We’ve been hearing for ages about the competitive disadvantage faced by everyone in the AL East other than the Red Sox and Yankees, along with the economic benefits attached to playing the superpowers a combined 36 times a year.  Considering Tampa’s 2007 success an aberration rather than a cause for hope, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan argues the time has come to “get rid of divisions…get rid of unbalanced schedules..get rid of inequality.”

It™s quite simple. Make two leagues, the American and National, with no geographical split. The AL has 14 teams and the NL 16 or, for true equitability, each league goes with 15 and baseball turns interleague play into a season-long event. Either way, the teams with the four best records in each league make the playoffs.

Short of a salary cap, to which the players™ union will never agree, bringing socialism to alignment is the clearest way. Treat every team as equally as possible when it comes to scheduling, travel and pathway to the postseason.

The Rays shouldn™t be damned to always chasing the Yankees and Red Sox because they play in a stadium on a particular coast. Excellent management deserves reward, not an impossible-to-sustain situation. Following my column on the inevitability of the Rays losing talent, I engaged in a friendly debate with Jonah Keri on the team™s long-term viability. He is writing a book on the Rays and believes they™ll continue to thrive. I™m a tad more skeptical.

This entire debate is unnecessary. A solution stares baseball in the face, and as the end of the current labor agreement approaches in December 2011, the conversation about distribution of revenue-sharing money may get ugly. The Yankees and Red Sox are tired of supporting the welfare system that props up the Rays and other low-revenue teams, and any suggestion that rich give more to poor will widen the rift. It™s going to be owners vs. players “ and, perhaps, owners vs. owners, too.

So blow it up. Start over. Unalign. Allow teams to keep the current sharing agreement while addressing the balance problem. Sacrifice the bonanza of Yankees-Red Sox 18 times a year “ sorry, ESPN “ for a schedule that evenly spreads games against them and gives every AL team a substantive piece of the New York-Boston ticket spike. As unfair as life is in the AL East, it™s downright comfortable in the other divisions.

Passan is onto something when he cites “owner vs. owner”. Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Florida — to name just 3 examples — have already proven there are agendas besides winning. And once Flushing’s NL entry is out from underneath Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana’s contracts, who’s to say the Amazing Madoffs Mets might not treasure their 9 visits a year from the Phillies above and beyond any competitive considerations?