Anyway, with the news that the 3rd WBC has been expanded to 28 teams, I thought it would be fun to run through the exercise again.
The list of countries can be found in this post...it's a difficult task to make it work. The main reason is that the teams divide pretty obviously into three major geographic groups: Western Hemisphere (11), Eastern Asia/Australia (8), and Europe/West Asia/Africa (9). That invites the creation of three separate leagues, with occasional interleague play to keep things interesting outside of the playoffs.
Unfortunately, odd-numbered leagues don't work well scheduling-wise, so I opted to move South Africa from the Europe group over to the Western group. This is justifiable: South Africa is roughly the same distance from Israel (closest in "Europe" group) as it is to Brazil (closest in Western group). Unfortunately, the most distant flight will be 1000 miles greater for South Africa under this system. Sorry, South Africa! If they opt to withdraw from the league, they would probably either invite a new Western country or just add a second USA team.
So, that gives us three leagues with two to three divisions of 4 teams each. Here's the layout:
Here are the divisions visually:
Team Composition and Finances
- To keep the nationalistic flavor of the league intact, teams would be required to have at least 5 players from the home country on the 25-man team roster. The other 20 could be from anywhere (still want very high quality of play).
- Eligibility for home country would follow rules similar to that used in the WBC (i.e. very permissive, but there has to be some legitimate claim).
- Allowances for temporary drops below this number would be permitted in cases of injury.
- Substantial revenue sharing would exist to subsidize the budgets of poorer teams.
- TV contracts would be run entirely by the governing body of the league, and profits would be distributed equitably across teams.
- The league would subsidize 10% of a player's salary when he signs with a home-country team. If the TV contracts don't cover this, teams would need to pay into a revenue sharing system.
- Teams would compete within their own league, with an unbalanced schedule favoring division rivals.
- Because of the difficulty of travel, teams would face off in five-game series (Wed through Sun) throughout the season. There would be two days off permitted between each series to allow for travel/acclimation.
- The basic schedule guidelines would be:
- 60 games within division (two rounds of 5 games home and 5 games away with each of the three teams within the division)
- 60 games outside of division (six rounds of 5 games home and 5 games away, spread across 4-8 teams)
- 20 games outside of league (two rounds of 5 games home and 5 games away, spread across three teams)
- This gives us 140 games across 28 weeks. That spans roughly 6.5 months, and so would be a tad longer than MLB's season (although with 22 fewer games because of the off-days).
- The season would run from ~July through mid-January. Teams in temperate countries, or countries with substantial wet/dry seasons, would need to play the majority of their home games when the whether is appropriate unless they build climate-controlled, covered stadiums (retractable roofs would be mandatory, of course).
- Each division winner would be guaranteed a playoff slot. That gives us 7 playoff teams for a traditional three-stage playoffs.
- The eighth team would be chosen from four wild card teams (based on best overall records of non-division winners), who would compete in a College World Series-style, two-losses-and-you're-out tournament in a single location (would rotate around the three leagues each year).
- The remaining playoffs would be typical best-of-7 series, again with two days off in between each game for travel.
- Pitching rotations would be interesting. I suspect that many teams would attempt to throw their ace starter in the first game and then on short rest in the 5th game during important series. This could be done every third series to give the starter (alternately) three days rest, four days rest, and seven days rest.
- Because the season is shorter, it would take a bit less skill to win a division than in MLB. That said, the talent disparities may be greater among teams than in MLB because of the 5 home country player requirement. I would expect better teams to win more often than not.
- Some divisions will feature lower levels of competition than others. The Northern, Carribean, and Asian Divisions should be very competitive. The Imperial League divisions will probably be less so.