One of the things I’ve been reminded of while doing all of those Today in Baseball History posts is that, until very recently, MLB as an institution didn’t really manage the game in an active way. Rather, the leagues — the National League and American League — did. Major League Baseball handled negotiations with the players union and worked on national TV deals, but each of the leagues had their own presidents, each had their own set of umpires, each doled out discipline, each made its own decisions about expansion and things like that.
It was not until Bud Selig took over that power was truly consolidated in the main MLB office. At first the league presidents became ceremonial figures. Then they were eliminated entirely. Then everything of substance was put under MLB’s umbrella. Today the AL and NL exist solely as organizational concepts and don’t function like actual leagues, with the DH or lack thereof being the only real difference between them.
Which makes this report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today make a lot of sense. He says that Major League Baseball is considering doing away with the American and National Leagues for the 2020 season entirely.
Like the Arizona Bubble League thing it’s just an idea being thrown out there, but to eliminate MLB leagues is something of a radical idea. As for the specifics of the idea: they’d split the 30 teams between Arizona and Florida based on the geography of their spring training sites, creating Cactus League and Grapefruit League divisions for the abbreviated season. What’s more — and what’s likely to get the most discussion — would be that the DH “would likely be universally implemented.” Which, really, if you’re expanding rosters and dealing with weird, fastracked, pitcher-health-endangering baseball to begin with, is probably a good idea.