Wednesday, June 08, 2011

If relegation worked..... Major League Baseball

Continuing this brief little series on what would happen if relegation was introduced to American sports. Today, I thought we might turn our attention to baseball.

Advantages: 
Teams that have struggled for many years would continue to have something to play for year in and year out.
Baseball would be able to experiment with new markets, like Mexico City, Portland or San Juan.
An additional trophy could be added to the regular season so mid level teams could win something, with a little bit of luck.
Concerns:
Preventing off days
Having even divisions to allow for fairer relegation.
Profitability
The Idea
The best thing to do in Major League baseball is to dump the lowest two EARNING teams. Parity in baseball is less than it is in other sports, and it has a lot to do with team revenues. To start the league, we would immediately relegate the two lowest revenue teams to the second tier, and from that point forward, relegate and promote at a 4 team clip (two from the AL, two from the NL every season).
The most recent records I can find from Forbes show that the Marlins and Pirates had the lowest revenue in 2009, which makes life easier on me, because now the AL and NL are each at 14 teams.
The second division would consist of the Pirates and Marlins as well as the top 10 teams in attendance in the minor leagues last season, namely Lehigh Valley, Sacramento, Columbus, Louisville, Dayton, Round Rock, Pawtucket, Buffalo, Albuquerque and Indianapolis, as well as the top Independent league teams in each division, which are Winnipeg (good month for Winnipeg), Long Island, Quebec and Southern Illinois, for the sake of being inclusive. That puts us at 16. The remaining teams would be filled by an application process, as would the other teams in lower divisions.
Prospects for major league teams could still be stashed in lower division teams, which isn't too terribly different than the way it works today. Additionally, the potential depth of baseball divisions would allow for those teams to have major league prospects as well as their own contractually obligated players.
At this point, I feel like there could be 10 levels of baseball, and not all of them would have to be professional, and the 10th could simply be town ball teams or something like that, playing in a season ending tournament for promotion to a league with the minor league teams. Lower divisions would be divided into geographic divisions for monetary purposes.
The major leagues would not be, of course, because that isn't the way it has ever worked. Since even AAA is divided geographically, it would have to be in our relegation system as well. Newly promoted teams would be drawn into the American and National league, while the second divisions (and all other divisions) would be restructured based on geography every year.
Lastly, with all levels of baseball playing together, I can also for see a second trophy, involving many levels of baseball, played concurrently with the regular season, similar to the Carling or FA cup in English soccer. The top 7 or 8 levels play in a tournament that adds higher levels every round until MLB teams are included. It would be a chance for lower divisions to see their gate rise and would also be a substitute for interleague play, which would be rendered obsolete.
This is a much more complicated plan, of course, and I would love to flesh out some of the details if you have any questions. I was probably confusing.

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