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Thursday, May 02, 2013

Posnanski: Would MLB, like EPL, be better without playoffs?

League and Cup. Makes sense to me…

In England, soccer mirrors life. It’s the day-to-day excellence that marks greatness, not a three or four-week run to glory.

Well, I think we should bring some of that spirit to America … especially to baseball. I mean football is geared for the short season – 16 games, an intense playoffs, a Super Bowl, that’s why it’s the biggest thing in America. But they play 162 games in baseball. One hundred sixty two. I mean, seriously, that’s a lot of baseball games. No other sport plays so many.

That’s more than enough game to determine who are the best teams in baseball. I mean, hey, I like all the playoffs too – more baseball is more baseball – but they feel cheap and gimmicky. They feel like you compete in a triathlon, and then, when everyone is finished, the Top 16 have a chili eating contest to determine the real champion.

 

vortex of dissipation Posted: May 02, 2013 at 12:51 AM | 82 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: europe, mlb

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   1. OsunaSakata Posted: May 02, 2013 at 07:20 AM (#4431524)
Poz mentions the Champions League, but not the Europa League, the FA Cup or the League Cup. Those are playoffs that are the equivalent of allowing 0-12 Southern Miss in the Super Bowl tournament.
   2. Andy McGeady Posted: May 02, 2013 at 07:44 AM (#4431529)
The FA cup is still a super tournament, open to every club in England. Wonderful.

The Europa League and the League Cup can go jump in a lake.
   3. Greg K Posted: May 02, 2013 at 07:46 AM (#4431530)
How much is the playoff format of North American sports a product of there being two baseball leagues at the beginning of the 20th century? If the National League manages to crush all competitors before they can develop, and thus no one bothers to have a World Series, do we just have the league format as traditional up until the 50s and 60s when they other sports start becoming big?

Would a league and nationally-inclusive cup system have been viable in America? Geography is probably working against it. It's not impossible for a fairly small football club in Newcastle to play a team in Norwich and then elsewhere the following week. But I imagine it would be tough for a small time Ohio team to play a Florida team one week, then a New Hampshire team the next. {EDIT: And would a culturally relevant cup tournament helped keep the minor league teams independent for longer? I guess the effect would likely be minimal, but like #2 I love the idea of having a baseball tournament open to all clubs]

Probably the real difference Poz is getting at is that American sports have a bit of a hybrid system. A league which does a better job of determining who is the "best" team, but followed by a tournament, the winner of which is proclaimed the champion, rendering the league finish trivial. The league and cup format separates the two competitions entirely. The league winner is the league winner and the cup winner is the cup winner. I don't follow soccer discourse enough to know, but I assume that the league winner is usually considered the "best" team. But winning the cup tournament means something as well, it just stands on its own and doesn't negate what happened in the league.
   4. Greg K Posted: May 02, 2013 at 07:49 AM (#4431532)
Just to add on. I was recently talking with a Japanese friend about the massive annual high school baseball tournament in Japan. It sounds both insane and loads of fun.
   5. richallen Posted: May 02, 2013 at 07:54 AM (#4431534)
You say that about the Europa League, Andy, but that competition's given a lot of fans some tremendous memories.

I was at Craven Cottage when Clint Dempsey chipped that extraordinary winner to beat Juventus (Juventus!).

I was in Hamburg for hours before the game when we narrowly lost to Forlan and Aguero's Atletico.

Many friends were in Basel in the snow and said it was the best away day they've ever known.

Go jump in a lake? Nah. How about the best thing that's happened to the club in ages.
   6. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: May 02, 2013 at 07:54 AM (#4431535)
but I assume that the league winner is usually considered the "best" team. But winning the cup tournament means something as well, it just stands on its own and doesn't negate what happened in the league.

Yep. For example, Manchester United have won the league and are considered the best team while Wigan and Manchester City are in the Cup finals playing for a moment of glory. It's all good fun, but I don't know how or if we even should try to emulate it here.
   7. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: May 02, 2013 at 07:55 AM (#4431536)
I really like the Europa league, as well.
   8. Greg K Posted: May 02, 2013 at 08:03 AM (#4431540)
It's all good fun, but I don't know how or if we even should try to emulate it here.

