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What if the MLB had promotion and relegation?

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The biggest reason why this is a non-starter in the US is because the people who would enact it are the same people it would punish. Why would MLB (or anyone) owners agree to a system where a few of them are heavily punished each year financially? "Major League Baseball" is the collective of 30 owners. "The Premier League" is the top level soccer competition in England. The teams exist independently.

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3 hours ago, ElwoodCuse said:

The biggest reason why this is a non-starter in the US is because the people who would enact it are the same people it would punish. Why would MLB (or anyone) owners agree to a system where a few of them are heavily punished each year financially? "Major League Baseball" is the collective of 30 owners. "The Premier League" is the top level soccer competition in England. The teams exist independently.

 

Well, kinda.  The top soccer clubs have tried to break away to form their own closed league, but weren’t able to complete the deal.  So they did, with the proviso that they have to rotate the weaker members out.  But the Premier League is owned by whichever clubs are in it at the moment. 

 

Pro/rel could happen if the owners were properly compensated. If they got substantial parachute payments such as the Premiership offers to its relegated teams.  The problem is entirely that we don’t have the infrastructure here that other countries have, and never will. 

 

No other country has four other top-level professional leagues, each representing the highest level of competition in their sport on the planet.  That separates us from every other nation, and our specific challenges require specific solutions.  

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I would love it if baseball had promotion/relegation. Then it might happen that I would live 20 minutes from a major league team. 

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I don't like promotion/relegation for baseball, but one thing I thought of would be designating the leagues as major-market and mid-market. You've got the big markets like New York and Los Angeles that have the money and the near infinite resources to scout for talent and develop players. Then you have the smaller markets like Kansas City or Minneapolis that historically haven't had the same advantages. Realign the leagues in such a way one of them contains smaller markets, there might be a bit more even playing field. (At least until the World Series). In a way this kind of reflect the original AFL, how it mainly focused on neglected or secondary markets relative to the NFL.

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Would be an interesting concept to explore in an alternate history though, especially since for most of its history, baseball was isolated to North America. Could end up going down a bit of rabbit hole that results in a system that locks less money up at the top just like the soccer leagues of Europe. It would essentially have to pivot on the elimination of the farm system as we know it.

 

Currently writing an alternate baseball league history and I may incorporate this idea into my league: https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/central-league-alternate-minor-to-pro-baseball-timeline-up-until-1900.471086/

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The only way a pro/rel would even begin to be considered in MLB would be for it to be confined to only the MLB teams, in other words, the farm system would be left alone. You'd have to split MLB into 2 levels, maybe 20/10 (top league/bottom  league). This way it's always MLB teams in both leagues.

 

But this still wouldn't work. Besides the previously mentioned enriched history of the leagues, you could have teams in each level spread out and isolated that would make playing a full season, especially from a travel standpoint, a nightmare. England is small country. Travel looks to be minimal. That's something North American leagues have to factor in greatly. Yes, traveling is much farther advanced than the early days of baseball, but it's still a logistical concern.

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2 hours ago, McCall said:

The only way a pro/rel would even begin to be considered in MLB would be for it to be confined to only the MLB teams, in other words, the farm system would be left alone. You'd have to split MLB into 2 levels, maybe 20/10 (top league/bottom  league). This way it's always MLB teams in both leagues.

 

But this still wouldn't work. Besides the previously mentioned enriched history of the leagues, you could have teams in each level spread out and isolated that would make playing a full season, especially from a travel standpoint, a nightmare. England is small country. Travel looks to be minimal. That's something North American leagues have to factor in greatly. Yes, traveling is much farther advanced than the early days of baseball, but it's still a logistical concern.

 

I mean at the point of the logistical nightmare, you could in theory create a system of regions that have self-contained leagues with about 10 top tier teams with an additional "minor" league of 7 to 8 teams. Then have the winners of each of the top tier league play in a tournament akin to the Champions League. The brutal reality of this is that pretty much eliminates the very small markets that some of the Single-A and below leagues serve because most of these clubs operate on very small margins, and without the ownership of the top teams, they'd dissolve. So in that light you'd likely see 2 solid pro-leagues in each region, with maybe an additional "semi-pro" league in the denser regions. I would argue that this would also severely lower the quality of play in the sport because the minor leagues give young raw players time to develop, but you could make an argument that clubs would get more involved in the youth leagues to develop players like they do in Europe for soccer. 

