This is just a thought exercise. Something to imagine the potential benefits and pitfalls of, without any fear of it ever coming to pass, because it won’t. Ever. You’ve got a better chance of getting hit by a comet made of lightning while inside a t-rex.
Paper Lions and myself ran off on a bit of a tangent towards the bottom of the comments in the David Ortiz hit a large number of HR’s post. And in that tangent, an idea struck me. I’m quite certain I’m not the first person to think of it, and if I had just a tiny bit of gumption I could surely find many articles that have been written on the subject. However, the idea is new to me, and I wanted to explore it on my own, independent of outside research and opinion, before posting it here.
Having done that, to whatever modest extent I am capable, here now is the original question that sprang to mind and my own largely uninformed answers….
What would it look like if baseball in North America adopted a promotion and relegation system similar to what soccer in the UK uses?
Now, I only just started paying attention to professional grade soccer starting with the latest World Cup in Brazil. I was specifically enamored with the performance of US Secretary of Defense, a.k.a goalie Tim Howard. So when the 2014 baseball season ended and I began my annual avoidance of all things NFL, I drifted “across the pond” and latched on to Howard’s team in the Premier League, the Everton Evertons. My interest in soccer really only exists when the MLB is in the offseason, I bailed immediately upon the beginning of Spring Training earlier this year, and I haven’t watched a single second of soccer since the new season started. So when I say I am almost-completely ignorant of the sport, it’s not an exaggeration. But the promotion/relegation system was immediately interesting to me.
To give a quick explanation of what that is, think in terms of the MLB, AAA, AA, High A, Low A, Instructional League stratification we have in baseball. Now imagine that all of those teams in all of those strata operated completely independently of each other. That’s a rough description of the Premier League, Champions League, and other lesser leagues of soccer over there.
At the end of each year, the three teams with the worst record in the Premier League get demoted to the Champions league, and the three teams with the best record in the Champions League get promoted up to the Premier League…..likewise the three worst teams in the Champions League get “sent down”, and the three best teams in the league below that get “called up” to the Champions League. It creates legitimate races at both ends of the standings, as the best teams obviously want to move up….but the bottom-feeders are also trying like hell not to get sent down.
Instead the US baseball teams in the minor leagues being self-serving, autonomous entities, they are really nothing more than feeder systems for the 30 big league clubs. I mean, those ballgames are almost universally fun to attend, but they are pretty much empty stadiums. Because everyone knows that the best players don’t stay long and the players aren’t ever really playing for anything other than to eventually make some other roster halfway across the country better. Attendance is driven by gimmicks, not competition. I think attendance would skyrocket at these games if the local fans thought they would mean something.
And all it would take is one great season to potentially turn things around in a big way. Using this year’s current standings as an example….
- You’d have a hell of a race at the bottom of the standings. The Phillies and Braves would be near-locks to be relegated, but the A’s, Brewers, Reds, Marlins, and Rockies would all be fighting hard to stay out of that last demotion slot.
- Looking across the 3 AAA leagues (PCL, Mexican, and International), you’ve got seven different teams with 80 wins so far, fighting for just 3 promotion spots.
And getting promoted would be huge. Now that team would be on the major league schedule, playing 81 games in their home park against the biggest superstars in the game. Attendance would be insane, and the revenue that comes with that attendance would help them build a better team, one that might be able to do good enough to eventually stick in the MLB.
Like I said at the start, there’s zero chance this ever happens. But I think it would be pretty amazing if it did.