What's the deal with the major leagues these days?

I am only an occasional baseball fan, so I must admit that I’m a bit confused about the current organization of the majors. I know that a few years ago some nutty people decided “interleague play” would be a good idea, but now it seems that the National and American Leagues have been completely done away with, and everything is happening through some mysterious organization calling itself Major League Baseball. So am I correct in assuming that there is essentially one giant baseball league now?

The American and National leagues essentially merged in 1905 or whenever it was they worked out the “national agreement.” When the commissioner of baseball was appointed in 1920 or 1921, the two leagues were to a large extent operating as one organisation. I remember in the 1970s and 1980s, there were always references in game broadcasts to getting the permission of “Major League Baseball” in order to rebroadcast portions of the broadcasts. I don’t think the current corporate entity called “Major League Baseball” was created until a couple of years ago, but I don’t think that the organisation is operating much differently (broadly speaking) than it did 30 years ago. The two leagues are still separate entities, and they have certain autonomy to make decisions – the thing is that the kind of decisions that will affect only one league have largely been made already. That’s why most decisions are made at the M.L.B. level.

Actually, I don’t think they operate as separate entities anymore. The American League and National League offices were abolished in favor of the all-encompassing League Office, and there are no longer league presidents. MLB is the umbrella organization for both leagues.

That’s more or less been the case for eighty years.

The league offices have been done away with but the two leagues still have a degree of individual flavour; they still use different rules, for instance. “Major League Baseball” has existed for a long time - just think of their logo, which MLB has been using forever. Theyu’re using the name “MLB” a lot more than they used to, which has been a deliberate marketing effort.

I would also point out that interleague play is a financial success.

The homogonization of the Major Leagues has been a gradual process. It could be said to have begun in 1905 when both leagues agreed to play the World Series every year, although, IMHO, that is incorrect. The NL and the American Associaiton played a post-season series in the 1890s and no one today would argue that the two leagues were one entity.

Back in the day, most fans were esentially American League fans or National League fans. There was little crossover. This rivalry was intensified by the fact that the leagues shared cities in five (New York, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis and Philadelphia) of their cities (out of the eight in the league). As such there was an intense rivalry between the leagues. When the first All Star game was played in 1933, the managers took the game seriously; starting their best players, keeping many good players in the game for the entire game and having several future Hall of Famers ride the bench because better players were available.

The first concrete steps to bring both leagues under one umbrella could be the hiring of Kenesaw Mountain Landis in 1920. However, even then the leagues were largely separate entities; with different rules (not just playing rules, but operating rules governing player movement, league changes, etc.), umpiring staffs and policies, etc. Players could not be traded from one league to the other, for example, without being waived out of his current league.

MLB’s control over the league grew gradually but surely. Even by the late 70s, they were still somewhat independent. When the Mariners and Blue Jays joined the American League in 1977, they only drafted players from other American League clubs. Both leagues had separate (but similar) disaster plans covering the death/incapaciation of multiple players on a single team which involved drafting players from only the league of the affected team.

The final blow came in 1999 (I could be off on the year a bit) when the AL and NL were formally dissolved as business entities. The umpiring crews were brought under the direct control of MLB as were all business decisions. The only remenants of this distinction now is the Designated Hitter rule.

Zev Steinhardt

And of course, this is reflected in the fact that there are no longer any “National League Umpires” or “American League Umpires”. The two groups have been combined, and and now officiate games in both leagues. The strike zone has now become more consistent between leagues.

Combined umpiring crews are a good thing, IMO. AL umps were notorious for having a small zone, and you basically had to be over the heart of the plate to get a strike.

Not to be a Selig-basher, but a lot of the consolidation of MLB has occurred under his watch.

From a business model point of view, having separate leagues didn’t make a lot of sense. When MLB was trying to negotiate labor deals in the past, the negotiator for management used to have consult with reps from each league. The NL owners would caucus in one room and the AL owners in another.

Financially, they are all in the same boat, so it made more sense for them to have common administration.

