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.

Joey Votto thinks he can win the Home Run Derby, but hasn’t been invited yet

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Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.

In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”

Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.

Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.

There was apparently some miscommunication between Pete Mackanin and Pat Neshek

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The Phillies won their first game since last Thursday, beating the Cardinals 5-1 on Thursday afternoon. Starter Aaron Nola pitched into the eighth inning, but left with one out. Pat Neshek took the mound with a runner on first base and induced an inning-ending double play on a 3-1 count to Tommy Pham.

Given that Neshek only threw five pitches and the Phillies were staked to a four-run lead, it wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable if the sidewinding right-hander came back out to finish the ninth inning as well. But Luis Garcia had that honor, tossing a scoreless final frame to nail down the win in a non-save situation.

After the game, manager Pete Mackanin said he asked Neshek to go back out for the ninth, but Neshek didn’t want to, per Stephen Gross of the Morning Call. Neshek told the media that Mackanin never asked him. There was also a miscommunication on Wednesday. The combination of Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, and Edubray Ramos combined to allow four runs in 2 1/3 innings, helping the Phillies lose 7-6. Neshek never appeared. According to Mackanin, Neshek told him that he wasn’t available to pitch. Neshek said he was told he’d have the day off.

The disconnect between Mackanin and Neshek could speak to a larger divide between the manager and his failing team. The Phillies have underwhelmed across the board due to players like Odubel Herrera (whose head was down and did not see Juan Samuel’s stop sign last night in what became a base running blunder), Maikel Franco, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola (today’s start notwithstanding), and Hector Neris not living up to expectations. The Phillies signed Mackanin to a contract extension last month, but the team has completely fallen apart since then and the latest communications issues certainly don’t reflect well on him. Neither does last night’s travesty of a game.

As for Neshek, he said that going to the Phillies was “the best thing that happened to me in a few years” but also realized, given the state of the team, that it remains very likely he winds up in a new uniform by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. After Thursday’s performance, Neshek is carrying a 0.63 ERA with a 25/4 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings. He very well could be the Phillies’ lone representative at the All-Star Game in Miami next month. That is, if he’s still wearing their uniform. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals have shown interest in Neshek.