I know 4-3 doesn't seem like much for a road trip, but I'll take it especially considering the White Sox took 2 of 3 from the Twins and earned a split in New York. After winning the first two in New York it's hard not to be disappointed that the Sox didn't win the series 3-1, but the Yankees are what a real major league offense looks like. It feels like every hitter, at least through the seven spot has the potential to hit a home run and do real damage. It is fun to watch Derek Jeter get called for a strike. It's as if any pitch he doesn't swing at is a ball.
I was lucky enough to see the White Sox in New York at the old Stadium. It was the last year of the Stadium so it was apparent they were letting it go, but as my friend MK says about historic stadiums, "it's a church of baseball." Even though the new Stadium isn't quite the same, it is still fun to see my team play in Yankee Stadium; the colonnades the Hess sign; the small corner dimensions it all adds up to something special. It's like going back to a great concert venue. It just adds to the experience. Which is why I wish the White Sox played the Yankees more often than twice a year.
When my dad, who is an Indians fan, or older White Sox fans talk about the great rivalries of the past, the number one team they talk about is the Yankees. Everybody wanted to beat the Yankees and saw them as the number one threat, the team to beat. The only team that has been able to hold on to that is the Red Sox. Sure the other East Division teams play the Yankees as much as the Red Sox, but are the Baltimore Orioles a true rival? I'd argue no. I think we have gone long enough with inter-league play and the unbalanced schedule to pretty much confirm that two things that were talked about, hoped for what have you have not materialized. First, the NL/AL rivalries in the various regions have not really come to much. Quite frankly the novelty has worn off. I mentioned before but it bears repeating that if perhaps the most heated of those series, Cubs/Sox, can't sell out (in either venue this year) then the ship has sailed. We can look back fondly and say, that was nice, kind of like the nine game World Series format. The second thing that was a big concern and big promise of the unbalanced schedule was that regional rivalries would be strengthened or develop. It just hasn't worked out that way. In any given year, the main rival of the White Sox changes; one year it's Cleveland, the next Minnesota, the next Detroit. I suppose Minnesota has become kind of the boogie man in recent years but with the Twins playing so poorly of late, even that has lost a lot of its flavor. I think that it's time to go back to the future.
With the Astros moving to the American League the time is right to go back to the balanced schedule. MLB is already eliminating some inter-league but I think it should completely go away. Even more radical, I think it's time to go back to the single table in each league. I know it will never happen but I think there are quite a few positives going for the idea. I also think a six team playoff format would work, but I'll get to that in a minute. First the pennant races become national again. Now those yearly rivalries that fluctuate would have a wider audience. The series for the White Sox out west, while important now, become even more so if they are competing with the Angels for a playoff spot. Second, and kind of related, we get to see every team more than once. Sure that isn't always a great thing, but on the flip side we don't have to see the Royals nineteen times. With that many games against the same opponents, it feels more like a local league than a nation wide endeavor. And of course, the Yankees become the Evil Empire yet again. I know they are already in that position, but by playing them more often, it becomes a traveling festival of hatred. Every team gets to hate the Yankees in equal measure. It's not just the Yankees either. A few weeks ago the Mets were in town and people were reminiscing how Cubs v. Mets used to be an occasion. Now it's just one series that isn't nearly as much fun. I'll admit no team plays the villain better than the Yankees so the National League is at a bit of a loss, but there is always the Cardinals, Dodgers, and the aforementioned Mets. While none of those teams have a Broadway musical named after them, I imagine a fair amount of ill-will can be generated for any or all of them. Oh, and with the wunderkid and his minions in Chicago, I'm sure enough people would be annoyed with the Cubs to sell some tickets just to boo.
As far as the playoffs go, yes I think a six team format would work well. The bottom places would be a carrot for the lesser teams and the top places would be given byes. Basically I see it as 1 and 2 get the byes, 3 plays 6 in a one game playoff and 4 plays 5. The lowest remaining seed plays 1 in a five game series, 2 plays whom ever is left in a five game series the winners play a seven game series for the pennant. The Evil New York Yankees would always be contending for a the top spot, thus generating more angst, which if you haven't figured out I'm in complete favor of. Other top teams would always be in contention as well assuring that the best teams were at least in the playoffs on a regular basis. The great canard about American viewing habits and what we actually want to see is that we love the underdog. Television ratings say otherwise, with the exception of the Super Bowl, but that has become a de facto secular holiday so I wouldn't consider that a good indicator. Instead look at pretty much any other championship. When the favorite (usually bigger market) team bows out, the rating take a major hit. If two lesser teams make it to the championship, almost no one watches. A great example is a the recent NBA championship series with it's own goliath that everyone loves or loves to hate did some of it's best ratings ever. We like to see excellence, the best. Sometimes only to see it fail. Kind of messed up I know.
I understand the argument that this is a bit slanted toward the bigger market teams, the big spenders but isn't the current system? Not only that, for some small markets, instead of having to win a division as their only means to a playoff spot, in a this system they just need to pip their way up to at least the six spot. A little easier to do I would imagine. Also the smaller markets would get more visits from bigger markets, again the Evil New York Yankees! thus better revenue at the gate, I would guess better local TV ratings and so on. I mean I love the White Sox, but I also know that the rest of the country just doesn't care about them. I highly doubt there is anyone in Kansas City who is say, "oooh, the White Sox are in town, got to catch those games." But I bet some buzz is created by the Rangers, Red Sox and Evil Yankees, so why not get them to Kansas City more than once a year?
I know it's all a pipe dream. Watching the Sox at Yankee Stadium is special. I wish I could do it more the once a year.