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Why Hasn't There Been A Good Alternative Baseball League to MLB?

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On 4/25/2019 at 9:02 AM, kmccarthy27 said:

I know that the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball pitched itself as a "alternate" major league when the moved in to my home town of Waldorf, MD. But from what I can tell its like a independent league in between AA and AAA level ball that plays in the burbs. And now with MLB using that league for rule testing it just seems to be the unaffiliated minor league in the system.  

I find it hard to believe they really did that. They can't, with a straight face, have pitched themselves as more than indy ball, but more financially stable than usual. 

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Yeah. Their designation as being “somewhere between AAA and AA” is more aspirational than anything.  

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On 4/25/2019 at 10:02 AM, kmccarthy27 said:

I know that the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball pitched itself as a "alternate" major league when the moved in to my home town of Waldorf, MD. But from what I can tell its like a independent league in between AA and AAA level ball that plays in the burbs. And now with MLB using that league for rule testing it just seems to be the unaffiliated minor league in the system.  

 

It's not like an Independent League Minor League. It is an Independent Minor League.

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On 4/25/2019 at 10:02 AM, kmccarthy27 said:

I know that the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball pitched itself as a "alternate" major league when the moved in to my home town of Waldorf, MD. But from what I can tell its like a independent league in between AA and AAA level ball that plays in the burbs.

 

45 minutes ago, Gothamite said:

Yeah. Their designation as being “somewhere between AAA and AA” is more aspirational than anything.  

 

At least in the Atlantic League's first decade, the claim of being between AAA and AA had considerable merit; indeed, the league was then probably closer to AAA than to AA.  The Atlantic League had plenty of recent ex-Major Leaguers, such as Hensley Meulens, Doug Jennings, Jose Offerman, Ozzie Canseco, Jaime Navarro, Jack Armstrong, Wes Chamberlain, Carlos Baerga, Edgardo Alfonzo, Lance Johnson, Pete Incaviglia, Armando Benitez, John Rocker, and quite a few others.  Some came in immediately after being released by Major League teams, such as Jose Canseco, Jim Leyritz, Jose Lima, and, most famously, Rickey Henderson.  At least five players (Baerga, Lima, Benitez, Jose Canseco, and Henderson) made it back to the Majors after their stints in the Atlantic League.
 

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35 minutes ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

 

 

At least in the Atlantic League's first decade, the claim of being between AAA and AA had considerable merit; indeed, the league was then probably closer to AAA than to AA.  The Atlantic League had plenty of recent ex-Major Leaguers, such as Hensley Meulens, Doug Jennings, Jose Offerman, Ozzie Canseco, Jaime Navarro, Jack Armstrong, Wes Chamberlain, Carlos Baerga, Edgardo Alfonzo, Lance Johnson, Pete Incaviglia, Armando Benitez, John Rocker, and quite a few others.  Some came in immediately after being released by Major League teams, such as Jose Canseco, Jim Leyritz, Jose Lima, and, most famously, Rickey Henderson.  At least five players (Baerga, Lima, Benitez, Jose Canseco, and Henderson) made it back to the Majors after their stints in the Atlantic League.
 

Trouble is, even if you've got a set of washed big leaguers and AAAA guys, the rest of rosters are guys who couldn't make it as org guys in affiliated ball so it's hard to give a good read of what the overall quality of play is other than being the top of the indy pecking order

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Yeah, I saw a fair number of Bridgeport Bluefish games back at the start.  Even AA is overselling the product somewhat. 

 

Not that it’s a bad thing - I love the Cyclones, every short-season A minute of them - but let’s be real.   A couple washed-up major leaguers couldn’t get the Atlantic League within sniffing distance of AAA. 

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18 minutes ago, Gothamite said:

A couple washed-up major leaguers couldn’t get the Atlantic League within sniffing distance of AAA. 

