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.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this:

Tony Clark responds to Rob Manfred’s claim that union had a “lack of cooperation”

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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Earlier, Craig covered Rob Manfred’s comments in which he accused the Major League Baseball Players’ Association of “a lack of cooperation” concerning some proposed rule changes. The union would need to agree to any such changes, which have included automatic intentional walks, limiting mound visits, pitch clocks, and swapping batting practice times for home and visiting teams.

Manfred went on to say that MLB will impose those rule changes unilaterally next year as allowed in the latest collective bargaining agreement.

Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLBPA, responded to Manfred’s comment. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

“Unless your definition of ‘cooperation’ is blanket approval, I don’t agree that we’ve failed to cooperate with the Commissioner’s office on these issues.”

“Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this off season we’ve been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened.”

“I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don’t continue, notwithstanding today’s comments about implementation. As I’ve said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open.”

“My understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2min limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of Game warning/fine adjustments.”

Clark’s response isn’t anything too shocking. Manfred’s accusation was pretty baseless, but it’s behavior to be expected of a commissioner who comes down on the side of the owners over the players almost always.