Relegation in Major League Baseball
With the introduction of the term “Floating Alignment,” Major League Baseball has a new buzz word to keep fans and critics alike speculating about the progression of America’s Pastime.
These proposed changes include giving certain small-market or underachieving teams the opportunity to move to divisions where they could become more competitive, or, at the very least, have a chance to play the Yankees and the Red Sox multiple times a year. Such moves would be in an effort to generate a higher revenue strain for teams like the Royals and the Indians, to name a few.
In fairness to Commissioner Bud Selig , this proposal, while still in its infancy, is trying to make an effort to level the playing field in terms of revenue. Selig wants smaller-market teams to be able to contend financially with the big-market teams, which he in turn believes will lead to increased competitiveness throughout the league. I fear that Selig has grossly underestimated the greed of some of his fellow owners.
Here’s a novel idea, to promote a higher competitive level in Major League Baseball, the commissioner should actually endorse competition, rather than appeal to the wallets of Baseball’s owners.
My proposal is to implement relegation in Major League Baseball.
The term relegation is synonymous with soccer, a sport that doesn’t have much visibility in the American sports landscape. But a closer look across the pond, at Britain’s Barclays Premier League, the most established and recognized football league in the world, could benefit baseball.
Much like baseball’s minor-league system, the English Premier League has several different tiers that teams traverse annually, based on performance. For the teams at the bottom of the Premier League, the final few games of the season is a battle for their livelihoods, a chance to win and stay in the best league in the world, or lose, and fall to a lower league.
Who benefits from such a system? It’s the fans. The fans are beneficiaries of such high stakes. At the end of every Premiere League, all eyes are not on the teams that are the best, but on the teams that are most desperate.
Imagine a four-game series in September between the Nationals and the Pirates, that is more meaningful than a Dodgers-Giants division battle. Imagine a baseball world where the small-market teams who can’t contend with the big boys are thrown into the spotlight, as they play for a chance to stay in Major League Baseball. Imagine a Baseball world where a grueling 162-game season actually meant something to more than 8 teams.
Teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, who now hold the major sports record for consecutive losing seasons at 17, would be accountable in a baseball world where relegation exists. Owners who unload talented players as soon as they become too expensive would be penalized in the form of seeing their team drop to Triple-A. Relegation would force owners to stop sitting on their laurels, and cause them to field competitive teams year in and year out. The consequence of not doing so, would mean losing lucrative TV and advertisement deals that only a Major League Baseball team can generate.
Such relegation battles would also generate fan excitement and involvement. Baseball would have sellout crowds in September at Kauffman Stadium, not because the Yankees are in town, but because the Royals are in a fight for their Major League Baseball lives. Relegation battles would become prime-time TV, because of high fan interest.
Relegation may seem radical or foreign, but allowing teams to move divisions each year so they can entertain the Yankees a few more times a season is no better. At the end of the day, this is just one idea to help ease baseball’s financial trouble, as well as raise the competitiveness around the league. This idea, much like Floating Alignment, is still in its infancy, but it could create real solutions that help Major League Baseball progress, and strengthen its success.
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