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Why not just make one big league?

May 7, 2010, 9:20 AM EDT

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

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.

  1. BillyBeaneismyHero - May 7, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    I actually like the idea of keeping the two leagues, and abolishing divisions (like pre-1969). Bring back balanced scheduling, and allowing the top 4 teams in each league to make it to the playoffs. That way we can keep the DH in the AL only, and not have to worry about adding 16 additional starting jobs at an already thin position.

  2. Phils Phan - May 7, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    Why screw up something that seems to work quite well? One league, two divisions has operated for many decades.
    Does it matter if one division temporally is winning more than the other?
    Does it matter if there are teams from cities with less cash than NYC? Philly certainly doesn’t match up dollar wise, neither does St. Louis; would you equate Minneapolis with NY/; so what. Remember when the BKLYN Dodgers and the Yankees fought every Oct for the championship? Compare the size of the ballparks and the paid attendence.
    Once again, why screw up something that works well just to please one set of fans????

  3. bh0673 - May 7, 2010 at 10:14 PM

    The whole current structrure of the unbalanced schedule and interleague has skewed the game almost as much as steroids did. Is it fair for a player or a team in a tough division to be compared to a team that plays most of its games in a weak division. How would Baltimore have fared in the central division, how would Minnesota have fared if they had to play most of their games against New York, Boston and Tampa. St Louis clinched hte NL Central last year early but they had the pleasure of playing most of their games against one .500 team and the rest .400 and .300 in the NL and their interleague games against another weak division while the Mets for instance had to play Philly and the AL east. As far as I am concerned keep the leagues seperate, dump interleague and dump the unbalanced schedule. Another big problem with the game today is the umpires, emotion is a part of the game and when you stifle it completely you take from the game. There are umpires who are too trigger happy, I don’t pay to go to a game to see the umpires I go see the players, nothing worse then a trigger happy ump taking out a starting player because they showed emotion. Finally to Joe West please don’t sign up for Boston/ New York games they are not meant to be fast paced games they are battles. They will go long face up to it the fans don’t want them played like they were a Pittsburgh Washington game.

  4. willmose - May 8, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    I take issue that AL is clearly superior. Since the leagues play under different rules and interleague play is no where near balanced, can someone point me to some statistical basis that the AL is superior. Such an analysis will have to take into account the rule differences (a pitching independent of DH stat would do that) and the unbalanced interleague play. I’m not interested in pure won-loss percentages as the leagues play under different rules and that makes such comparsions useless but often quoted. The real difference between the leagues is the number of teams when the AL had 14 teams and NL 12, the NL was clearly superior. Put two teams from NL in the AL, and AL’s apparent edge will head south in a hurry.

  5. Route36West - May 8, 2010 at 8:26 PM

    I dont get how you think the Red Sox are dominant. They have won 2 world series in about 100 years. The Marlins have won as many.
    I like baseball exactly how it is. Not one of the teams in the A.L. scares me. Im looking forward to inter-league play I think the Phillies along with the rest of the N.L. will be ready to take it to em.
    And dont worry N.L. faithful Charlie will ride the good Doctor to the N.L.’s first all star game win in over a decade. Charlie and the Phils gave the Yankees homefield advantage last year in the World Series. This year the rematch is starting in Philly.

  6. tom b - May 31, 2010 at 9:31 AM

    i remember in the sixties and seventies when everyone thought the nl was so much better than the al; Based on all star games
    and maybe to a varying degree, interleague trades. Does anyone realize that the nl has an advantage in world sries play in only one decade since the teens? (The 60’s) Am nuts or what for noticing this? It’s good to see “underdog” AL take it to the “superior senior circuit”

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