Evolution of the A L East

All over the place there have been discussions and dialogue on the Internet as to what the Major League Baseball selected committee’s should do to combat the out-of-balance competitive edges that some teams have had over the other in their own divisional fights throughout the Major League Baseball season. There is the cry of “small-market” and “limited resources”, plus the omnipotent teams bellowing that “they pay luxury taxes so that team can be competitive”.

But the reality of the whole situation is that baseball has changed by leaps and bounds from the entire scope of the game when I was a child and they first went to the present set of three American League divisions. Before 1969 the MLB really consisted of only two rosters of team city names within either the National League or American League Pennant races. But of course in that time period before 1969, there were only 8 National League squads, and a minimal total of 16 total baseball franchises in both Leagues.

It was a balanced league playing a balanced schedule and life seemed to be good before circa 1969. Then all of a sudden there was dramatic and interesting news that the MLB should expand its fan base to other locales. And with that vocal decree came the increasing sound of baseball’s internal owners’ chatter and different twisted on the senses of logic that were devised to give their own teams distinctive advantages. But out of all that rubble came the simple fact of maybe separating the American League teams within a simple and logical region-based geographical division that might make travel between the cities and team revenues both rise to unseen heights.

At the time in 1968, there were 10 American League squads spread out from Boston to California, and the possibilities of fans enjoying the game from coast-to-coast simultaneously was a burden. California, which was hours behind the Atlantic Coast franchises due to Pacific Time Zone, would have to scramble to hear a 7:05 pm start at approximately 4:05 pm in the afternoon on the radio. Heavens forbid there was a doubleheader, or even the weekly possibility of Sunday games starting at 1 pm, which would translate into listening to the game on the radio before church or while eating breakfast.

So there were an abundance of realistic logic and well-thought out theories thrown around from shore-to-shore before finally there was a simple logical compromise and an agreement put into place to suffice both Leagues place in the growing National baseball market, and it put in the possibilities for future expansion and MLB National growth. But today I am only going to focus on the changes of the AL East circa 1969 to the present day model we have in 2010. This is just a post to show from where we have come, without getting into the fight of where we should proceed from here.

We began in 1969 with 6 American League East division members which included such teams as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles and Washington Senators. This first draft and finalization of the AL East is extremely different from the revised and devised current AL East picture, but at the time of its conception, it was a convenient alternative for the AL East teams to travel within only two Time Zones for their divisional games and kept their eager fans anxious to hear games on the radio or viewed on television during the weekends.

There were still bountiful road trips out to the AL West division teams in California, Texas, Ohio and Georgia, but the revised “Eastern Industrial town” slant to the division produced instant city rivalries and boosted geographical bragging rights and a thumping of the chest from the Atlantic to the tip of the Great Lakes. And at this time, the MLB schedule was still balanced with every team playing each other a certain numbers of times, with divisional foes getting a few additional games each to promote the rivalries.

All the AL East teams in that 1969 version of the division had both direct train and airline flights directly to those cities daily to promote out-of-town travelers to follow their favorite teams on the road. But the magic only lasted until 1972 when the Washington Senators ceased their operations in the Nation’s capital, and moved their franchise to the American League West division as the Texas Rangers. To produce a natural balance again in the American League, two expansion teams were awarded to Kansas City, Missouri and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Brewers franchise actually grew out of the move from Seattle of the old Pilots franchise to a more centralized baseball city location.

And with the Senators moving so far below the Mason-Dixon line to Texas, it was only logical geographically to bring the new Brewers franchise into the AL East fold. And the AL East stayed on their course for another five years until in 1977 the MLB decided to again promote expansion and awarded a new franchise to be placed in each of their two divisions. The first was a revisiting of Major League Baseball to Seattle region as the present day Mariner’s franchise. The American League then made some International news as they awarded their second franchise in Canada to the city of Toronto., and quickly moved them into the American League East family.

That also brought the total number of 14 teams currently in the American League roster. And the MLB American League format stayed the same until in 1994 the American League again expanded within itself promoting a Central Division that would only help to build more regional rivalries and also bring about increased revenues to their member teams by eliminating some excessive travel measures while bringing their three division tighter together for a close cohesive bond of their divisions. And with that move, the Brewers and Indians made their initial move to their new division along with Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals.

