Bill Conlin: And on the seventh day, MLB realignment Creator rests

With the way Cliff Lee is playing, when can we expect his first career home run?
With the way Cliff Lee is playing, when can we expect his first career home run? (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff photographer)
Posted: June 24, 2011

OBSERVATIONS, insinuations, ruminations and downright opinions.

MLB realignment central

A lot of big brains crammed with better-mousetrap ideas swamped me with suggestions of how the Pastime's playing field can be leveled after years of DH vs. DH, 16-team NL vs. 14-team AL, with what were once uniquely different leagues now under the MLB umbrella.

Even the best suggestions are probably not doable because they involve either the addition of two teams to form 16-team leagues or subtraction down to two 14s. Some wanted the National League to cease being the only organized baseball league not using the DH. That would solve the rules disparity, but erase the only remaining link to the way the game was played by nearly everybody before 1973. And let's be honest, the American League did not take on the DH out of an evangelical zeal to lift the game to a higher level. They were being economically overrun by the Nationals, their attendance was down along with run-scoring. The DH was their way to jazz up the product. The patient was a success but the operation died. The NL became an outlaw state, its anthem, "The Way We Were."

You guys hammered really hard at the scheduling horror presented by two 15-team leagues split into three five-team divisions. One team in each league would have to be off each day. Or, two teams would have to meet in an interleague game, greatly expanding ILP over a season and increasing NL needs for a DH.

The most logical plan of all was also the most radical and would end the game as we know it, backing up a truck filled with asterisks to cover an obsolete record book. It would create 15-team leagues of two eight-team divisions (East and West) and two seven-team divisions (Central) drawn along geographic lines. The schedule would be cut back to 144 games with playoffs expanded to six teams in each league - division winners plus four wild cards, NFL style (best overall records regardless of division standing). Wild Card best-of-five first round. Second Round division series best-of-seven, LCS best-of-seven, WS best-of-seven. DH for everybody. I won't go into all four divisions, but here is the proposed NL East: Phillies, Pirates, Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Orioles, Nationals, Blue Jays. And the AL West: Giants, A's, Mariners, Dodgers, Angels, Padres, D-backs, Rockies. This plan would realign eight American and nine National League teams.

It would work only if Genesis were amended to: "And God said, let there be Baseball . . . And he created 15 teams and some of them were good . . . And on the seventh day he said, 'Play Ball.' "

Cliff dwelled on Planet Krypton

Cliff Lee appears to have no trouble throwing strike after perfectly located strike despite that blue and red cape he is wearing. I'm waiting for the concise lefthander to catch a one-hopper in shallow center and outrun the batter to first base. Lee's versatility and recent batting prowess moved reader Jose Kuhn to opine that he might be the most athletic Phillies pitcher since Randy Lerch.

Well, Lerch had some pop. But that was about it. I remember him playing first base for a Shore semipro team after his career was over. Rick Wise, Steve Carlton and Larry Christenson also had long-ball pop.

Here's my ranking of the most athletic Phillies pitchers in my time:

1. Ken Brett. Phils lefthander set a major league record by homering in four consecutive games pitched. Actually, it was five. He hit a bomb in Candlestick Park when it was being double-decked for the Niners. Depth perception in centerfield was awful due to all the construction equipment arrayed behind the cyclone fence. Brett hit a shot that cleared the fence by at least 15 feet. Garry Maddox was in center for the Giants and threw up his hands. It was ruled a ground-rule double. After he was traded to the Phils, the Secretary of Defense admitted, "Brett's ball was way out of there."

2. Tug McGraw. Because of his relief role, Tugger never got a chance to show off his considerable hitting prowess. Flake could flat rake. If you watched BP during Tug's career here, you'll remember the show he and grade-schooler Bret Boone used to put on shagging flies. Tug taught Bret his overhead, behind-the-back catches to the point Bob's oldest son became even better at them. One day before an All-Star Game in Anaheim, I was in Gene Mauch's office. A visiting writer asked the Angels manager, "Who's your best defensive player?" He didn't bat an eye. "Bret Boone," Mauch answered. Boone was still in high school at the time and used to work out with the Halos.

3. Bobby Shantz. The tiny lefthander would have been a Gold Glove middle infielder had he been righthanded. As it was, the A's ace, a Phil in 1964, was the best-fielding pitcher of his time, a fifth infielder. He was also a tough out and a fine bunter and baserunner.

Trivia Time

Let's ban "Day-O."

Last week's outfield urination question produced a tsunami of correct Rick Bosetti answers with a garden hose of support for Jay Johnstone and a dripping faucet for Glenn Wilson and Lenny Dykstra.

Today, we turn to the increasingly annoying, dated and totally unrelated to baseball, ballpark rallying blare of "Day-O." It has become the "Charge" of the Oughts. Most of you probably don't even remember the 1956 Harry Belafonte calypso song that began with that now slow-drip "Day-O" ballpark bleat. How many even remember Belafonte?

The trivia: In the actual song . . .

1. What got the boat-loader through the night's work?

2. What did he want to do at daylight?

3. What were the widths of the cargo he was loading?

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