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What goes around, comes around or so it seems.

In recent weeks discussions around major league baseball have surfaces regarding potential fundamental changes to the structure of baseball as it concerns leagues, divisions and how playoff teams will be determined.

Although these discussions are seemingly just in the embryonic stages – and may well have been “leaked” to the public for the purpose of getting fan and media feedback – it is interesting to note that one of the most publicized proposals set forth would really have baseball come full circle to where things stood a century ago.

For more than two thirds of the 20th century there were just two leagues and the lone team with the best record from each league would meet in the World Series.

Expansion in the 1960’s led to the creation of two divisions in each league with the winners of each meeting to determine who would represent the league in the Fall Classic.

Further expansion and criticism concerning the occasional unfairness in which the winner of one division would have a worse record – often much worse – than the second or third place team in the other led to the splitting of each league into three in 1994. With the cancellation of the 1994 playoffs the League Divisional Series began on an annual basis in 1995.

Recently a proposal has been floated regarding the expansion of the playoffs to include five teams from each league. Additionally it has been proposed to move one team from the 16 team National League into the 14 team American with Houston mentioned as the most viable candidate.

Of course with 15 teams in each league it would mean there would have to be an Interleague series played throughout the season due to each league having an odd number of teams.

Proponents of these proposals also suggest that the three divisions be eliminated and that the top five teams in each league would qualify for the playoffs.

While at first glance these proposals might seem ludicrous further examination could yield some viable possibilities with a little bit of tweaking.

Part of the allure of baseball has been first pennant and then Divisional races with many meaningful games being played throughout September and such races often not decided until the final weekend or even the final game of the season.

Baseball history is replete with such races and many of those races are remembered even more than the playoffs and World Series that followed.

With five teams in each league qualifying for the playoffs teams such as Tampa Bay, which has the misfortune of playing in the AL East and thus usually playing third fiddle to the Yankees and Red Sox, would now have a chance to make the postseason without winning a division or finishing second.

 But gone would be the excitement of these late season races with little of consequence on the line.

But what if the stakes were changed so that finishing first rather than second or third etc carried an extra advantage into the post season?

Suppose the team in each league that finished first would get to host five of the seven games in a 2-1-2-1-1 format, hosting games 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7?

The league winner would meet the survivor of the series between the fourth and fifth place teams, likely a best of three series.

In this manner there would be an incentive to finish first while at the same time there is an incentive to finish second rather than third in order to enjoy the home field in the series against that third place team.

While the prospects of such a monumental change in the structure of the game are still in the early discussion stage if such changes are to be made they should be made in the context of being meaningful. Baseball should do all that it can to maintain the integrity of the game, especially in the latter part of the season.

It may be tough enough to combat the expected opposition from the baseball traditionalists who consistently resist change.

But it could make for some very interesting and entertaining debate next winter.

Interleague play is two thirds complete for this season with the following results through this past Sunday. AL teams have won 88 of 168 games, or just over 52 percent. AL teams are 47-28 at home and 41-52 on the road.

Play between the leagues has produced an average of just 8.04 total runs per game with 68 going OVER, 83 UNDER and 17 pushing or no action.

The final two series of Interleague action takes place this week and over the holiday weekend, ending on Sunday, July 3.

Next Monday, July 4, represents the second major milestone of the regular season and coincides with teams having played just more than one half of the schedule.

Nearing the halfway point of the season there really has been no dominant team in baseball. Only one team starts the week winning at least 60 percent of its games. Philadelphia (49-30, .620) also has the biggest lead of any of the six division leaders and that margin is just five games ahead of Atlanta.

Of the other five division leaders only Milwaukee, in the NL Central, has a lead more than three games.

And surprising Washington now has “old school” Davey Johnson as its new manager.

Which means we should be in for some compelling baseball over the balance of the season and some very interesting decisions being made as the trade deadline approaches at the end of July.

