Why not just make one big league?

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AL and NL logo.pngThat’s what Matthew Futterman at the Wall Street Journal suggests after noting just how imbalanced the American and National Leagues have become:

The American League is clearly the stronger of the two, based on
interleague records and the differences in performance of players who
jump from one league to the other. Since interleague play began in 1997,
AL teams have won eight of 13 World Series and 12 All-Star Games (there
was a tie in 2002). They have compiled a .566 winning percentage
against NL clubs over the past five years. Now that Mr. Selig has
blurred the line between the two leagues–he’s abolished their separate
league offices and umpiring crews–the time may be ripe to go all the
way.

Such a system would certainly breed fairness. And structurally it would be no big trick. It would basically be a matter of scheduling and changing signs and graphics and stuff. And given that I’m a strong supporter of “unalignment” there is no intellectual reason why I should be opposed to such a beast, because really, it’s just the logically conclusion of unalignment.

But . . . no.  I have no real sound, objective basis for saying it would be a bad thing. All I have is aesthetics, my hatred of the DH (which would obviously be adopted league-wide), history and my own emotional reactions, but . . . no.

OK, I’ll try to muster a real argument. The article notes that a unified league would function like the English Premier League in which everyone is all lumped together.  It’s probably worth noting that only three clubs have won the Premier League title in the past 14 seasons:  Manchester United
(nine times), Arsenal (three times) and Chelsea
(twice).  Now ask yourself: what’s a bigger problem in baseball: the disparities between the leagues or the dominance of the Yankees and Red Sox?

And no matter what you think of the one big league idea let’s be realistic: it ain’t gonna happen. The biggest reason? Going to such a system — premised as it is on fairness — would demand a balanced schedule. And if it’s one big league, we’re talking a real balanced schedule in which each team plays the others only five or six times a year. Ask yourself this: are the Yankees really going to sacrifice a dozen games against the Red Sox in order to ensure a schedule where they spend 25 or 30 games playing Houston, Pittsburgh, Colorado, Arizona and Florida?  Not bloody likely.

But don’t hold that against Futterman’s article because, however unworkable the idea it espouses may be, the observations of the disparities between the American and National Leagues are quite illuminating.

Former MLB player Andy Marte also killed in car accident

GOODYEAR , AZ - MARCH 06:  Andy Marte #15 of the Cleveland Indians looks on from the dugout during the spring training game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Goodyear Ballpark on March 6, 2009 in Goodyear, Arizona. The Brewers defeated the Indians 17-7.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Compounding the tragic news of Yordano Ventura‘s passing is a report that fellow Dominican and former MLB infielder Andy Marte was also killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic early Sunday morning. The report was confirmed by Marte’s agency, J.M.G. Baseball, as well as Marte’s former MLB clubs. No further details have been released so far.

Marte, 33, appeared for the Braves, Indians and Diamondbacks from 2005 through 2014. He was ranked in the top 10 MLB prospects by MLB.com in 2005 and held a career .218/.276/.358 batting line, 21 home runs and a .634 OPS over seven seasons in the majors. He signed with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization after the 2014 season, slashing .312 with 42 home runs in 206 games.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Marte’s family and teammates during this terrible time.

Yordano Ventura and Jose Fernandez were two of the most promising arms in MLB

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 3: Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch in the first inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on July 3, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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Baseball lost two incredible pitchers in the last four months, both to horrible and unforeseen tragedies. Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura were among the most talented and promising pitchers in MLB, two young arms that drew both accolades and criticism for their performance on the mound.

Ventura signed with the Royals in 2008, blazing through several tiers of their farm system before he was called up to replace an injured Danny Duffy in late 2013. He secured his rotation spot the following spring and finished a solid 2014 campaign with a 14-10 record, 3.20 ERA and 2.4 fWAR in 32 starts for the club. During the Royals’ World Series run later that year, Ventura dedicated his performance in Game 6 to Cardinals’ prospect Oscar Taveras, who was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic just two days earlier.

In four years with the Royals, Ventura pitched to a 38-31 record, 3.89 ERA and 6.5 fWAR. While his command and overall production rate waned, bottoming out in 2016 with a 4.45 ERA and 1.85 SO/BB rate, his dynamic pitch repertoire still kept him front and center in the Royals’ pitching staff. He brandished an electric fastball that, at its lowest point, hovered around 96.6 m.p.h. and, at its best, topped out around 102.6 m.p.h.

Like Ventura, Fernandez made an instant impression in the major league circuit. He earned Rookie of the Year distinctions in 2013 after delivering a 12-6 record, 2.19 ERA and 4.1 fWAR with the Marlins. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in his sophomore year, he recovered to take on a full workload in 2016 and stunned the league with a 16-8 record, 2.89 ERA, career-high 253 strikeouts and 6.1 fWAR.

Ventura developed a reputation for brushing back hitters, which escalated in some cases to volatile bench-clearing brawls. In 2015, he was ejected for three altercations in three consecutive games and served a seven-game suspension. Halfway through the 2016 season, he earned another eight-game suspension after plunking the Orioles’ Manny Machado in the back with a 99 m.p.h. heater. Some speculated that his aggressive behavior on the mound was excused — or, at least, made more palatable — by his talent and track record, while others called for a more heavy-handed approach from the league.

Fernandez, too, found himself at the center of speculation after reports emerged that painted the 24-year-old as a “clubhouse difficulty,” citing attitude problems that damaged relationships between the pitcher and Marlins players and staff. On the field, he was occasionally chastised for failing to adhere to some of baseball’s unwritten rules, most notably when he showed his elation after hitting his first career home run off of the Braves’ Mike Minor in 2013.

It’s impossible to predict where Fernandez and Ventura’s careers would have taken them. We mourn them not for their actions on the mound or their potential as star pitchers, however, but for their inherent value as people who were loved and respected by their families and teams. Major League Baseball will be worse off for their loss.