Baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz enjoyed an excellent career that spanned two decades, being named to eight All-Star Games, winning the 1996 NL Cy Young and guiding the Atlanta Braves to the 1995 World Series championship.
Smoltz now works as a baseball analyst for MLB Network and Fox TV, but even he has gotten fed up with what the game has turned in to. Yes, there has been less offense, way more strikeouts and a decline in attendance league-wide.
But for Smoltz, his biggest concern is the lack of exciting pennant races. This is a man who was part of the ’90s Braves team, one that had to fight and claw for every division championship.
Speaking to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Smoltz explained the factors that led to the disappointment of no true pennant races, and that the league must “hurry” when it comes to making changes.
“I don’t understand how a sport can play at least twice as many games as any other, and not have the same schedule,” Smoltz said. “It’s mind-boggling to me. Don’t play interleague leagues. Don’t choose rivalries. Don’t manipulate the schedule. Just play everyone the same.”
The current MLB schedule sees clubs play all four of their divisional opponents 19 times each. They’ll play six or seven games against each non-divisional team that’s in the same league as them.
The unpopular interleague play sees each team in one division play all five teams in one of the divisions from the other league. For example, all five teams from the NL East played the five AL East teams this year.
Each team has also been designated a “rival” interleague team, that they play four times a season. The New York Yankees and Mets play each other every year, as do the Chicago White Sox and Cubs, for example.
Smoltz wants all of that to come to an end.
His proposal? ” a first-half and second-half scenario,” which Smoltz believes has worked fine in the minor leagues. Nightengale broke down how such a format would work:
“If MLB adopted Smoltz’s proposal, the Oakland A’s, 35-19 since the All-Star break, would win the second half, and play the Houston Astros in a best-of-three series at the end of the regular season to determine the AL West winner. The Tampa Bay Rays, 35-19 since the break, but out of the playoffs, would now be playing the Boston Red Sox.”
Smoltz pointed out that the Boston Red Sox don’t have an incentive to win 110 games at this point, with the AL East having been locked up for a month now. He also said maybe the Baltimore Orioles and WAshington Nationals wouldn’t have sold key pieces at the deadline if MLB did the first/second-half scenarios.
“We’ve got to get this game vibrant again. If we don’t, it’ll be unwatchable,” Smoltz said.