Sunday, February 19, 2012

What MLB Could Learn from English Football

As the resident expatriate writer for this site, I possess the ignorance of distance from the pulse of Philadelphia sports (strangely, Cole Hamels' long-toss sessions in Clearwater go unreported by the BBC). Largely unaware of the sports minutiae exhaustively covered by ESPN and Philadelphia media necessary to provide insightful commentary into the Sixers' impending playoff loss to the Heat or Bulls in 6 hard-fought games or the Flyers' implosion, I've adopted the local custom of ardently following football/soccer. While I won't venture further into the beautiful game for fear of my fellow writers choking on their AMERICAN-MADE soft pretzels and cheesesteaks in outrage (dying On the Jon is probably not the best way to go), I believe that American sports--and baseball in particular--could learn from the meritocratic ethos in English soccer.
Like baseball, English soccer is replete with haves and have-nots, with only a few viable title contenders each season. Unlike baseball, however, every game matters in the English season. The 3 teams which finish lowest in the standings get relegated to the second tier, a financial and reputational disaster which punishes ineptitude and tanking. This Darwinian approach instills a sense of urgency and import in each game lacking in MLB, where teams can profit from revenue-sharing despite consistent mediocrity (do the Pirates and Royals even have fans anymore?). Moreover, English soccer allows lesser teams a shot at glory through in-season tournaments run independently from the season, particularly the Football Association (FA) Cup. These competitions allow teams from all tiers (England possesses 8 levels of competition under the purview of the FA, with every registered team in England eligible to participate in the preliminary rounds of the FA Cup before getting promptly eliminated by more professional competition) a one-off chance at upsetting a pedigreed club, revitalizing fanbases and allowing struggling teams a chance to salvage some positives from an otherwise dismal season. Despite the enormous conflicts of interest posed by implementing an FA Cup-style tournament throughout all levels of baseball due to the farm system, a mid-season competition amongst the MLB teams would take the success of interleague play a step further by offering teams with little chance of a World Series appearance an opportunity to win. With so many teams' fates sealed by late July, a potential MLB Cup could inject a fresh dose of energy into the long grind of the regular season. Accordingly, I believe MLB can


  1. So if the Phillies are in first and lose 3 games mid-season to the Pirates in this mid-season cup, what does it mean, and what does it accomplish? I do love soccer (or football as you probably call it).

  2. First off good of you to join Rubles, a resounding PIP PIP to you sir.

    Secondly it is easy to tell you are coming off writing a thesis from a prestigious university. This easily wins most use of multi-syllabic words in one piece thus far.

    Third interleague play is not a success.

    Fourth, like Dan I don't understand what a mid season bracket style tournament would entail. Would they count towards the 162 or would it be different. I admit that baseball is probably 20 games to long but what would they do in July. What would say the Padres win if they won this mid season tournament? What is the end goal (soccer pun) of this tourny?

    You'll have to pardon my ignorance but I don't pay any attention to whatever bullshit goes on across the pond, but in your next piece could you please explain the idiosyncrasies of cricket.

  3. Coop/Kaplan: They'd still be in first, because the cup is independent of the season. That's part of the appeal, because it's a blank slate for every team to win a title/trophy during the season. If a shot at a trophy doesn't provide enough of a draw then it'd be cool if the owners put up $1 million each, with the $30 million dollar pot going to the winner for either luxury tax relief, added salary space for a mid-season move, or just bonus money to spread around the roster.

    Why interleague play is a success:

    Finally, don't expect any article about cricket, just because I've assimilated doesn't mean I've gone completely native

  4. "...Dying On the Jon is probably not the best way to go...." Says who? If it was good enough for Elvis, it's good enoough for us.

    Love ya, Rubles. Glad to have you on here.