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2004-09-27 12:16
by Mike Carminati

Oriole Manager Lee Mazzilli has an interesting solution to the Expos situation. He says that in order to placate Baltimore owner Peter Angelos due to the proposed move of the Montreal franchise to nearby Washington, D.C., the O's should be swap leagues with the would-be Senators.

"Switch leagues," he said Sunday. "Milwaukee did it. It's something to think about. There would be rivalries with the Phillies, Pirates, Giants. It's very intriguing."

Mazzilli appears to be channeling the great John Candy's character, Dewey Oxberger, in "Stripes", who explained his enlistment thusly: "I thought to myself, 'Join the army.' It’s free. So I figured while I’m here I’ll lose a few pounds. You got, what, a six- to eight-week training program around here, a really tough one, which is perfect for me. I’m going to walk out of here a lean, mean fightin’ machine!" It sounds like just as well thought-out an argument.

First, Mazzilli should learn who's in the NL East before making proposals. I know that the Pirates were in the East back in Maz's playing days, but they moved to the Central a decade ago. As for the Giants reference, maybe Mazzilli thinks they are still in New York.

As for the Phils, they have been designated "natural" rivals—I think that's the term—for interleague play. They are guaranteed to play each other every year anyway, at least until the farce that is interleague play is put out of our misery.

By switching leagues, the Orioles would miss hosting the team that is number one in road attendance (the Yankees) and the team that's third (the Red Sox). (Baltimore is 18th, Tampa 23rd and Toronto 25th). They would gain new rivals who draw slightly worse: the Mets are 12th, the Braves 16th, the Marlins 19th, the Expos 20th, and the Phils 27th (that's depressing). Which group would you rather have?

The good news is that the O's could move from a perennial second-division AL East team to NL East division favorites by next year if they pick up a pitcher or two. Then again, Cox and Mazzone will probably resurrect Cy Young, Lefty Grove, Walter Johnson, and Christy Mathewson for their staff next year, a feat slightly more impressive than what they have done over the last year or two.

As for the Brewers, yes, the did switch leagues in 1998, but a) they were the first team in over 100 years to switch major leagues and their best record since switching has been 74-87. Here are all the teams that have switched leagues in baseball history. The last teams before the Brewers were part of the National League-American Association merger in 1892:

TmLgFirstLastSwitch Yr
Milwaukee BrewersAL196919971998
Milwaukee BrewersNL19982003
Baltimore OriolesAA188218911892
Baltimore OriolesNL18921899
Louisville ColonelsAA188218911892
Louisville ColonelsNL18921899
Washington StatesmenAA189118911892
Washington SenatorsNL18921899
St. Louis BrownsAA188218911892
St. Louis CardinalsNL18922003
Philadelphia AthleticsPL189018901891
Philadelphia AthleticsAA18911891
Boston RedsPL189018901891
Boston RedsAA18911891
Brooklyn BridegroomsAA188418891890
Los Angeles DodgersNL18902003
Cincinnati Red StockingsAA188218891890
Cincinnati RedsNL18902003
Cleveland BluesAA188718881889
Cleveland SpidersNL18891899
Pittsburgh AlleghenysAA188218861887
Pittsburgh PiratesNL18872003
St. Louis MaroonsUA188418841885
St. Louis MaroonsNL18851886

Also, my friend Mike suggests, they should send the O's instead back to the International League. In the nineteenth century, this did happen commonly to clubs who lost their charter in a then-major league. The last team to leave the majors for the minors was the old Baltimore Orioles, who left the major-league American Association in favor of the Atlantic Association in 1891. They destroyed the opposition and were back in the AA fold by August and then were merged into the NL for 1892.

As for other teams that went from the minors to the majors, the Indianapolis Blues nee Capital Citys moved from the League Alliance in 1877 to the NL in 1878 and the Buffalo Bisons joined the NL in 1879 from the International Association. When the one-year Union Association started hemorrhaging teams during the 1884 season, they propped themselves up by co-opting the minor Northwestern League’s entire roster. Oh, and technically, the original eight American League teams were the descendents of minor-league clubs from the Western League (1893-1899) and minor-league AL (1900). (Detroit was the only original WL club to survive with its city affiliation intact.)

But I digress, It should be pointed out that the Orioles themselves were interlopers in the Senators' territory when the moved to Baltimore in 1954. They were required to pay just one hundred thousand dollars for the honor, and went from perennial doormats as the Browns to, for a time, one of the best organizations in baseball. And then Angelos bought the team. When the Senators were shifted to Minnesota for the 1961 season and a new team was placed in D.C., all to placate the owners of proposed Continental Baseball League, the new Senators were not required to pay any territorial fees. Reports have the Orioles making about one hundred million off of their rights this time around.

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