Yeah, more than anything else (people's claims on what system is objectively "better", etc.) it comes down to established tradition. Baseball could institute a cup system in 2014, and no one would care, no matter how exciting the games. I think any change is only ever going to be gradually successful over several years - and that's a best case scenario. The WBC for instance, I think has had tremendous luck in that we've seen some really great games, and vigorous support from MLB, and yet it is still only making slow progress in establishing itself as a relevant competition. I think the minor variations in the MLB playoff system over the past 50 years are about as drastic a change as we can expect.

At this point it's more entertaining counter-factual speculation about how the early days of baseball could have turned out than any realistic projection of the future.
   9. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: May 02, 2013 at 08:05 AM (#4431541)
I think if the minor leagues were independent, a Cup here would be fun. The way we're set up now I don't see the point as we don't have any potential giant killers.
   10. Greg K Posted: May 02, 2013 at 08:10 AM (#4431542)
I think if the minor leagues were independent, a Cup here would be fun. The way we're set up now I don't see the point as we don't have any potential giant killers.

Yeah the two (independent minor leagues and cup) go hand-in-hand. I do sometimes dream of fully independent minor leagues, promotion/relegation, and a national cup tournament. Plus State-based tourney (by birth?) running parallel to the league. Though California would destroy everyone. Would leave room for, say, 100 league games a year?

The only bummer for me would be screwing up players stats.
   11. bobm Posted: May 02, 2013 at 08:21 AM (#4431545)
How much is the playoff format of North American sports a product of there being two baseball leagues at the beginning of the 20th century?

From Wikipedia:

The World Series, the modern championship series of Major League Baseball, began in 1903. Before the formation of the American Association (AA), there were no playoff rounds—all championships went to the team with the best record at the end of the season. In the initial season of the National League (NL) in 1876, there was controversy as to which team was the champion: the Chicago White Stockings, who had the best overall record (52–14), or the St. Louis Brown Stockings (45–19), who were the only team to have a winning record against every other franchise in the league. The teams agreed to play a five-game "Championship of the West" series, won by St. Louis, 4 games to 1. Beginning in 1884, the championship series between the National League and the American Association were promoted and referred to as the "World's Championship Series" (WCS), or "World's Series" for short; however, they are not officially recognized by Major League Baseball as part of World Series history.[1] Though early publications, such as Ernest Lanigan's Baseball Cyclopedia and Turkin and Thompson's Encyclopedia of Baseball, listed the 19th-century games on an equal basis with those of the 20th century, Sporting News publications about the World Series, which began in the 1920s, ignored the 19th-century games, as did most publications about the Series after 1960. Major League Baseball, in general, regards 19th-century events as a prologue to the modern era of baseball, which is defined by the emergence of the two present major leagues.

In the second year of the WCS, a dispute in the 1885 series concerned Game 2, which was forfeited by the St. Louis Browns when they pulled their team off the field protesting an umpiring decision. The managers, Cap Anson and Charles Comiskey, initially agreed to disregard the game. When St. Louis won the final game and an apparent 3–2 series championship, Chicago owner Albert Spalding overruled his manager and declared that he wanted the forfeit counted. The result of a tied WCS was that neither team got the prize money that had been posted by the owners before the series (and was returned to them after they both agreed it was a tie). Following the collapse of the AA in 1891, four of its clubs were admitted to the National League. The league championship was awarded in 1892 by a playoff between half-season champions. This scheme was abandoned after one season. Beginning in 1893—and continuing until divisional play was introduced in 1969—the pennant was awarded to the first-place club in the standings at the end of the season. For four seasons, the league champions played the runners-up in the postseason championship series called the Temple Cup. A second attempt at this format was the Chronicle-Telegraph Cup series in 1900.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pre–World_Series_baseball_champions
   12. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: May 02, 2013 at 08:44 AM (#4431555)
In essence, college basketball follows a regular season + cup format. Seems to work pretty well for it.
   13. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: May 02, 2013 at 09:09 AM (#4431565)
I think if the minor leagues were independent, a Cup here would be fun. The way we're set up now I don't see the point as we don't have any potential giant killers.


It might be fun if the handful of independent minor leagues could work out a cup of their own. Maybe something like the Football League Trophy, a cup only for the lower reaches of the professional game. But travel expenses would make probably make it impossible.

