andy Pettitte, Ron Guidry, and Mark Langston likely would have enjoyed much more success if they’d been able to pitch in the National League, whereas Curt Schilling, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Mike Scott, and Dwight Gooden were able to rack up superior looking statistics while facing an empty slot in the lineup each time through the order.

More importantly, though, the designated hitter causes an imbalance between the leagues. 

American League teams are built with nine hitters, and the DH is often amongst the best hitters on the team—the Frank Thomases, Edgar Martinezes, David Ortizes, Jason Giambis, Paul Molitors, Jose Cansecos, and Don Baylors—while National League teams are built with eight hitters.

When an American League team and a National League team meet up, this means one of two things—either the AL team has to sit one of its hitters to let a pitcher hit (in NL parks) or the NL team has to add one hitter to play DH (in AL parks). 

The result of this is that the AL team always has the advantage: Either the AL team gets to pick eight of its best hitters, or the NL team has to put a back-up into its starting lineup.  Either way the AL comes out on top.

This was not really an issue when AL teams and NL teams only met in the World Series.  For a maximum of seven games each year, there was an imbalance, but it was usually inconsequential; the AL has won 21 of 37 World Series since the DH was introduced. (What appears to be a DH-related advantage is probably explained away by the advantage of having the New York Yankees in the AL.)

Once interleague play was introduced, however, the imbalance between the NL and the AL became magnified.  Coming into this season, the AL has had 1673-to-1534 won-loss advantage over the NL, and it has to be because of the day-in-and-day-out advantage of having the DH in the lineup.

We have created a professional sports league in which half of the teams have a decided advantage over the other half of the teams.



Fortunately, the solution to the Designated Hitter problem could not be more straight forward: Introduce the Designated Hitter in the National League.  Yeah, sure, some people would hate it, but they’ll be gone eventually.


Problem 2: Unbalanced Divisions

The American League’s advantage over the National League is only enhanced by Major League Baseball’s unbalanced divisions.  At present, the NL has 16 teams, divided into two divisions of five and one division of six.  The AL, meanwhile, has only 14 teams, divided into two divisions of five and one division of four.

Despite the disparity, though, each league gets the same number of playoff slots—three division winners and a wild card—which means that the AL teams have less competition for a spot in the post-season than the NL teams do.  Further, four AL West teams get to take a shot at the automatic playoff berth that comes with winning their division, while six NL Central teams get to compete with one another for the same slot.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have definitely been bad the last 15 years, but keep in mind that they are the only team to finish in sixth place in their division six times in the last decade because they play in the only division that has a sixth place.

Is it fair to allow the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to go to the playoffs every season by beating three lowly teams while requiring the St. Louis Cardinals to have to bust through five other teams?

I think the answer to that question is clearly, “No.”



If I were having this conversation with the Commissioners of Major League Baseball, I would imagine his response to the Unbalanced Divisions problem would be:

“We have to have unbalanced divisions because we can’t have 15 team leagues.”

To this I would say, “Hogwash.”

Major League Baseball currently treats Interleague Play as a grand spectacle, a special part of the season dedicated to a special part of baseball, a magic time when the AL and the NL face off, almost as though for exhibition.

The grand spectacle treatment of Interleague Play was necessary when the MLB schedule first featured games between the leagues back in 1997, because there was a lot of opposition to Interleague Play, and the MLB needed to acknowledge, in some way, that it was slaying a sacred lamb of sorts.

This is no longer the case.  Nearly 15 years later, Interleague Play has been accepted by nearly everyone, and it is not even sensational any more.  The Phillies are playing the Yankees this week—yawn.  It is no longer novel, it is no longer unique, and it is no longer special.

So . . .

In order to solve the Unbalanced Divisions problem, Major League Baseball should give up the ghost on Interleague Play and eliminate the practice of having discrete times of the year, in which all of the AL teams play NL teams (with two NL teams always facing off against each other, oh by the way).

Instead, with balanced divisions and 15 team leagues, at all times there would be one interleague series going at a time: 14 of the AL teams would face each other, 14 of the NL teams would face each other, and then 1 AL team and 1 NL team would face off in the one interleague series.

That way, every team is playing two series every week, and every team has an equal chance at the playoffs.

If the MLB still wants sacred ceremonial times of the year, we can still set aside certain weeks for Rivalry Week, when all 15 AL teams play NL teams, with each series featuring a rivalry (Mets vs. Yankees, Dodgers vs. Angels, etc.).

Problem solved.

(The NL teams, of course, will have to draw straws to determine which team moves to the AL, but for my money you move the Kansas City Royals to the AL West and you move the Pittsburgh Pirates to the AL Central.  That way Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Chicago-Detroit-Minnesota becomes an uber-regional division and the Pirates and Phillies can play on Rivalry Week).


Problem 3: The Dumbest Rule in Professional Sports

The third problem with Major League Baseball is the Dumbest Rule in Professional Sports: the “Winner of the All Star Game Gets Home Field Advantage in the World Series Rule.”

How do we solve it?

Easy: Get rid of it.  Let the team with the best record in the World Series get the home field advantage, and, if the freakin’ All Star Game is tied after 11 innings, let the pitching coaches throw batting practice balls to each team until one of them comes out of an inning with more runs.

Or whatever.  Who cares?  Just don’t give home field advantage to the league that won the big exhibition game in the middle of the season.

And then baseball will no longer be broken.


Asher B. Chancey lives in Philadelphia and is a co-founder of .

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