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

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41 minutes ago, MCM0313 said:

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?

 

The Federal League was absolutely a Major League.


The league featured five future Hall of Famers in addition to notable players of the era such as Ed Konetchy, Benny Kauff, and Jack Quinn.

 

The one league that is considered a Major League that most historians question is the Union Association of 1884.


The league lasted just a single season and only featured one team of any merit, the St. Louis Maroons.

 

The commissioner of the league was also the owner of the Maroons and he sought to it that the Maroons had first dibs on any talent coming in.


The result was the Maroons winning the pennant with a ridiculous 94-19 record, and half the teams in the league folding before the season ended.

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Yes, the Federal League was retroactively designated a Major League.  It just didn’t last long enough to partner with the other two major leagues in a championship. 

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On 5/4/2019 at 4:25 PM, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

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.

 

Maybe what is needed are leagues where young players just short of the world's top leagues can play and somehow associate the teams with institutions of higher learning so fans will be interested.

 

 

😜

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7 hours ago, leopard88 said:
On 5/4/2019 at 4:25 PM, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

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.

 

Maybe what is needed are leagues where young players just short of the world's top leagues can play and somehow associate the teams with institutions of higher learning so fans will be interested.

 

Yeah, I see what you did there.  I will nevertheless engage with this.

First of all, college sports is just run-through with pathology, the main expression of which is that the people doing the actual work are not getting paid. The fact that college baseball is not as much of a big-time attraction as college football or basketball means that the exploitation is also proportionally less severe; but the fundamental problem remains. Americans' fixation with colleges is as baffling as it is unhealthy.

Apart from that, I would assert that the best stories are not the young players, but, rather, the players who are trying to get back to the top league — or even the players who know they won't get back but who are still playing at a relatively high level. On the previous page I gave a list of the ex-Major Leaguers whom I remember from the Atlantic League: 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, Jose Canseco, Jim Leyritz, Jose Lima, Rickey Henderson. Most of these guys didn't get back to the Majors; but a handful did.  Still, even those who didn't get back wound up giving an identity to the Newark Bears and the Long Island Ducks.

And that's what a pro league needs in order to survive: teams with identities.  When people look back fondly at the USFL, they remember the teams' identities.  The hard-nosed Tampa Bay Bandits had a distinct identity, as did the businesslike Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars, as did the ornery Pittsburgh Maulers, as did the utterly disorganised Washington Federals, etc. The only thing standing in the way of duplicating this on a national scale for baseball is a set of owners who are willing to bankroll such a league for the better part of a decade. 

And this leads us to the main thing that an alternative league needs: owners who behave more like patrons of the arts than like traditional businessmen. In English football they say: "How do make a small fortune in football? Answer: You start with a large fortune." English football has a cultural tradition that implicitly regards clubs as worthy of existing, and that considers an owner's role to be that of caretaker rather than profit maker. This is so engrained that even the owners of the most valuable and profitable clubs have to be careful to use the language of caretakership and not that of entrepreneurship, lest they alienate their fans. (An expression of this phenomenon came when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' owner Malcolm Glazer, soon after his purchase of Manchester United, referred to the football club as "a wonderful franchise", thereby eliciting howls of disgust from English fans and commentators. American owners of English football clubs have since learnt to avoid this other f-word.) 

If we could find rich people who possess a similar caretaker ethos with regard to baseball, then we could have an alternative league. The absence of this cultural norm in the U.S. accounts for the lack of success of startup leagues not only in baseball but in all sports since the Trump-induced collapse of the USFL.

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13 hours ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

If we could find rich people who possess a similar caretaker ethos with regard to baseball, then we could have an alternative league. The absence of this cultural norm in the U.S. accounts for the lack of success of startup leagues not only in baseball but in all sports since the Trump-induced collapse of the USFL.

 

I'm not sure people with a "caretaker ethos" exist in any American professional sports.  I'm pretty sure all of the startup leagues in the last 60 years (and, in reality, longer than that) have been started with the intention of making money.  I don't think anyone has founded and bankrolled a new sports league with the intention of providing a public service in the manner of a patron of the arts.