   14. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: May 02, 2013 at 09:31 AM (#4431576)
13: There's been efforts at interleague play, collective All-Star games, etc... between indy leagues in the past, but lack of money and tough times in general would kibosh such a thing for now. Also, the Atlantic League is now clearly the best one.
   15. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: May 02, 2013 at 09:33 AM (#4431578)
As someone who doesn't like any of the four teams that could conceivably win the Premiership in the foreseeable future, the EPL's format invariably leads to disinterest on my part by the halfway point.

It's arguably the most successful annual sporting competition in the universe, so I guess I'm in the minority in that regard. Still, when 80% of the league can never even conceive of winning a league championship, that's not a desirable feature IMO.
   16. escabeche Posted: May 02, 2013 at 09:36 AM (#4431584)
In essence, college basketball follows a regular season + cup format.


It's more complicated than that -- there's the regular season, but then there's the conference championship, and then the tournament after that. It's completely possible for the best team in a conference, the champion of that conference, and the NCAA champion to be three different teams from the same conference.
   17. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: May 02, 2013 at 09:36 AM (#4431585)
I really like the Europa league, as well.

You only say that, cause you are already resigned to the fact that Spurs won't make the CL.
   18. just plain joe Posted: May 02, 2013 at 09:40 AM (#4431588)
It's arguably the most successful annual sporting competition in the universe, so I guess I'm in the minority in that regard. Still, when 80% of the league can never even conceive of winning a league championship, that's not a desirable feature IMO.


Isn't that more of a function of how revenues are distributed among the teams than anything else? I know nothing at all about how the EPL divides up the money but I would guess that any revenue sharing is rather limited at best. If this is the case would more revenue sharing help?
   19. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: May 02, 2013 at 09:41 AM (#4431591)
You only say that, cause you are already resigned to the fact that Spurs won't make the CL.

Naw, I like it. It's nice to see some other clubs besides the mega bastard clubs who can become so, so tiresome.
   20. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: May 02, 2013 at 09:44 AM (#4431599)
In essence, college basketball follows a regular season + cup format. Seems to work pretty well for it.


No, conference tournaments mess that up. You can win your conference's regular season, but then you still have to play in the conference tournament, and if you lose one game, some other team will win the conference championship and the automatic NCAA bid.
   21. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 02, 2013 at 09:46 AM (#4431604)
not to go all 'in my day' but you had a good setup that rewarded the perceived best teams when you had a straight shot from winning the league to participating in the world series. sure it was still a short series but a short series with two teams that had won their leagues. best vs. best

when you incorporate playoffs obviously you create a greater probability that the team that has NOT proven itself over the long haul will win because that is the nature of layered playoffs. 'stuff' does happen.

the public does seem to respond to teams making late charges in all sports. the proverbial 'rising from the dead' aspect has its appeal.

baseball is entertainment. this stuff entertains.
   22. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: May 02, 2013 at 09:55 AM (#4431616)
Isn't that more of a function of how revenues are distributed among the teams than anything else? I know nothing at all about how the EPL divides up the money but I would guess that any revenue sharing is rather limited at best. If this is the case would more revenue sharing help?
It's almost entirely a function of revenue distribution, absolutely.

The problem with trying to implement a wider revenue sharing program is the same as in MLB: What's in it for Manchester United, Chelsea, the Yankees, and the Dodgers to help Wigan, Norwich, the Pirates, and the Royals compete? As long as people are still buying tickets and watching on television in enormous quantities, what's their motivation to give away money?

