This past weekend saw an incredible moment in sports, and it was nearly ignored by most of us here in the U.S. It was the final week (no playoffs) of the most popular league in the most popular sport in the world. At the end of a season that began last August, the championship of the English Premier League came down to two teams from the same city that were tied for first. Manchester United is pretty much the New York Yankees of the soccer world. Manchester City is more like the Pirates, in that they hadn’t won the title in 44 years. Since there are no playoffs or championship game, it just comes down to who is ahead at the end of the season. And Man City, despite being tied in points, was far ahead in the tie-breaker: point differential. To win the title, they just needed to match whatever Man United did. All the league games started at the same time so as not to give one team an idea of what they needed to do. But when Man United took a lead, it became obvious that Man City needed to win. Even a tie would give United the title.
At the end of regulation, Man City was down 2-1. But then came stoppage time, those few extra minutes added on the end of the game for injuries and penalties and all stoppages of play. Man City did the impossible. They scored twice in those few minutes of stoppage time to beat the Queen’s Park Rangers and win the title. Here’s what it was like.
And the world went nuts. Well, not here, but pretty much everywhere else.
Here’s Manchester United after they won, wondering if they were champs only to find out they weren’t. Remember, last they knew, Man City was losing at the 90 minute mark.
Something I love about English soccer is what they call “relegation.” That’s where the lowest three teams in the league are demoted to a lower league in exchange for the top three teams in that lower league. That may not sound like a big deal, but for those teams, it means a loss of millions of dollars in revenue. Imagine the Colts, Dolphins, and Rams being bumped down to the Arena League, or something like that. Or better yet, let’s fix baseball, shall we?
Imagine if we broke baseball into two leagues by payroll. Rich teams in the upper league; poor ones in the lesser. Let’s do it by 2011 numbers. Here’s the top league. We’ll call it the American League. First number is their payroll in millions. Second number was their record. This league would get most of the press, TV coverage, and attention. All the best players would want to be in this league.
AMERICAN LEAGUEPhillies 172.9 102-60 Yankees 201.6 97-65 Red Sox 161.4 90-72 Mets 120.1 77-85 Braves 87.0 89-73 Rangers 92.2 96-66 Angels 138.9 86-76 Giants 118.2 86-76 Dodgers 103.7 82-79 Rockies 87.9 73-89 Tigers 105.7 95-67 Cardinals 105.4 90-72 White Sox 129.2 79-83 Cubs 125.4 71-91 Twins 112.7 63-99
The National League would be a step down. No national TV coverage. Only local newspaper attention. They would have to make do with lesser, under-priced talent.
NATIONAL LEAGUERays 41.9 91-71 Blue Jays 62.5 81-81 Nationals 63.6 80-81 Marlins 56.9 72-90 Orioles 85.3 69-93 Brewers 85.4 96-66 Indians 49.1 80-82 Reds 76.1 79-83 Pirates 46.0 72-90 Royals 36.1 71-91 D-backs 53.6 94-68 Athletics 66.5 74-88 Padres 45.8 71-91 Mariners 86.4 67-95 Astros 70.6 56-105
Of course, these records wouldn’t be accurate because you would really only play the teams in your own league. That would certainly help the fortunes of teams like the Marlins, Pirates, and Blue Jays not to have to play the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies. Some say this wouldn’t really solve the problem of big cities having the big payrolls, and that, in fact, it would only get worse. Well, maybe we should stop fighting it and just go with it. Darth Vader will remain Darth Vader no matter how much you want him to change. Hopefully, once in a while, the rebels will take out their defense shield. Wait, am I nerding out? Sorry.
The only way for National League teams to move up and go after that bigger media money would be to increase their payrolls, unless they can be like the Rays and D-backs and win with a low payroll. But in general, owners would be under pressure from their own accountants to step it up and make an investment.
In this scenario, the Cubs, Rockies, and Twins would face the disgrace of moving down to the National League. The Rays, Brewers, and D-backs would move up to play with the big boys. And for shame, as the Orioles, Mariners, and Orioles would be on their way to oblivion (or, as Mike Tyson called it, “Bolivian”) — Triple-A, or somewhere like that, to play the likes of the Toledo Mud Hens and the Norfolk Tides.
Wouldn’t this spice up baseball a bit? It would create fierce rivalries. It would feature a changing landscape every season while still holding on to the traditional aspects of the game.
Of course, it will never happen because it would be borrowing from soccer. Even Obama things that would be Socialist. There’s no way that baseball would ever stoop so low.