In Part 1 of this "How to Fix MLB" series, we discussed how Major League Baseball violates some of the rules that all sports leagues should follow. The sport is unique -- a lifestyle sport, as some describe it. That never has to change. The unbalanced schedules and the playoff system (especially the one-game playoffs) do.
We will come back to that in later posts. Trust me, we have ways for MLB to fix its problems. But first, we need to discuss another important feature of Major League Baseball -- its minor league structure.
Minor League Baseball:
When you watch baseball on TV, you are usually watching Major League Baseball. What you don't see is the minor league games.
Almost every person who has played in the majors has first come through the minor league system. The minors consist of multiple levels of play; just below the majors, you have Triple-A. Then there's Double-A, Single-A (high and low), rookie leagues, fall leagues, etc. There are also other independent leagues, as well as local leagues (for example, American Legion baseball).
Sound familiar? The beauty of English football is its grassroots nature. You have 20-plus levels of football -- from the Premier League all the way down to the most grassroots level of amateur play.
The only difference between American baseball's levels and English football's levels is huge -- the way they are connected.
Minor League Baseball Affiliates:
In English football, the clubs are all independently run. While clubs might loan players to other clubs, they are independently owned and operated from one other. Lower-level clubs are not owned by Premier League clubs.
In baseball, that's not the case. Each team in the minor leagues is owned by a major league team. For example, the New York Yankees have a Triple-A affiliate, a Double-A affiliate, and so on.
This system dates back about a hundred years or so. There are many reasons why it works. And yet, what if? What if your local minor league team was not an affiliate of a major league team but its own team with its own players?
Minor League Example -- the Lynchburg Hillcats:
We here at Fantasy Soccer FC live in Lynchburg, Virginia. Lynchburg has a minor league team -- a "high" Class A team in the Carolina League called the Hillcats. Going to games is fun, but they are mostly meaningless. No one cares about the results. It's simply a summer recreational activity.
Occasionally, the Hillcats play for the Carolina League title. Does anyone care about that? Not really. Because there's no reason to care. Not even for the players. You only play in the Carolina League for one reason -- to get out of the Carolina League and move up to Double-A baseball.
What if the Hillcats games' meant something? What if playing for the Carolina League title meant something more? What if it meant the chance to move up -- get promoted -- to Double A? Baseball fans would care much more about their hometown teams if that were the case.
Adding Promotion/Relegation to Baseball:
The system of promotion and relegation would add so much to Major League Baseball. If teams were able to change levels up and down, baseball games would have so much more meaning. As 162-game seasons came to an end, you would have more than just playoff drama. You would have drama over which teams would get sent down to Triple-A next year.
More so than any other sport, baseball is the closest to being able to mirror English football's system of promotion and relegation. The possibilities are exciting to think about. Yes, it's pure fantasy, but no one can deny how much more fun baseball -- both in the majors and with your local minor league team -- would be.
What would that look like if it was carried out? Continue to follow this blog series to find out.