Also, IMO the promotion/relegation system kneecaps everybody outside of the top ten (or so) clubs. The bottom half of the league churns over endlessly, so in essence each of those clubs has an occasional season or three in which they have revenue that's tens of millions of dollars less than that of the top clubs. The gulf was already wide, but a season or two in the Championship (essentially AAA) is fatal to a club that's trying to build a competitive roster. They can't go out and get elite players.
   23. BDC Posted: May 02, 2013 at 09:57 AM (#4431618)
There are features of English football – of football in many European countries, for that matter – that don't really translate culturally to the US, and are hard for Americans to understand. Among them is the ancient nature and independent management of the clubs, and the generational support they draw and continue to draw, plus their geographical permanence. Obviously I'm generalizing, but as old as (say) the Cubs and Red Sox are, and as longsuffering as their fans (going back generations) have been, it still isn't the same culture at all. There are 100+-year-old clubs in the lower tiers of English football, some of them obviously not all that well-supported, and continually courting financial disaster, but with traditions and histories and generations of supporters that mimic the teams at the very top. As several here have said, that's more a feature of college sports in the US (where DePauw vs. Wabash is still a big day in Indiana football, for instance) than of pro sports. For all our enthusiasm, I think our attachment to pro sports clubs is relatively shallow.
   24. jmurph Posted: May 02, 2013 at 10:00 AM (#4431622)
I think the regular season/playoff issue isn't necessarily to be blamed on the format, it's to be blamed on how the fans and media treat them. It's absurd that the 2001 Mariners are largely forgotten because they lost in the playoffs. The 2007 Patriots are thought of as chokers rather than as one of the 5 or 10 best teams of all time, which they probably were. That's on us (not us here, we're obviously princes among men). We should be able to handle two competing things in our heads, A. The 2001 Mariners had a really great year, and B. The Diamondbacks won the end of season tournament.
   25. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: May 02, 2013 at 10:00 AM (#4431623)
Yeah, I think American college sports matches up more closely with European pro sports, too. It's why I think when the NCAA eventually goes professional, they won't miss a beat. Nebraska fans won't stop being Nebraska fans and Alabama fans won't stop being Alabama fans and Notre Dame fans will continue to be annoying.
   26. Andy McGeady Posted: May 02, 2013 at 10:01 AM (#4431626)
@RichAllen

Granted. Any competition can provide great memories. Look at Shamrock Rovers and their Europa journey.

But the days when it was the European and Uefa cups as opposed the Champions and Europa "leagues" were better, IMO.

a) no constant revenue stream for the top four clubs in the major leagues
b) knockout competition from the start

The current "league"-based European competitions aren't in place as a sporting ideal, they're in place because of the threat of a breakaway superleague by the top European sides.

But hey, I'll always have nostalgia :-)
   27. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: May 02, 2013 at 10:06 AM (#4431631)
This is one issue where people see what they do in England (and other places in Europe) and assume that it's like that everywhere else in the world of soccer. I believe most Latin American countries either HAVE a playoff (with the excuse that fans won't show up at regular-season games if their team has no chance to win anything), or they actually have two seasons per year (with the excuse that fans won't show up at regular-season games if their team has no chance to win anything, so you might as well get this season out of the way quick and start another one).

Likewise, it's not like the promotion/relegation system works everywhere. When you get outside England, Italy and a couple other countries, even the second division is full of teams that draw like 1,000 fans. When one of the top teams (e.g. the Phillies or Red Sox) is in danger of being relegated it leads to mass media chaos.

In Scotland they can't settle on a cohesive league system because if there was more than 12 teams in the top league, the imbalance would go from peculiar to laughable, so the top 12 teams play each other 3 or 4 times a year, over and over again. Likewise in Austria and most of the former communist countries.
   28. Gary Truth Serum Posted: May 02, 2013 at 10:08 AM (#4431633)
In essence, college basketball follows a regular season + cup format. Seems to work pretty well for it.

No, conference tournaments mess that up. You can win your conference's regular season, but then you still have to play in the conference tournament, and if you lose one game, some other team will win the conference championship and the automatic NCAA bid.

But if you look at it a different way, it is regular season + cup. First, you determine a regular season conference champion, and then everyone not in the Ivy League plays in a cup for the NCAA champion, with the conference tournaments serving as qualifying rounds for the tournament proper.

Where it deviates from European football is that the best teams can lose in the qualifying rounds and still make (and win) the main tournament.
   29. Andy McGeady Posted: May 02, 2013 at 10:10 AM (#4431640)
The one point that I haven't seen raised here is the "luck factor" of some sports as opposed to others and how it relates to having playoffs; by luck factor I mean the chances of the lesser team beating the better team on any given night. Obviously in baseball this is a huge factor and makes the whole concept of adding more playoff teams particularly silly.

Rugby Union as a game doesn't have a huge luck factor compared to sports like baseball and soccer and it's interesting that all the major rugby union competitions have now moved to a league + playoff format.

Just thought I'd throw it into the discussion.
   30. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: May 02, 2013 at 10:46 AM (#4431684)
NCAA basketball has several cups -- the conference tournaments, the NCAA tourney, the other postseason tournaments (NIT, CBI, and that other one), plus the preseason NIT and the various holiday tournaments in Hawaii and places like that. I hadn't thought of these in terms of cups, but that's just what they are.