 

Another point I'd make to, is that the season would need to be significantly shorter with additional cross region play. I'm thinking it'd need to be somewhere around 60 - 70 games at that point to allow for series still but also not make playing the same rotation of teams repetitive for fans. Also I personally think the semi-fluid nature of rosters in baseball justifies a longer schedule, and without it, there'd be no need for 100+ games.

 

Some pre-season, cross level tournaments could also cement the idea of any team from any city winning on the big stage.

 

Every two-seasons would be the chance for promotion and relegation with the bottom two in the 1st tier playing a set of elimination games against the top two of the 2nd tier.

 

I envision :

  1. North-East Region; could support 3 tiers
  2. Mid-West Region; could support 2 tiers
  3. South-East Region; could support 3 tiers thanks to Florida & coasts being huge fans of baseball
  4. Plains-Region; could support likely only 1 tier but only if anchored by Kansas City & Denver
  5. Texas-Bayou Region (Texas-Louisiana-Mississippi-Arkansas-Memphis Area); could support 2 tiers
  6. West-Coast Region; could support 2 tiers stretching from San Diego-Phoenix then up to Seattle-Vancouver

 

Hypothetical Example of the Mid-West Region;

 

spacer.png

 

Top Tier League:

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. Chicago White Sox
  3. Milwaukee Brewers
  4. St Louis Cardinals
  5. Cleveland Spiders (renamed due to Indy)
  6. Detroit Tigers
  7. Minnesota Twins
  8. (Promoted) Indianapolis Indians
  9. Cincinnati Reds
  10. (Promoted) Louisville Bats

2nd Tier League

  1. Toledo Mudhens
  2. Fort Wayne Tincaps (Promoted from Single-A, as they should be)
  3. Columbus Clippers
  4. Iowa Cubs (would need new name)
  5. Lansing Lugnuts (Promoted from Single-A, arguably one of the best teams at that level)
  6. Akron Rubberducks (Promoted from Double-A)
  7. West Michigan Whitecaps (Promoted from Single-A, makes no sense why Grand Rapids is stuck in Single-A)
  8. Dayton Dragons (Promoted from Single-A)

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I've never really understood the obsession with promotion and relegation - especially in American sports, which aren't set up to support it financially or structurally.

 

What does it even do for soccer? When was the last time Manchester United got relegated, or Real Madrid, or Bayern Munich? It seems to me that all this system accomplishes in the sports that have it is shuffling around the cupcake opponents for the rich teams to beat. It doesn't seem like anything worth getting excited about to me.

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30 minutes ago, Lights Out said:

I've never really understood the obsession with promotion and relegation - especially in American sports, which aren't set up to support it financially or structurally.

 

Promotion and relegation was a historical accident that wound up getting fetishised by people who erroneously see it as a feature of soccer.

It is much more sensible for teams to have large organisations and to employ hundreds of players, some of whom they develop, and others of whom they use for trades.  European soccer clubs, lacking a minor-league system, wind up loaning out players.  This is undesireable, as it subjects the player to coaching techniques that might be in conflict with what the manager of his main club would teach.  The arrangement also creates untenable demands on the player, who is often expected to buy into the culture and environment of his loan club while still knowing that he is employed by his main club.  And loans within the same league are completely absurd.  A player may not play against the club that employs him (in England at least; it may be different in other countries); but he sure can affect the fate of that club by his play in other matches.

 

Baseball's minor league system is preferable in all respects.  The player is always playing for his employer and is always under the supervision of a coaching staff that is on the same page as the Major League staff.  Also, a player playing in his team's minor league system cannot do anything that will hurt his team's interests.

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14 minutes ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

 

Promotion and relegation was a historical accident that wound up getting fetishised by people who erroneously see it as a feature of soccer.

It is much more sensible for teams to have large organisations and to employ hundreds of players, some of whom they develop, and others of whom they use for trades.  European soccer clubs, lacking a minor-league system, wind up loaning out players.  This is undesireable, as it subjects the player to coaching techniques that might be in conflict with what the manager of his main club would teach.  The arrangement also creates untenable demands on the player, who is often expected to buy into the culture and environment of his loan club while still knowing that he is employed by his main club.  And loans within the same league are completely absurd.  A player may not play against the club that employs him (in England at least; it may be different in other countries); but he sure can affect the fate of that club by his play in other matches.

