All right, people. Here’s today’s argument-at-the-bar question. Why shouldn’t Major League Baseball begin to incorporate a European soccer-type system of promotion and relegation?
No doubt this notion has occurred before to someone, but how about examining it again?
If the phrasing isn’t entirely familiar, let us have our friends at Wikipedia explain: “In a system of promotion and relegation, the best-ranked team(s) in the lower division are promoted to the higher division for the next season, and the worst-ranked team(s) in the higher division are relegated to the lower division for the next season.”
How it would work for Major League Baseball
Sometimes, there are qualifying playoffs involved in the promotions and demotions of the teams, but let’s keep it simple for the Major League Baseball purists like my friend Mike, who is deeply upset by the confusion surrounding the current MLB pitch clock enforcement, and, well frankly, the pitch clock itself.
Let’s just say, to start, MLB should begin by promoting the two strongest affiliated teams at the Triple-A level each year to replace the weakest team in each league. The weakest MLB team in each league would then have to play in the Triple-A leagues filling vacant slots left because teams were promoted and incur the travel costs.
Yeah, that might be an enormous PIA for an MLB team from the NL East that is demoted to a West Coast Triple-A League. But hey, you shouldn’t have finished last in your league, right?
Perhaps “a most distant league rule” could be implemented if there’s whining about that, and fine, because the flip side of the problem – moving a minor league team frequently enough to play a distant MLB division’s schedule – would also eat into the budget of the parent team, and that is arguably an unfair penalty. But keep in mind: Each year this is only for two teams, or four teams total, counting both MLB and MiLB teams. Maybe those numbers never change.
There are two immediate benefits to this idea. First, several teams would have to alter their business plans. Some teams are at the top. Some are run by Succession-like individuals who may not be quite as obnoxious as the characters in that show, and are likely savvier than the Roy siblings. Some are better people. All think in terms of winning.
After all, the possibility would actually exist to have two Major League Baseball teams in one division. Given the right circumstances, how much money would that make?
No? Think about the situation of the Philadelphia Phillies in contemporary Major League Baseball in terms of the NL Champions producing two excellent teams.
Some would say, the Phillies never deliver, exactly. Streaks of success, usually brief.
BUT they also have a Triple-A team in the first great American, multi-state megalopolis – Boston-Washington. Its arguable center might well be Allentown, PA, home of the current Phillies Triple-A team. Imagine the NL East minus the demoted Nationals – New York, Allentown, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Miami. Think of the two-team Pennsylvania Behemoth t-shirts.
Think of the promotions that could be built around Phillies-IronPigs games. Twelve or 13 of them: Every one of them will be about proving to the boss you belong at the higher level.
Next, what about excitement for the “have-not” teams? Would baseball fans of weaker or poorer teams in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Oakland have to think about the death of Major League Baseball in their locale?
Oh yes. They would. Their players would be playing for their immediate futures every year. See the team hats with “Pressure in ’23” on the side and a $45 price tag.
And of course, what about the other end of the new set-up – the teams that produce fairly well, as the Phillies and Mets have since 2000? Their goal: Produce the best Triple-A team and a team that at least gets the last Wild Card spot. Then, you have two teams in the same division, possibly.
Business might take care of itself with those teams now functioning like the Oakland Athletics.
Other Major League Baseball teams would figure out an algorithm to prevent being the worst MLB team, which would follow the rules written to define best or worst, perhaps total wins – team WHIP + team OPS +/- defensive runs saved…or the like. The effect in MiLB would be to build strong pitching and offense at the highest level, to build that kind of team to be promoted.
Two teams would get that award every year, after the marketing bonus of a season’s last game with statistical importance for them and other teams. Every year. Every year two Triple-A teams get MLB experience the following year whether they’re ready or not. All of them.
The promotion and relegation set-up could promote both competition and business opportunities for Major League Baseball and a significant number of Triple-A teams.