Knock the NCAA tournament back to one team per league, but make qualification based on conference tournaments rather than the regular season. That way you have a regular season more closely split off from the postseason. You have a regular season, with its champions, followed by a cup tournament in which every team in D1 competes. Won't happen, but it would be nice.
   31. just plain joe Posted: May 02, 2013 at 11:13 AM (#4431714)
Knock the NCAA tournament back to one team per league, but make qualification based on conference tournaments rather than the regular season. That way you have a regular season more closely split off from the postseason. You have a regular season, with its champions, followed by a cup tournament in which every team in D1 competes. Won't happen, but it would be nice.


I would be in favor of moving back to one team per league, but I wouldn't want that spot decided by a conference tournament. It is too easy for a team to get hot at the right time, when 3 or 4 games in a row, and get the bid. That system would completely negate the results of playing two times a week for the 8 or 9 weeks of the regular season. I know the idea of having the regular season completely separate from the tournament makes some sense but I don't think it would ever fly.

If I were in charge of the NCAA I would completely eliminate the conference championship tournaments and then open the NCAA tournament to everyone. It would be easy enough to have a round of play-in games for the bottom feeders in order to get down to 256 teams. A 256 team tournament sounds like a lot but it would only require two more rounds than the current 64+. Eliminate the conference tournament week and you have the time needed for the Humongorific 256. That way the regular season works as the preliminary round for the tournament, with seeding based on a team's W-L record, among other factors.
   32. BDC Posted: May 02, 2013 at 11:23 AM (#4431733)
Humongorific 256

The problem would be generating interest in the actual games of the Round of 256 and the Round of 128. Even 64 is a point of saturation, but at least it's a bracket that fits in the middle of the newspaper and that most people can fill out for office-pool purposes in their spare time.

   33. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: May 02, 2013 at 11:28 AM (#4431740)
Conference tournaments make money.
This system is designed to make money.
The round of 256 would not make money.
   34. BDC Posted: May 02, 2013 at 11:34 AM (#4431751)
The progress of NCAA football is going to be interesting to watch, over the next decade, along these lines. I think the ideal would be a system incorporating some of the features of Fernigal's and Joe's basketball ideas. Let's say eight super-conferences, each with two divisions of eight or ten teams: somewhere between 128 and 160 football teams. That's a lot of teams; some schools will feel left out, but perhaps some sort of relegation mechanism can give them a future chance to rise.

Then, decide the division titles in the regular season, play conference championship games, and viola, you've got eight seeds for the national-playoff quarterfinals.

Won't happen, of course. Somebody will point out that Alabama and Auburn are "really" the two best teams in the nation, and that their regular-season game early on was the de facto national-title game, and that therefore one of them was robbed. And to avoid such outcomes, the biggest powers would try to manipulate their conference memberships so that they could reach a title game more easily. ("After careful consideration, Notre Dame has decided that membership in the Catholic Conference with St Bonaventure, Loyola of Chicago, Fordham, etc. best fits our traditions.") And even though no team would have any excuse for not making it to the big dance, complaints would flourish.

Of course, complaints will flourish anyway (they've started already in advance of the new 4-team playoff: how will the four be chosen?) But a good balance of regular-season to playoffs is hard to attain, even though it's highly desirable.
   35. SuperGrover Posted: May 02, 2013 at 11:46 AM (#4431773)
Knock the NCAA tournament back to one team per league, but make qualification based on conference tournaments rather than the regular season. That way you have a regular season more closely split off from the postseason. You have a regular season, with its champions, followed by a cup tournament in which every team in D1 competes. Won't happen, but it would be nice.


Why would it be nice? Conference tournaments are somewhat of a crap shoot yet you want to define postseason qualification by three games in three days? That would completely and utterly destroy the meaning of the regular season.
   36. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: May 02, 2013 at 11:47 AM (#4431775)

Yeah, I think American college sports matches up more closely with European pro sports, too. It's why I think when the NCAA eventually goes professional, they won't miss a beat. Nebraska fans won't stop being Nebraska fans and Alabama fans won't stop being Alabama fans and Notre Dame fans will continue to be annoying.