 

Baseball's minor league system is preferable in all respects.  The player is always playing for his employer and is always under the supervision of a coaching staff that is on the same page as the Major League staff.  Also, a player playing in his team's minor league system cannot do anything that will hurt his team's interests.

 

I agree to a point, but we don't really have an ideal system in the US either tho.

 

In our system, since the concept of "professional" sports are monopolized to box out competition, there's no accountability or consequences for failure. So you have organizations that are just terrible and continue to be terrible with no change because they still profit even if it hurts the parity of the leagues. In a system where they fear being relegated to a lower tier, i.e. less money, they'd ideally strive to be better every year. I know its all unlikely, but its at least it's an idea to get out of the stagnant low parity we have.

 

It may not benefit the clubs or players, but it would certainly benefit the fans.

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I've never been sold on this whole pro/rel thing. I just don't see this ever working here. It's just a different sports culture. A team already struggles with attendance when they perform badly. Now imagine if they get relegated to AAA? That could cripple them financially. 

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8 hours ago, Bowski said:

 

I agree to a point, but we don't really have an ideal system in the US either tho.

 

In our system, since the concept of "professional" sports are monopolized to box out competition, there's no accountability or consequences for failure. So you have organizations that are just terrible and continue to be terrible with no change because they still profit even if it hurts the parity of the leagues. In a system where they fear being relegated to a lower tier, i.e. less money, they'd ideally strive to be better every year. I know its all unlikely, but its at least it's an idea to get out of the stagnant low parity we have.

 

It may not benefit the clubs or players, but it would certainly benefit the fans.

This is the second time you’ve said that pro sports has a monopoly when that is not true. Each league has 30ish teams competing for fans, viewership, and merchandise sales. That does not include the other league around while not as big still are other options that are available from the minors, Canadian football, arena league, G league, plus the other leagues around the world. Even the college game is a substitute for the professional game and is a lot of people preferred choice. If teams aren’t performing but making a profit that’s not the teams fault, and relegating them to a lower league doesn’t help anyone but make the rich teams richer and the poor teams poorer. Look at Newcastle United. They use to be a power house in England but then they got relegated and never will be able to get the players needed to get back to the top of the table. It’s because that one year of relegation killed their profits and reputation. Meanwhile Man U, Man City, Liverpool ect continue to run the table and increase the gap between the top and the bottom.

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7 hours ago, dont care said:

This is the second time you’ve said that pro sports has a monopoly when that is not true. Each league has 30ish teams competing for fans, viewership, and merchandise sales. That does not include the other league around while not as big still are other options that are available from the minors, Canadian football, arena league, G league, plus the other leagues around the world. Even the college game is a substitute for the professional game and is a lot of people preferred choice. If teams aren’t performing but making a profit that’s not the teams fault, and relegating them to a lower league doesn’t help anyone but make the rich teams richer and the poor teams poorer. Look at Newcastle United. They use to be a power house in England but then they got relegated and never will be able to get the players needed to get back to the top of the table. It’s because that one year of relegation killed their profits and reputation. Meanwhile Man U, Man City, Liverpool ect continue to run the table and increase the gap between the top and the bottom.

 

Monopoly: a commodity controlled by one party

  • College football is a fundamentally different product then the NFL, I'm sick of people saying that if you think the NFL is unbalanced and lacking parity, just watch college football instead
  • You could make an argument for AAA baseball being comparable to the MLB, but only in experience, not actual game-play
  • NBA compared to the G-League, not even close; game-play is much slower and the experience is drastically different
  • NHL to AHL play is comparable due to the play, and to be honest the best AHL teams would still likely lose to the worst NHL teams

We tend to look at sports leagues differently, then companies that deal in more tangible products like manufactured goods, services, etc. but we seem to forget that the professional sports league is selling its product to the consumers. There is some competition among the leagues due to being in the same general industry but in terms of comparable products they don't provide the same stuff. The NFL does not sell the same product as the MLB, just as Nintendo does not sell the same product as Comcast-Universal despite being in the same entertainment industry, none of these are competing against each other to provide the exact same product to the consumer.

 

I've never said it would necessarily simple to do this for our leagues, just that it would be a hypothetical way to force parity in the leagues. I genuinely do not care if the teams suffer losses in profit, I care about the consumers, fans, getting the best product.

