Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Merger: AL and NL merged years ago. How come no one noticed?

Note: wikipedia.com indicates that the merger technically happened in 2000, not 1994.  See Major League Baseball:

the National League and the American League ... merged in 2000 into a single MLB organization led by the Commissioner of Baseball after 100 years as separate legal entities. (Source): "Year In Review : 2000 National League". www.baseball-almanac.com. Retrieved 2008-09-05

The two leagues were once totally separate rival corporate entities, but that distinction has all but disappeared ... This difference in rules (DH) between leagues is unique to MLB; the other sports leagues of the US including the NFL, NBA, NHL each have all teams playing under the same rules.
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If the merger between the once independent American and National Leagues had been treated as such then the new organization, MLB, Inc., might not have made such absurd decisions about organizing the new single league.

When the National Football League (NFL) and American Football League (AFL) agreed to merge in 1966 the merger was set to take place four years later.  In the interim they agreed to play an additional game between the two independent leagues.  It became known as the Super Bowl, a name that stuck even after the merger when the game more properly should be called the NFL championship game.

Similarly the baseball AL and NL agreed  to play a series of games starting after the 1905 season, usually best of seven, between the champions of their respective leagues.  It became known as the World Series.  Since the generally unrecognized merger of the AL and NL, the World Series description has persisted for what more properly should be called the MLB finals.

More of a mess is that MLB did not even attempt to reconcile the different rule, the 1973 designated hitter (DH), which applied to the AL but not to the NL.  That schism persists to this day, the first of the MLB finals, and MLB is not even embarrassed by that as it should be.  FORTY years and MLB has not resolved a simple rule aberration.

The NFL and AFL resolved their major rule difference by having the entire league play with one set of rules.  Initially the merged NFL used only the one point conversion but eventually the AFL two point conversion option after touchdown became the NFL rule in 1994.

The absorption of the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1976 by the National Basketball Association (NBA) resulted in the NBA adopting the ABA three point shot for the 1979-1980 season.

Neither the NFL nor the NBA played with different rules after their respective mergers, not even for one season.  That's how it's done.  See my post:

SATURDAY, JULY 9, 2011   The unique absurdities of MLB.

Not treating the new MLB, Inc. as a merger caused other problems.  I recall stories many years ago that serious consideration was being given to geographic realignment, which could still be done today and would remove the structural straight jacket that dominates the narrow unimaginative thinking applied to improving the obviously deficient MLB playoff format.  And please, call it playoffs like the other sports do and stop with the silly and clumsy description "post season".

The AL and NL identities, especially the DH, continue to thwart any real reform.  Here's what you tend to get: add another wild card team.  Earth to baseball people: adding a wild card to the playoffs in 1994 did not suddenly change the system.  What changed it was DOUBLING the number of teams that qualified for the playoff!  Wake the heck up!

MLB in 1994 could and should have DOUBLED the number of playoff teams simply and more fairly by leaving the AL and NL entities with two divisions each and allowing second place teams to qualify.  Those divisions, introduced in 1969, had a decent amount of geographic balance, which is why they were named east and west.  Instead, MLB tried to mindlessly imitate the other sports by creating mini divisions, which in turn provided more first place teams and fewer second place teams in the playoffs.  I suppose that it was intended to camouflage the inequity of having teams play 162 games only to have them then subjected to a tournament, which as often as not, produces a random champion as is happening in 2011.

It was a merger.  A damn MERGER!  Treat it as a merger and realign the teams geographically with all the rich and natural regular season rivalries that baseball fans deserve before they totally turn their backs on boring four hour games, which I predict will happen within ten years.  MLB, Inc. will suddenly and irreversibly be left high and dry as it should be for ruining a once great national pastime.

Geographic realignment will produce a more fair and compelling playoff system naturally, one that even MLB, Inc. may not be able to prevent.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

While I agree with most of what you said,they had merged well before 2000 and they do need to merge rules universally, I do not agree with the premise of the MOB need to conform to what NBA and NFL have done in there leagues. Baseball is the oldest and should stay unique by coming up with new ideas. Also, DOUBLING the amount of playoff teams is not a good idea. That would extend game lengths because more teams are going to try to get those extra spots and it dramatically extends playoff into the heart of the MLBs biggest competitors season and it is not a good idea to go head to head with NFL for tv rights and other situations during their playoff Chase the last few games of season. That would kill the postseason. And if you don't acknowledge that fact than you are in denial to the fact that we as baseball fans have lost the national pastime and the only way to get it back is better quality players everywhere . Better pitching and more power . I prefer defense and strategy but the average Joe doesn't see the ins and outs they see guys on the.field winning or losing , hitting or striking, and catching and dropping. During the steroid era attendance and attention was on MLB and that's not a coinincedence.