 

But it wasn't a couple; it was a whole lot.  I just named the players I could remember off the top of my head, the ones who played for the Newark Bears and the Long Island Ducks. There were a great deal more.

 

 

36 minutes ago, RichO said:

Trouble is, even if you've got a set of washed big leaguers and AAAA guys, the rest of rosters are guys who couldn't make it as org guys in affiliated ball so it's hard to give a good read of what the overall quality of play is other than being the top of the indy pecking order

 

The fact that the ex-big-leaguers commingled with the career minor-leaguers on the leader boards tells us that the calibre of talent amongst the Atlantic League's players who never made the Majors was pretty high.  Apart from Ozzie Canseco's season of 48 home runs, the ex-Major Leaguers didn't put up silly numbers, as they would have done if they had totally out-classed the Atlantic League's other players.  From this we can safely assume that the league's level was just shy of AAA.

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51 minutes ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

The fact that the ex-big-leaguers commingled with the career minor-leaguers on the leader boards tells us that the calibre of talent amongst the Atlantic League's players who never made the Majors was pretty high. 

 

No, it actually doesn’t. 

 

It may tell us that the Atlantic League was willing to pay for former big-leaguers to extend their careers by a year or three, but it doesn’t tell us anything about the actual quality of talent in the league. 

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14 minutes ago, Gothamite said:
1 hour ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

The fact that the ex-big-leaguers commingled with the career minor-leaguers on the leader boards tells us that the calibre of talent amongst the Atlantic League's players who never made the Majors was pretty high. 

 

No, it actually doesn’t. 

 

It may tell us that the Atlantic League was willing to pay for former big-leaguers to extend their careers by a year or three, but it doesn’t tell us anything about the actual quality of talent in the league. 

 

Sure it does.  If the average level of talent in the league had been, let's say, A-ball level, then there would have been some ex-Major Leaguer hitting 48 or 50 or home runs every year, as well as some other ex-Major Leaguers hitting .390 or .400 every year, some ex-big-league pitchers with 1.something ERAs, and so forth.

But the fact that recent ex-Major Leaguers did not tear up the Atlantic League demonstrates that they were competing against other players who were very near to their level.  
 

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58 minutes ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

Sure it does.  If the average level of talent in the league had been, let's say, A-ball level, then there would have been some ex-Major Leaguer hitting 48 or 50 or home runs every year, as well as some other ex-Major Leaguers hitting .390 or .400 every year, some ex-big-league pitchers with 1.something ERAs, and so forth.

 

Or major-league level skills fall off quickly.  Or the players enjoyed their paychecks more than the competition.  

 

I never saw anything at the games to make me think AAA. AA is a stretch.  Even as a retirement league. 

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Nippon Pro Baseball/KBO are not included in this discussion, as they are outside North America and are doing well in their respective countries.

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On 4/26/2019 at 6:11 PM, Gothamite said:

 

Or major-league level skills fall off quickly.  Or the players enjoyed their paychecks more than the competition.  

 

I never saw anything at the games to make me think AAA. AA is a stretch.  Even as a retirement league. 

 

They're ex-major-league players for a reason.  You can hang on at the major league level as the last guy on the bench or a mediocre lefty reliever and collect a check for a decade.  To be DFA'd or flat-out released and go unsigned speaks a lot about where player's current skill level is.

 

I've never seen an Atlantic League game, but I know that after being released by the Phillies, Pedro Feliz - starting 3b on the 2008 WFC Phillies - played for the now-defunct Camden Riversharks, and was average at best.  One year after starting for a championship team.  

 

That a league's non-ex-MLB talent can compete with ex-MLBers seems to indicate more that the ex-MLBers are really playing at that lower-level, rather than that those IL players are playing at a near-ML level.

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You guys are drastically exaggerating the dropoff of skills in a typical ex-Major Leaguer.