Until the University of Phoenix purchases the Fighting Irish and moves them to Phoenix (or wherever). Franchise mobility is the hallmark of U.S. professional sports.


But if you look at it a different way, it is regular season + cup. First, you determine a regular season conference champion, and then everyone not in the Ivy League plays in a cup for the NCAA champion, with the conference tournaments serving as qualifying rounds for the tournament proper.


The regular season conference champion gets bupkus if they don't win the conference tournament. No trophy, banners, parades, nada.
   37. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: May 02, 2013 at 11:53 AM (#4431790)
The reason to keep the conference tournaments in basketball is to keep the money coming in. It also gives teams from lesser conferences a better shot at the NCAA Tournament, because they're not going to be dealing with multiple teams from the power conferences. This also makes it work more like the old European Cup Winners Cup -- it's only open to the winners of each domestic cup.

The problem would be generating interest in the actual games of the Round of 256 and the Round of 128. Even 64 is a point of saturation, but at least it's a bracket that fits in the middle of the newspaper and that most people can fill out for office-pool purposes in their spare time.


The way to deal with this would be to have a cup weekend in January or February. Run 32 separate 8-team tournaments, the winners proceeding on to the big tournament in March. Teams in contention for their regular season titles would have to decide if they want to go all-in on the tournament, or if they play a lot of reserves to save the regulars' legs.

You'd have to arrange the qualifying tournaments on a somewhat geographical basis. You could either arrange it strictly by geography (meaning, for example, that Campbell and NC Central would always be competing in a sub-tournament with UNC, Duke, and NC State), or create something like 8 regions and randomly arrange the teams from those groupings. No seedings -- the essence of a cup is that everyone competes on an equal footing.

(EDIT: I should point out that I still prefer the league tournaments model.)

The progress of NCAA football is going to be interesting to watch, over the next decade, along these lines.


I'd love for football conferences to be entirely separate from conferences in all other sports. Football can be in these massive national conferences, let the other sports fight it out in more traditional regional conferences.
   38. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: May 02, 2013 at 11:58 AM (#4431796)
Why would it be nice? Conference tournaments are somewhat of a crap shoot yet you want to define postseason qualification by three games in three days? That would completely and utterly destroy the meaning of the regular season.


But what we're talking about is changing the nature of the postseason. If you make the NCAA Tournament into the NCAA Cup, the winner isn't the national champion, the winner is simply the winner of the NCAA Cup. The idea is to emphasize the regular season.

(This would also take away the idea of a national champion settled by anything but the polls. People will hate that, of course. EDIT: Which I take as an argument in its favor. The growing emphasis on the national tournament detracts attention from the league championships. I want to make winning your league more important because it's more tangible.)

I should also say that I grew up with ACC basketball, when it only sent one team to the NCAAs and that team was determined by the league tournament. You learn to separate the two achievements. The regular season is a war, the postseason is a carnival.
   39. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: May 02, 2013 at 12:14 PM (#4431832)
Until the University of Phoenix purchases the Fighting Irish and moves them to Phoenix (or wherever).

Happened to Wake Forest.
   40. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: May 02, 2013 at 12:23 PM (#4431856)
Until the University of Phoenix purchases the Fighting Irish and moves them to Phoenix (or wherever). Franchise mobility is the hallmark of U.S. professional sports.

That would be awesome if it happened to Notre Dame. Here's the problems for other less douchey programs--how the hell can you move Alabama anywhere? Their fan base IS Alabama. And where would you move them to? Every region in the country already has a college with a dedicated fanbase. Legally, Manchester United can move but where the hell in England could they move to? The reason English teams (with the exception of MK Dons) don't move is that because it's an open system so any empty market that could support a club has already been filled. It's very close to the same thing with college sports. So, the idea that college football teams are going to start moving around the country like NFL franchises doesn't seem realistic.
   41. Greg K Posted: May 02, 2013 at 12:30 PM (#4431868)
There are 100+-year-old clubs in the lower tiers of English football, some of them obviously not all that well-supported, and continually courting financial disaster, but with traditions and histories and generations of supporters that mimic the teams at the very top. As several here have said, that's more a feature of college sports in the US (where DePauw vs. Wabash is still a big day in Indiana football, for instance) than of pro sports. For all our enthusiasm, I think our attachment to pro sports clubs is relatively shallow.

