No one ever wants to hear about another person’s fantasy team. By that same rule, we can probably assume that no one wants to hear about another person’s baseball simulation. I’m hoping you stay with me a bit as I go through mine.
I like to play Out of the Park baseball, which is the best baseball simulation game on the market. I have MLB: The Show for Playstation, which is a great baseball game. But if you want to take over a team and act as the GM, there is nothing better than OOTP. It’s purely about making moves, building a team, and managing that team if you wish.
I don’t like to play as the Pirates, for the simple reason that it can frustrate me. OOTP does a fantastic job keeping track of every player in baseball, along with having most prospects involved. But it would be impossible for them to have a deep knowledge of every farm system, which leads to a lot of ratings I disagree with in the Pirates’ system every year. So I go the alternate route and create an expansion team.
My team is typically the Montreal Expos. I add another team in Portland or Las Vegas to make things an even 32 teams. I then raid the Pirates of all of the prospects with ratings I agree with, along with Jameson Taillon, to the extent that Pirates fans would probably burn down PNC Park as a reaction to all of the trades I pulled off. But that’s another story.
Tracy Ringolsby at Baseball America wrote about how MLB is thinking about expansion, and how Montreal and Portland could be the two potential additions to the league. This would lead to several changes, including the following four divisions:
East: Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington.
North: Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Montreal, both New York franchises and Toronto.
Midwest: Both Chicago franchises, Colorado, Houston, Kansas City, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Texas.
West: Anaheim, Arizona, Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
Other features include a reduction to a 156 game schedule, with 24 games each against the other three divisions, and 12 games against each divisional opponent. There would be an off day every week, and the season would run during the same time period as the current season.
The playoff games would have the four division winners advancing, and the eight remaining teams with the best records having play-in games to advance to the division series. Basically, they would add two more Wild Card games across baseball, and remove two division winners.
Most of the changes seem to be built around reducing travel, giving teams more of a break during the season, and off-setting that with a slightly shorter schedule. Granted, you don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff in a baseball simulation, so I didn’t consider those factors. But I already know how I would do things if baseball added teams in Montreal and Portland, so allow me to give my suggestion.
I kept the AL and NL intact, and went with an NFL strategy of four divisions per league, with four teams per division. Those divisions and leagues are as follows:
NL East: Montreal, NY Mets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
NL Central: Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, St. Louis
NL South: Arizona, Atlanta, Miami, Washington
NL West: Colorado, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco
I’ll stop here to explain the NL alignment. It might be a bit biased, but I worked the Pirates into the NL East, as I feel that is where they belong. They’ve got a natural rivalry with the Phillies, and better rivals in New York and Montreal.
The one flaw here is Arizona being in the NL South. They were the extra team, and I didn’t put too much consideration into their travel. You could move Cincinnati to the South, move Colorado to the Central, and move Arizona back to the West. That’s still not great for Colorado, but it might be slightly better overall.
Then there’s the American League:
AL East: Baltimore, Boston, NY Yankees, Toronto
AL Central: Chicago White Sox, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota
AL South: Houston, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Texas
AL West: Anaheim, Oakland, Portland, Seattle
The American League was easier. The East was the same, with the Rays being removed to make up the South. The Central sent Kansas City to the South. The West sent Texas and Houston, then added Portland.
After thinking about it further, I’d probably put Tampa Bay in the NL South and Arizona in the AL South, since the travel schedules would be better.
The playoffs I’d suggest would also be NFL style. The top two teams in each division would get a first round bye. The two remaining division winners would host the two Wild Card teams in a best-of-three game series at home. The winners advance to the Division Series to play the teams with a bye. The winners of the two Division Series games advance to the League Championship series, and then winners of those obviously go to the World Series.
I do not like the current Wild Card system, where a 162 game season all boils down to one game. So I don’t like the idea mentioned in the BA article, where there would be four of those games. Only four teams would be guaranteed a playoff series, while eight other teams would see their season boil down to one game. It makes the regular season feel a bit pointless, and ignores what is currently happening in baseball, where you have megapowers who will almost certainly win the division each year. Everyone else will be fighting for a one game playoff.
That’s why I like the NFL method, and why I’d propose a three game series for the Wild Card round. If you win your small division, you have an advantage in the playoffs. The best two records have a further advantage. And if you have a great season, but are unfortunate enough to be stuck behind one of the best teams in the league, you now have a three game series to advance in the playoffs, rather than just one game.
This would remove the spectacle of the one-game Wild Card format, which creates a lot of drama and excitement. MLB is obviously thinking about capitalizing on that and expanding the format to four games. But in turn, it would add more drama and excitement to the regular season, since those games would now mean more, rather than being seen as almost meaningless due to the one-game format.
Unfortunately, I feel that MLB would be making their plans with costs (reduced travel) and ratings (Wild Card games) involved, rather than trying to create a fair atmosphere for teams, and allowing more teams a better shot at the playoffs. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up going the route that BA reported on if they end up expanding and realigning the league.
At least I’ll still have my OOTP franchise, and my 2021 Expos World Series championship to show for it.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.