 

Don't forget that we had the Senior League for one full season and parts of a second in 1989-90 and 1990-91. That league featured players who were several years removed from their Major League careers alongside players who had just been released by Major League teams. And that league, like the Atlantic League, sent some players back to the Majors. (One of them was Joaquin Andujar.) This alone tells us that the level of competition in both the Atlantic League and the Senior League was not all that far from the Major League level.

 

While the gap between AAA and the Majors is large, the gap between  AA and AAA is even larger. These leagues fit in that gap, with the top end of their player pools leaning towards the AAA side.

 

Unfortunately, fans tend to think in a simplistic and binary fashion: if it's not the sport's top league, it must stink. But the reality is that a sport's top league represents an exalted level, and that players who are a little below the calibre of that top league are still high-level performers who are fun to watch. We see proof of this in Big3 basketball, which has owners who are able to meet its costs; and we saw it in the AAF, which lacked such owners.

 

Big3 seems to have overcome this irrational prejudice to find an adequate audience; the AAF didn't survive long enough for us to know whether it would have done likewise. The only thing that stands in the way of success for an independent AAA/AA-calibre baseball league is this sort of prejudice, not the entertainment value of the play on the field.

 

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21 minutes ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

Unfortunately, fans tend to think in a simplistic and binary fashion

 

21 minutes ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

this irrational prejudice

 

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10 minutes ago, Gothamite said:

 

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No. You're underrating the level of play based on an analysis which I disagree with, but which is not prejudicial.

 

If I am insulting anyone, it is those who make no analysis whatsoever, but who simply react reflexively.

 

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16 minutes ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

No. You're underrating the level of play based on an analysis which I disagree with, but which is not prejudicial.

 

If I am insulting anyone, it is those who make no analysis whatsoever, but who simply react reflexively.

 

Well, those people aren’t here, so you probably didn’t need to bring them up.  😛  But I was kidding with the gif.  I just wish I could have found a video with Dr. McCoy’s reply: “I’m sure.”

 

And no, having watched the play, I don’t think I’m underrating it at all.  I think Vet nailed it, and your analysis is far too generous.  Maybe a smattering players could have survived at the AAA level, but if any significant number could have then they would have been there.

 

As for the Big 3, they created a new version of the game to better suit the relative athletic abilities of the players.  Not a great example if we want to claim that those guys could still be in the NBA. 

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4 hours ago, Gothamite said:

...if we want to claim that those guys could still be in the NBA. 

 

Please note that I have not claimed that the average player in Big3 could play in the NBA; and I certainly never said that the average player in the Atlantic League or the Senior League could play in the Majors. 

 

Rather, I noted that the transit of a few of the Atlantic and Senior Leagues' top players to the Majors should lead us to avoid underrating those leagues' levels of play.

 

But my main argument is that a player who is a little short of the world's top league in a sport is still operating on an extremely high level. And these players can present quality competition as well as an entertaining spectacle when pitted against one another. The problem is getting people interested in watching.

 

I really don't think that you want to deny the existence in American sports fan culture of the regrettable phenomenon of reflexive fan dismissal. The vast majority of the people who mocked the AAF and dismissed it as a beer league did so having never watched it, but just because they considered the idea of a league made up of sub-NFL-calibre players to be mockable. Overcoming this obstacle is a huge challenge.

 

And baseball doesn't have the option of rule changes, as in Big3 basketball. So one is left to make a reasoned argument, which is always going to lose against engrained prejudice.

 

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So you’re arguing against things nobody here said because somebody on the Internet is wrong?   Okay, but that’s kinda why the gods gave us blogs.  😛 

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3 hours ago, Gothamite said:

So you’re arguing against things nobody here said because somebody on the Internet is wrong?   Okay, but that’s kinda why the gods gave us blogs.  😛 

 

I thought that I was offering a theory to give a response to the question in this thread.

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Answering the question in the thread title: there was one, it was just over a century ago. But most researchers and statisticians consider the Federal League to have been a third major league, correct?

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