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19 hours ago, Bowski said:

 

I agree to a point, but we don't really have an ideal system in the US either tho.

 

In our system, since the concept of "professional" sports are monopolized to box out competition, there's no accountability or consequences for failure. So you have organizations that are just terrible and continue to be terrible with no change because they still profit even if it hurts the parity of the leagues. In a system where they fear being relegated to a lower tier, i.e. less money, they'd ideally strive to be better every year. I know its all unlikely, but its at least it's an idea to get out of the stagnant low parity we have.

 

It may not benefit the clubs or players, but it would certainly benefit the fans.

I'm not convinced it would benefit the fans either.  I guess it would benefit some fans...for example, in the 1990s when payroll disparity was becoming a big deal, there was a lot of frustration with the small-market teams not stepping up the payment.  I suppose if you're a big-market fan, you would find it more competitive not having to deal with the Pittsburghs, Minnesotas, and Kansas Cities.  The "big leagues" would be, say, 16 very competitive teams.

 

As a Minnesota fan, I'd obviously be cheering for a relegated team from now until the end of time.  Being essentially minor league would create a terrible cycle...the teams would bring in less revenue, would have to trade their better players to real teams, and virtually nobody would sign with them because they'd want to be in the big league.

 

The whole "monopoly" thing is interesting.  Is MLB a single entity?  I could argue it's 30 entities...but since I can't just start the Little Rock Little Rockers and get to compete with them, I guess you could argue it has properties of a monopoly.  (not that I know a damn thing about the laws on this topic)

 

But given its history, I don't really see how a new "big league" can compete with MLB under any circumstances.  See all of the pro leagues attempting to compete with the NFL.  It's really hard to generate interest in brand new teams when you're looking at the history of the established league.

 

Anyway, there are issues with our system(s)...I'm not as convinced as everyone else that it's the "cheap" owners of small-market teams.   But that can play a role at times.  That said, I can only speak for myself...I'd probably be done with any relegation league.  I like the stability of what we have.  I like that the Minnesota are allowed to play against the New Yorks (and accept that to varying degrees, by sport, we're at a disadvantage), and I'm flat out checking out when my team is playing for promotion from the lower-class.


We're pretty enamored with soccer right now and sometimes I feel like I am in the minority amongst US fans in not wanting Pro/Rel.  That said, I don't see it happening for one simple reason: Public financing of stadiums.  The leagues want government money and I don't see a lot of governments putting the lion's share of a billion dollars into a stadium for a team that could be sent to the minors.

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9 minutes ago, OnWis97 said:

We're pretty enamored with soccer right now and sometimes I feel like I am in the minority amongst US fans in not wanting Pro/Rel.

 

You're really not.   They’re a tiny, tiny minority, amplified by social media well beyond any proportion. 

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1 hour ago, OnWis97 said:

I'm not convinced it would benefit the fans either.  I guess it would benefit some fans...for example, in the 1990s when payroll disparity was becoming a big deal, there was a lot of frustration with the small-market teams not stepping up the payment.  I suppose if you're a big-market fan, you would find it more competitive not having to deal with the Pittsburghs, Minnesotas, and Kansas Cities.  The "big leagues" would be, say, 16 very competitive teams.

 

As a Minnesota fan, I'd obviously be cheering for a relegated team from now until the end of time.  Being essentially minor league would create a terrible cycle...the teams would bring in less revenue, would have to trade their better players to real teams, and virtually nobody would sign with them because they'd want to be in the big league.

 

The whole "monopoly" thing is interesting.  Is MLB a single entity?  I could argue it's 30 entities...but since I can't just start the Little Rock Little Rockers and get to compete with them, I guess you could argue it has properties of a monopoly.  (not that I know a damn thing about the laws on this topic)

 

But given its history, I don't really see how a new "big league" can compete with MLB under any circumstances.  See all of the pro leagues attempting to compete with the NFL.  It's really hard to generate interest in brand new teams when you're looking at the history of the established league.

 

Anyway, there are issues with our system(s)...I'm not as convinced as everyone else that it's the "cheap" owners of small-market teams.   But that can play a role at times.  That said, I can only speak for myself...I'd probably be done with any relegation league.  I like the stability of what we have.  I like that the Minnesota are allowed to play against the New Yorks (and accept that to varying degrees, by sport, we're at a disadvantage), and I'm flat out checking out when my team is playing for promotion from the lower-class.


