It’s always clean when it comes to a European sporting event and provides some games to watch during daylight hours here in North America. Right now, it’s the Euro 2020 football tournament delayed by a pandemic, and while the teams involved are part national, part of the nature of football is that there’s a lot of time between goals to lose in thought.
The largest nations in Europe for football are England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain – six places with a combined population of 331 million, or just a couple of million more than the United States.
The top leagues in top sport in these countries have combined 116 teams, and this is even before we consider the robust system of promotion and relegation, which in England features three leagues of more than 24 teams, plus the mix of professional and semi teams. -pro in the fifth-tier National League, with even more levels below those for smaller and smaller clubs.
The idea of making American sports leagues more European is not new, but the standard proposal is something like doing a promotion / relegation system with Triple-A baseball as the second level. The obvious problem is that major league teams will never go for it. The Pittsburgh Pirates, now, have a pretty sweet deal: no matter how much they steal, they’re securing an MLB team, cashing in on MLB TV checks, billing MLB ticket prices, raking in money in MLB licenses. Why even consider giving up?
What if, instead, we took a different approach in European style, and broke our continent into laws based on the region? It would require a total overhaul of what minor league baseball means, but it’s something that still needs to be addressed anyway, and can be discussed again. For now, here’s how such a structure might look like, starting with the existing major league markets, then merging them with the current minor league and the expanding cities that would join them.
- Northeast Division: Baltimore, Boston, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia, Toronto, Washington, Brooklyn, Hartford, Long Island, Montreal, Norfolk
- Central Division: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Carolina (Charlotte or Durham), Jacksonville, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans
- Midwest Division: Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Colorado, Houston, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minnesota, St. Louis, Texas, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, San Antonio
- Pacific Division: Arizona, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Fresno, Las Vegas, Portland, Salt Lake City, Vancouver
With 12 teams in each division, you can play a calendar in which each team has played each of its rivals a dozen times, for 132 games, with reduced travel and generally less stressful competition due to group expansion. of talents. Obviously, big market teams will have an advantage, but it’s still baseball, so it’s unthinkable that the Albuquerque Isotopes could make a run every now and then.
Of course, the 132 games aren’t a full baseball season, but that purely regional competition brings us to the end of August, and another key part of that plan. First of all, August becomes more exciting than their traditional dog day job as jockey teams for position in their division. But then, the long run becomes wild as the level of competition grows.
For the last month and the last 30 games of the regular season, the divisions are divided into upper half and lower half, playing five home games each side against the parallel half from a circuit, and five road games each. side against side. This requires some planning on the fly, but with the divisional structure in place, it is possible to plan each team’s home games well in advance, with TBD opponents, allowing tickets to be sold in advance.
Four teams from each division make it to the postseason, and we’re off to October, where things could be lined up in divisional playoffs, or planted in transcontinental clashes based on the overall record. While 16 looks like a ton of playoff teams, we already saw 12 last year, and with the league picking up to 40 teams, it would be the same proportion of clubs tied for the postseason.
But what about those teams at the bottom? Wouldn’t they just be playing the rope in front of a dwindling crowd? Well, that has already happened though, but now you can’t get a scenario where the Dodgers and Giants are running for a playoff spot, but while San Francisco faces a tough San Diego team, Los Angeles has to beat Arizona. Instead, teams toward the fund would have their own incentive: the first choice in next year’s draft, or in case the draft is rightly abolished, the largest financial pool for prospect signing.
Instead of a system where there is a benefit to the direct tank, it would be worth a team to compete for the stretch, as the best of the teams by the middle of the September round-robin would get the reward. That, or you can go ahead and set up a relegation system in which a team from each region drops into a lower league. And honestly, if the Arizona Diamondbacks can’t find a way to finish ahead of the Fresno Grizzlies, maybe they shouldn’t be in a 40-team MLB team, and it’s time to give Reno the chance to be the small larger city in the majors.