Unknown photographer

This measure left the AL East roster of three teams on the Eastern seaboard of the country, and with both Detroit and Toronto more western partners in this division. The division stayed the same until 1998 when the Tampa Bay regional community was awarded a franchise based in St. Petersburg, Florida. And with the addition of the then Devilrays, the AL East had to make a consolation decision to jetty one of its member towards the newer Central Division.

The team that took the journey out of the AL East was the Detroit Tigers, leaving the AL East division now ranging from the West coast of Florida all the way to the Canadian border Buffalo, but all the AL East teams were now on Eastern Standard Time, which made the move of Detroit more feasible because of the inclusion of the budding regional television markets broadcast schedules.

The American League East has come a long ways since its slicing and dicing into divisions in 1969. And there is no clear-cut present way to establish or change any of the localized divisional alliances without damaging some credibility along the way. But I find it quite interesting, but not in a collusion kind of way that every expansion team except for the 1977 Seattle Mariners began their run as an AL East divisional member. I have said before maybe the MLB should follow the NFL’s venture into producing a Southern Division which would include a few National League teams to balance out the whole cheesy enchilada.

It is coming people. Change is coming and we know that somewhere deep within the New York cityscape there are people looking at multiple eraser boards with viable and reasonable options and transfers of power within the whole system that will take MLB to the next level. Some people think these divisional realignments or re-distribution of talent and proximity is going to be based no moving teams like the Royals and Rays to more competitive grounds and leave the rivalries of the Boston-New York teams alone while maybe holding the Blue Jays and Orioles to this division for a long time.

The answer can not be quick, and we know it will not be easy. But can we realistically see the Boston and New York rivalry split up, or even changed by their League placements? Neither is logical or financially feasible for either team to discontinue their intense and geographically charged feeding frenzy. But will MLB have to readjust regional divisions and teams to hope to fuel the fires for teams like Tampa Bay and Atlanta or Texas to establish their own set of stomping ground bragging rights and leave the Northeast to the current giants.

The AL East is in route to change. To what extent is still up in the air, on the drawing board, or within someone’s mind right now. It is going to happen, and it will come with a certain hailstorm of vocal and written responses before the masses see the logic and accept it for what it is all about…. Renewing the fever and the lust for competitive edges and more parity-based teams…Without a salary cap, this might be the only option…for now.


I think the likely change is for MLB to “grow” into an NFL style playoff system: 4 divisions in each league with the possibility of a “play-in” between a wild card team and the lowest winning division winner. This would get one more team into the playoffs, and keep the wild card–which is essential to baseball’s late-season ratings boom. However they adjust the postseason, they can’t lose the wild card; it keeps too many cities interested in baseball in September.

The question, then, would be “which team is most likely to leave the AL East?” and I would think Tampa would be at the top of the list, assuming such a shift occurred geographically.

I agree totally with your thinking, but that might also involve maybe expansion of two teams to make the divisions more plyable and fiscally sound.
I did a blog earlier in the Spring about maybe adopting a NASCAR-South type division with Atlanta, Houston,Kansas City, and either Arizona or Colorado forming a divsion that might span a few time zones, but had a more geographic fee to it.
Smarter (we hope) people than us will have to cut, pastes ans eliminate until we get some sort of rough draft of a truly competitve working model….Then the hard part is implimenting it and making everyone happy.

Rays Renegade


Interesting post, If somehow they could incorporate payroll into a division realignment that would be great. The Rays are off to a great start, but it’s hard to forget how potent the Yankees and Red Sox always are and how a position on top the AL East can vanish. I like the idea of a salary cap, but teams like Tampa Bay have proven that you can reach the World Series on less than 100million. I’m going for the Rays this year in the ALE and I hope they can remain on top of their division, they are certainly capable.

Thanks for the comment.
Yeah it is interesting every year when we begin our journey in the land of the rich and poor also known to most people as the American League East division.
Rich and poor can hit many levels, payroll, talent or just team character.
So far in 2010, the Rays have been able to manufacture a bit of each without ruining the entire equation.
Should be another fun ride, but you are right within a moments notice, those two top dwellers of the AL East can crash your party and send you home empty handed.

Rays Renegade


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