(Sorry in advance for my meandering ramble barely disguised as a community discussion. This doesn’t really feel like the best time to write about baseball but I like having money for food, so I had to come up with something!)
Professional baseball as we know it IS the MLB. Sure there are other leagues, but Major League Baseball, unlike vampires, casts a large shadow. Most others are feeder leagues the MLB uses to satiate its need for young blood, much like vampires, and even the independent leagues are full of MLB hopefuls whose teams expect their best players to be poached. Hell, foreign leagues like the KBO and NPB of Korea and Japan have something of a symbiotic relationship with the MLB sending AAAA players to act as stars abroad, and the best Asian players often being posted and signed by MLB teams looking to bolster their rosters. No matter where baseball is being played, the lure of The Show is a big reason that players are playing.
All in all, it is hard to imagine what the world of bases and balls might be without Major League Baseball’s guiding hand, but again like vampires, that doesn’t automatically make their existence a good thing.
Within a world ravaged by Covid-19 (now with riots on top!) and mass unemployment and poverty, the MLB’s recent money grubbing is as tone deaf as it is bad for the health of the sport. With the season postponed, baseball’s governing body has seen fit to use this time to push its culling of the minor leagues by both firing players en masse and massively limiting the amateur draft both in scope and cost.
Now in negotiations with the players union, the MLB (a collective of billionaires, I might add.) is crying poor and holding a season hostage hoping for the players to take a pay cut on top of the pay-cut they already said they would take.
Baseball is a business, and whether you are filthy anarchist scum like me that doesn’t think the concept of business should exist, or a fan of capitalism, you must admit that what the MLB is doing within the setting of our economy and society is exactly what they should be doing. The shareholders are getting their short term profits, and franchise valuations continue to skyrocket. However, good business is anathema to good baseball, as well as the long term health of both the business and sport side of things. The owners will surely all die rich, but is that going to guarantee Baseball doesn’t fade away from the collective mind of the people as its tanking teams and penny-pinching push us away?
You are reading this very website which employs me to write bad think pieces and shitty forced jokes because The MLB exists. But what if it fell? What if we woke up tomorrow and the biggest league in the world was no more? We would all still love baseball, and players would still love baseball. A new league would form, and without decades of brand loyalty and weird faux-tribalistic hunter-gather war-band camaraderie, this league would have to earn our loyalty and money by actually giving us reasons to tune-in or fill some seats. It would have to complete with other upstart leagues for players, and wouldn’t have a government supported nigh-monopoly to fall back on. I can’t help but feel that something better would rise from the ashes, even though by then I would be out of a job and probably yelling out bad puns in the subway for quarters so I could buy my cat hairball meds and some new siding for our carboard box house.
Still I can’t really imagine what that would look like. The wild west old-timey days when leagues rose and fell yearly with team names like the Kalamazoo Rumbritches or whatever was a completely different world. No one had thought to invent workers rights yet, and most baseball players moonlighted as bootleggers or pig wranglers or fish canners.
Leagues can rise in the modern era, just look at the budding popularity of Major League Soccer. And that’s SOCCER, the game that Americans have been hard coded to hate because it is the one that scary foreign people play. If that can rise, a new baseball league should have no problem.
What do you think a post MLB baseball landscape might look like? Could it be better or do you think it would obviously be worse? What would have to happen in the first place to make you stop caring about Major League Baseball? Even if you think this is all stupid, it is a pretty fun theoretical to think about.
At some point the MLB will be a thing of the past. At some point things will get better (or not.) And at some point the final black hole will evaporate, depriving the universe of energy forevermore.
Burn the MLB, leave it behind.