March 8, 2000
An N.L. Realignment Plan Would Part Braves and Mets
By TYLER KEPNER
he Atlanta Braves are the mountain the Mets have been unable to climb, the team that ran right over them last September when the National League East division title was at stake and then beat them again in the National League Championship Series.
But under one realignment plan that baseball owners may vote on as early as April 18, the Mets and Braves would no longer share the same address during the regular season, starting in 2001.
The Mets would be in a North East division with Montreal, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh; the Braves would be in a South East grouping with St. Louis, Florida and Tampa Bay.
In all, there would be four National League divisions with four teams apiece and no wild card; the American League would still have three divisions -- the Yankees would be grouped with traditional rivals Boston, Baltimore and Toronto -- and the one wild card.
For the Mets, the absence of Atlanta would make it easier to win a division title. But some of the challenge might be gone, too.
"Everything they've done has been correct as far as progressing the game of baseball," Mets Manager Bobby Valentine said of realignment. "If this is another thought to do that, I'm all in favor of it."
"Realignment without the Braves in our division?" said Steve Phillips, the Mets' general manager. "I think we might vote in favor of that one."
But he noted the cyclical nature of teams' fortunes and praised the young talent on the Phillies, Pirates and Expos.
What about losing the wild card?
"I'd weigh the two and I'd probably still vote for it," he said of the proposed realignment.
Robin Ventura, the Mets' third baseman, was asked if he would miss having the Braves in his division. "I guess," he said, "but it's just like interleague play; you don't know what it is until you do it."
"I'm definitely in favor of the wild card," said Mike Hampton, the Mets' left-hander. "The Marlins won the World Series on it three years ago, so I'm in favor of it. But if realignment would help travel plans and make the schedule easier and more fair, where we don't have to go to the West Coast and the East Coast on the same road trip, I wouldn't vote that down.
"My only concern is with interleague play. When they brought it in, I thought it was going to be awesome, because every team would see every other team. It's the fourth year of it and we're still going back and forth with the same division. I'd vote against it unless it was changed."
Under the realignment plan, the Arizona Diamondbacks would switch, against their wishes, to the American League, and the Devil Rays would go to the National. Approval of the plan requires only a majority vote in each league, but it also needs the consent of the players association.
Gene Orza, the associate general counsel of the union, told USA Today that "we're on the same page in this regard."
[This message has been edited by yankoholics anonymous (edited March 08, 2000).]