We're pretty enamored with soccer right now and sometimes I feel like I am in the minority amongst US fans in not wanting Pro/Rel.  That said, I don't see it happening for one simple reason: Public financing of stadiums.  The leagues want government money and I don't see a lot of governments putting the lion's share of a billion dollars into a stadium for a team that could be sent to the minors.

^The MLB actually is two separate leagues

 

I agree with you wholly, and I would say I don't believe its possible really at all either.

 

But it is interesting to think about and explore on a conceptual level.

 

I would say also that for the monopolies; it is a consequence of the developmental history and entrenched perception of sports leagues in the United States. Our systems of youth, college, semi-pro, and professional are not set-up to really support blurring the lines between them. Like in the US, an 18 yr old high school QB is not going to be anywhere close to a 26 old NFL QB in terms of talent.

 

Soccer has the benefit of a unique age parity, 17 yr olds being able to compete with 20+ yr olds, so I still think the system could in theory be applied to the MLS.

 

All that in mind, I would say that economics forced a monopoly on a sport to occur because running a league isn't cheap and profit margins are very important for long-term stability; if you need further examples of that, I highly suggest reading about the economics of MLB & NFL when they were in their infancy. 

 

I believe in a hypothetical situation where stadiums are not publicly funded, modern capitalism doesn't occur to box out small markets, and cost of entry isn't as high; you could have promotion/relegation occur in that sport, but outside of concepts, it is not possible in the US due to this and a lot of other factors.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Gothamite said:

 

You're really not.   They’re a tiny, tiny minority, amplified by social media well beyond any proportion. 

I wouldn't put myself in that minority, but I admit that I'm intrigued by the novelty of pro/rel in soccer. I think most of the support comes from people trying to capture some of that energy borne from a promotion battle. It's an element of professional sports currently absent in the American landscape, and it's a big part of what makes European soccer so intriguing. That Herculean climb from the lower leagues to the top is a pretty compelling narrative. 

 

All that said, none of this necessarily makes it a good fit for U.S. soccer, baseball or any sport of any time. It's an anachronism specific to those century-plus-old European leagues that likely doesn't fit the modern era of sports business. 

 

 

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I personally love pro/rel, and enjoy the annual battles in England.

 

But it only works under certain conditions:

  1. You need a country small enough where transportation isn't really an issue no matter who makes the top flight.
  2. You need sufficient infrastructure to ensure that smaller cities can hold their own, and have stadiums appropriate for all levels.
  3. Any cities even of moderate size must be represented by several teams, so that we don't find the larger markets relegated out of the top flight entirely.
  4. You need a marketplace relatively free of competition.  Any teams relegated must be able to survive to fight for promotion.

And, now that I think of it, that's four very good reasons why it can't possibly work here.  ;) 

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On 7/16/2019 at 3:38 PM, Bowski said:

there's no accountability or consequences for failure. So you have organizations that are just terrible and continue to be terrible with no change because they still profit even if it hurts the parity of the leagues.

 

Are there such organisations? This is mostly a canard.

 

Let's realise that the Royals and the Texas Rangers each recently won consecutive pennants — and even the Tampa Bay Rays won a pennant! 

 

Not long ago, people would talk of the Detroit Tigers as though they were hopeless; but they went from racking up historically prodigious loss totals to winning the pennant in only three years. Nowadays people often mention the Pirates as the example of a team that isn't trying. But we mustn't forget that they recently we're one of the wild cards for three seasons in a row.

 

Not every team is going to reel off first-place finishes like the 1950s Yankees or the 1990s-2000s Braves. But that doesn't mean that they're not trying. If they win a pennant once in a generation, that justifies the whole thing.

 

Additionally, I will offer the view that parity is not such a good thing. While each team having hope seems desirable, the truth is that a league's identity is derived from its dominant teams. 

 

Major League Baseball in the 1970s is defined by the A's, Reds, Yankees; the NFL of the 1970s is defined by the Steelers, Dolphins, Cowboys, Raiders; the NBA of the 1980s is defined by the Celtics, Lakers, Pistons. These periods have a feel to them, almost a taste. By contrast, a period during which any team can win is a period that is nondescript and featureless.

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