 

The closest example to that scenario above high school might be non-revenue college sports.  Those teams are money losers for their schools and are subsidized either by the sports that do generate revenue and/or (more likely) the college as a whole.

 

Now, what day do the Ann Arbor Wolverines and Columbus Buckeyes play this year?

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Don’t forget that football is also a money-loser for all but a very tiny group of schools.   Universities subsidize it for the press. 

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10 hours ago, leopard88 said:

I'm not sure people with a "caretaker ethos" exist in any American professional sports.

 

The only one I can think of is Steve Ross, the founder of the Cosmos.

 

Ross ran that club the right way, signing the best players available, and promoting the hell out of the club. While he no doubt would have preferred the Cosmos to make a profit, his desire was simply to run a great club, out of the love of the sport. And if doing that cost money, then so be it. 

 

This is the model owner — one who behaved towards his club as a patron. But where were his counterparts in other cities? Where were the other soccer-loving millionaire CEOs prepared to bankroll the rest of the NASL's clubs?  On account of a lamentable lack of principle on the part of Ross's peers, the NASL was saddled with a bunch of cheesy lemonade-stand operators as owners; and the league fizzled out only a few years after its high point.

 

This country definitely does not have enough Steve Rosses.

 

 

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9 hours ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

The only one I can think of is Steve Ross, the founder of the Cosmos.

 

Easy to do that when you’re willing to lose other people’s money. :rolleyes:

 

Ross’s was an egotist in another man’s pants, whose jock-sniffing irresponsibility ended up killing an entire league.  Not only do we not need more of him, even just the one turned out to be more than we could bear. 

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1 hour ago, Gothamite said:

 

Easy to do that when you’re willing to lose other people’s money. :rolleyes:

 

Ross’s was an egotist in another man’s pants, whose jock-sniffing irresponsibility ended up killing an entire league.  Not only do we not need more of him, even just the one turned out to be more than we could bear. 

 

If not for Steve Ross, the NASL would have had a short and uneventful life and would have died in the mid-1970s. Literally everything good about that league was down to him.

 

Ross set a good example by signing world class players and (most important) by being willing to lose money to do it. If others failed to follow this good example, that is certainly not Ross's fault.

 

Not everything worthwhile in life needs to be profitable. People often pay to do things thar they enjoy. For instance, they take vacations that cost a lot of money; but this is worth it simply because of the experience. That, rather than the conception of the team as a profitable business, is the mindset that the ideal owner should have. (Of course, if the team winds up being profitable, so much the better. But this must not be a requirement.) 

 

Every English football club outside the Premier League is owned by someone who understands that the owner's function to preserve the club as an institution, not to suck value out of it. What a shame that the U.S. and Canada combined have been unable to produce any such responsible owners, apart from Ross. To answer the question of why new leagues fail against the established leagues, look no further than this.

 

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12 hours ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

 

The only one I can think of is Steve Ross, the founder of the Cosmos.

 

Ross ran that club the right way, signing the best players available, and promoting the hell out of the club. While he no doubt would have preferred the Cosmos to make a profit, his desire was simply to run a great club, out of the love of the sport. And if doing that cost money, then so be it. 

 

This is the model owner — one who behaved towards his club as a patron. But where were his counterparts in other cities? Where were the other soccer-loving millionaire CEOs prepared to bankroll the rest of the NASL's clubs?  On account of a lamentable lack of principle on the part of Ross's peers, the NASL was saddled with a bunch of cheesy lemonade-stand operators as owners; and the league fizzled out only a few years after its high point.

 

This country definitely does not have enough Steve Rosses.

 

 

 

See Hunt, Lamar.

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By the way, I'm still waiting to know when the Ann Arbor Wolverines take on the Columbus Buckeyes.  I'd also like to know about the matchup between the Athens Bulldogs and Gainesville Gators.

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20 minutes ago, leopard88 said:
13 hours ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

But where were his counterparts in other cities?

 

See Hunt, Lamar.


Good example. Hunt clearly had objectives that ranked above maximising his monetary gain, as he repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to pay what it took in order to run his teams. He was indeed one of the very few good owners.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

Ross set a good example by signing world class players and (most important) by being willing to lose money to do it.