Contrast this to Japan, where the two leagues (of 6 teams each) are still pretty much separate entities and only play each other in preseason and exhibitions and the postseason Japan Series. One league, the Central, has a huge financial advantage over the other, the Pacific, because the Central has Japan’s most popular team, the Yomiuri Giants in it, and the attendance is much better and the TV revenues are much larger.

The Central League is really pulling ahead of the Pacific League now in attendance, but the Central League doesn’t really care even though if the Pacific League falls by the wayside, the aftereffects would be disastrous for Japanese baseball.

Let’s face it…they’ve found every way possible to ruin a once-great sport. They should have left things alone. The relatively recent allowance of interleague play and the creation of a Central Division has just killed it. They don’t know what to do next, do they? Many complain the game is too long. Maybe 7-inning games will be the next step. :frowning:

It hard to understand how the NL and AL merged, what, some 80 years ago? As previous posted? :confused: Then, why have they always acted as two separate entities until the recent allowance of interleague play?

Hey, I got an idea! Let’s merge, and not tell anyone!

  • Jinx

Got a cite for that? Because last time I read (which admittedly was over a year ago, and fuzzy at that) the article said that interleague play was not drawing in a higher percentage of fans when compared to those same weekends pre-interleague play. ((In most cities, outside of NYv.NY or Chicago v. Chicago, it just doesn’t matter)).

According to this article, last year’s interleague play was 20% better attended than regular games. As to the notion that this is entirely due to particular rivalries, some of the specifics of the article suggest that is not the case; look at the huge attendance for the Red Sox-Phillies games.

I love, love, love baseball, and I love the traditions of baseball, but I have to admit that I really don’t understand the opposition to interleague play and I don’t understand the opposition to the three-division system. I like interleague play; I get to see my team play some interesting teams I might otherwise never see. And I like having eight teams make the postseason rather than four; more baseball is generally a good thing, 4 teams isn’t really enough teams in a 30-team league to make the playoffs, and having 3 division champs and a wild card will generate a slightly BETTER chance of the best teams making the postseason than would 4 divisions (if you played with 4 divisions, presumably of 4 teams each, it would become almost totally certain that a team with a losing record would make the postseason on a fairly frequent basis.)

The article I remember, though, said that interleague play was done on what were traditionally high attendance weekends. (i.e., even without interleague play, games during those weekends have been better attended than the rest of the season). I will try and hunt that down tonight. Also, last year during the series you mentioned, the Sox were at the top of the AL East and were selling out wherever they went and whoever they played especially when playing a team merely 2 games back in second place of their division (Phillies).
And I should stop now before I get far too far away from GQ territory.

Following up Zev’s post on other remnants of AL/NL distinctions. (Well, besides the playoff organization.)

Record books and player season awards/standings. Still have AL/NL batting champs, Golden Gloves, etc.

That pointless All-Star mess. (I say split it along salary. The under $2M over here, and the over $2M over there. I know who I’m rooting for.)

And I think there might still be a small distinction about trade deadlines across leagues.

Note that the article is from MLB, which has some reason to offer a favorable interpretation of the numbers. As **Amarinth ** points out, the current performance of teams around interleague series needs to be considered.

In this 2003 article at baseballprospectus.com (registration likely required, I am a subscriber and can’t tell…), Joe Sheehan points out:

“Ignore all of the happy talk from MLB about how many more people are going to interleague games than have been attending regular-season ones. Interleague games are played in June, when the weather is warm and school is out of session. The schedule this year is skewed towards weekend games (four of the six IL blocks are on weekends), which always have higher attendance. Even accounting for that, most of the remaining boost to the average is for the handful of high-profile series (Yankees/Mets, et al).
Interleague play doesn’t do nearly as much for ticket sales as MLB would have you believe, and the way in which they whitewash this with press releases about attendance gains shows them to either be deceitful or ignorant.”

This is, of course, information from last year. Still, he makes a good point – comparing interleague attendance against all attendance makes for a skewed comparison.