Here’s a look at four of the more interesting Interleague series that will close out such play until the World Series arrives in October.

Giants at Tigers: The defending World Series champion Giants are doing it with pitching as their lineup has been decimated by injuries. Their rotation remains one of the best in baseball. Detroit has perhaps the best current pitcher in the game, Justin Verlander, but there’s a considerable drop-off after the ace. None of the other starters has an ERA below 4.20 or WHIP below 1.40. Detroit also is suspect defensively.

Contrast that to the Giants. Lefty Madison Bumgarner has the staff’s highest ERA (4.04) while lefty Jonathan Sanchez boasts the highest WHIP (1.42). Detroit’s significant edge on offense is offset by the Giants’ edge on the mound and in the field. There is a chance that the Giants won’t have to face Verlander if the Tigers’ ace starts on Thursday against the Mets.

Preferred plays:

• Giants as underdogs of any price in any matchup except against Verlander.

• Giants +160 or more against Verlander.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Verlander faces Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain.

Indians at Reds: Back in May, Cleveland swept the Reds at home outscoring Cincy 19-9 in the three games. Two of the three went OVER. Cleveland has gotten the better overall pitching with Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco enjoying fine seasons.

Cincinnati has the better offense, especially at home where they’ve averaged 5.2 runs per game. The Reds’ pitching staff has been anchored by Johnny Cueto although Mike Leake has also pitched well since his recall from the minors. But the rest of the rotation has been pretty much awful.

Preferred plays:

• Indians +125 or more not facing Cueto or Leake.

• Indians +150 or more against Cueto or Leake.

• Reds -130 if Cueto or Leake don’t start.

• Reds as underdogs in any matchup.

• OVER 8 or lower in any matchup not involving Cueto.

• UNDER 8 or higher if Cueto opposes Masterson, Tomlin or Carrasco.

Yanks at Mets: The Yankees won two of three when hosting the Mets in May. Two games went OVER as Yanks outscored their cross town rivals 17- 8. The Yanks are an incredible 22-4 in day games this season including 14-1 since May 8. The Yanks lead the majors with 111 home runs, 20 more than second best Milwaukee. The offense is averaging 5.3 runs on the road.

The Mets’ play has been much better than expected as manager Terry Collins has proven to be a major upgrade over Jerry Manuel. The starting pitching has been decent with Mike Pelfrey the only starter with an inflated ERA. The Mets have won 11 of the 12 starts made by Dillon Gee. CC Sabathia remains the Yankees’ workhorse while A J Burnett has been more good than bad thus far in 2011.

Preferred plays:

• Yankees -140 or less in any matchup.

• Mets +150 or more in any matchup.

• OVER 8 or lower if Sabathia faces Pelfrey, Jon Niese or RA Dickey.

• UNDER 8 or higher if the Yanks’ Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia don’t face Pelfrey, Niese or Dickey.

Cards at Rays. Tampa does it with pitching. Although lefty David Price is considered the “ace” of the staff and the most recognizable pitcher, righty James Shields may be the most underrated in all of MLB. He’s got some of the best stats of the season with a 2.29 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in over 120 innings. Jeremy Hellickson has also fared well in his rookie season. The offense averages just 3.2 runs per game at home, which just 10 OVERS and 26 UNDER.

St. Louis is playing without its injured star Albert Pujols and pitching ace Adam Wainwright for the entire season. True, both Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman are having solid seasons, but it remains to be seen if they can continue to be productive until Pujols returns likely in early August. The Cardinals’ pitching has been a weakness with Kyle Lohse reverting to mediocrity in his four June starts. Lefty Jaime Garcia has been the most consistent starter.

Preferred plays:

• Cards as underdogs in a start by Garcia against Price or Shields.

• Cards -125 or less against any other Tampa starter.

• Rays -140 or less not facing Garcia.

• Rays +110 or more against Garcia.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Garcia or Lohse face Price, Shields or Hellickson.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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