 

Other people's money.  You seem to overlook this very key point.

 

That's what sets him apart from a man like Lamar Hunt.  Ross wanted to wear Chinaglia's pants, but made other people pay for it.  Least he could have done was pay the tab himself.

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15 hours ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

This country definitely does not have enough Steve Rosses.

 

I’m willing to bet that Dolphins fans disagree with you.

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1 hour ago, Gothamite said:
4 hours ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

Ross set a good example by signing world class players and (most important) by being willing to lose money to do it.

 

Other people's money.  You seem to overlook this very key point.

 

It was Warner Communication's money.  And Ross was Warner Communcations' architect and CEO.  Therefore, it was Ross's money. 

Futhermore, when Warner Communications was threatened with a hostile takeover, Ross reluctantly sold the Cosmos. After that, the company continued to thrive, eventually merging with Time, Inc. and growing even more valuable.  So, contrary to the assertion that Ross threw away other people's money, he in fact made other people a great deal of money.   

Ross was a successful businessman who understood that professional sports need not be about orthodox business practices.  He gave sports ownership an honest shot; and his example stands as the right way to do it.   His place in history is secure, both in and out of sports.

 

 

1 hour ago, Lafarge said:
16 hours ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

This country definitely does not have enough Steve Rosses.

 

I’m willing to bet that Dolphins fans disagree with you.

 

I assume that you are making a joke.  But, for the sake of other readers, let's be clear that that's a different guy. 
 

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22 minutes ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

It was Warner Communication's money.  And Ross was Warner Communcations' architect and CEO.  Therefore, it was Ross's money.

 

source.gif

 

22 minutes ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

Futhermore, when Warner Communications was threatened with a hostile takeover, Ross reluctantly sold the Cosmos. After that, the company continued to thrive, eventually merging with Time, Inc. and growing even more valuable.  So, contrary to the assertion that Ross threw away other people's money, he in fact made other people a great deal of money.

 

Wait, I had the perfect response to that one, too.

 

source.gif

 

Seriously, I know you don't like capitalism.  Which is cool, but that doesn't mean you don't have to understand it.  :P 

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Steve Ross is one of the greatest businessmen in American History over the past century.


Anyone who says differently doesn't know what they're talking about.

 

As to what he did with NASL, he was running a team with World Class talent in the only US market where that type of team was sustainable.

 

The problem was the Cosmos turned into a UEFA team playing in NASL.  Not every team is going to be in the position where they can go out and sign two of the five greatest soccer players of all-time as the Cosmos did. You have one team selling out Giants Stadium, and almost everyone else is struggling to get to 10K fans. At a certain point, it starts sounding silly to suggest that a team drawing more than double what any else has for a gate is somehow on the same playing field as the rest of the teams in the league.

 

Credit the MLS for learning from NASL's mistakes and not allowing a cavalier owner to go out and do this while the rest of the league lags behind.

 

The result has been a league that has been slow to grow, but all the growth they have done has been sustainable over the long term because it's not relying on the success of any one player or one team that can't be replicated across the league.


I want an owner like Stephen Ross in the sense that he's not afraid to think outside the box and take calculated risks. I don't want an owner like Stephen Ross in the sense that he's going to play by his own set of rules, and not be all that concerned with how his actions affect everyone else.

 

Anyone with a "win at all costs" approach may not always win, but they will spend every last penny they have trying. Go for broke enough times, and eventually, you will end up broke.

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Why none?

Congressional allowance to being a monopoly.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, leopard88 said:

 

See Hunt, Lamar.

 

Yep, I still have programs from Chiefs games that I went to growing up that stressed Lamar Hunt was (is at the time) the founder of the Kansas City Chiefs, not the owner. 

 

His son isn't the same way, but as far as football operations go, he's a massive improvement. Lamar's fatal flaw was that he was too loyal (kept Jack Steadman as general manager from the time they were in Dallas to 1989 and Carl Peterson from 1989 until Clark fired him in 2008, 2 years after Lamar died. For comparison purposes, in the 12 years Clark has been the owner, he has hired 3 general managers). Good for making and keeping friends, bad for running a business.

Edited by Red Comet

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