This leads to an interesting element of English football where the match is almost a creature unto itself, and your place in the standings is almost irrelevant. When Notts County play Sheffield United (or any number of Midlands teams...Nottingham is not a popular town with its neighbours), the outcome matters a great deal to everyone, even if both teams are languishing in mid-table. There isn't the sense that the championship is the only thing that matters.

Notts County is just one example of many, they've been stuck in the third tier for the last few years, and haven't been a top tier team since the early 90s I think. And yet they have a pretty noticeable following in Nottingham. This despite the fact that Nottingham Forest has their ground about 100 yards from theirs and have been much more successful in the past 50 years (thought Forest themselves have been stuck in the second tier for quite a while not) Notts County are also the oldest continuously running football club in the world...or so they claim, for all I know they're making that up.

I get the sense that the feel of games is a lot more like college sports, where in the moment it's often the game that's paramount, and no one's even thinking about the standings.

EDIT: It was funny, my first weekend in Nottingham I went to a Notts County game, and the fans actually had songs geared specifically for the opposition that day (Sheffield United), and according to Wikipedia they're not even one of their top 5 rivals.
   42. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: May 02, 2013 at 12:33 PM (#4431872)
Notts County are also the oldest continuously running football club in the world...or so they claim, for all I know they're making that up.

I believe they are.
   43. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 02, 2013 at 12:43 PM (#4431884)
I would only support this if they call it "Two Leagues, One Cup."
   44. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: May 02, 2013 at 12:43 PM (#4431885)

That would be awesome if it happened to Notre Dame. Here's the problems for other less douchey programs--how the hell can you move Alabama anywhere? Their fan base IS Alabama. And where would you move them to? Every region in the country already has a college with a dedicated fanbase.


I've already given an example: University of Phoenix. There is already a University of Phoenix stadium (yes, I know, they don't actually own it), but they don't have a team. They could start a team from scratch, but why do that when there are plenty of second-tier schools with some glory in their past? Maybe the Minnesota Golden Gophers. They have four AP National Championships, so they have a little cachet.

Yes, they would lose the existing fanbase (just like the Indianapolis Colts lost the Baltimore fans), but they wouldn't have those fans if they started the University of Phoenix Hardscrabblers. But they would have the name recognition, the records, the history, and membership in the Big 10. The new fanbase would be the current student body, and alumni, just like any school.
   45. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: May 02, 2013 at 12:52 PM (#4431896)
Yes, they would lose the existing fanbase (just like the Indianapolis Colts lost the Baltimore fans), but they wouldn't have those fans if they started the University of Phoenix Hardscrabblers. But they would have the name recognition, the records, the history, and membership in the Big 10.

I think you're stretching logic here. If The University of Phoenix wanted a big time football team, they could just create one from scratch. Buying Notre Dame's football team won't wash because Notre Dame fans aren't going to become University of Phoenix fans. The idea of it is a non-starter, not even taking into account Arizona already has two Pac-12 teams. College teams are tied to their communities and the alumni of the university in a way pro franchises aren't. It would be epically stupid for any major college team to move. But I think they will have to become at least quasi-professional because O'Bannon is going to win his case and the Pandora's box of paying athletes is about to be opened.
   46. JRVJ Posted: May 02, 2013 at 02:14 PM (#4431996)
I'm coming in late on this, and will probably take this in a different direction, but so be it.

In general, I think that what Posnanski is missing (since he probably hasn't thought of this in too much detail in the past), is that MLB wass actually a league competition (2 pennant winners per year until 1969) with a "Super-Cup" at the end (the Word Series), which was then turned into an emasculated league competition (so you won the pennant/division/WC - big deal!), with a winnowed down Cup competition (playoffs and WS).

What I think Pos wants to say (he doesn't actually make this argument, but it's there), is that MLB needs to give out League championships as well as the ultimate "Cup" championship (WS winner), so that the pennant winners actually get something out of it.

It might be imposible for Americans sport fans to go down the European route and do this (i.e., give some actual importance to the "League" championship), but it wasn't THAT far in the past when winning your league pennant was actually a big deal.
   47. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: May 02, 2013 at 02:23 PM (#4432004)
it wasn't THAT far in the past when winning your league pennant was actually a big deal.


This. I love the playoffs but I hate the idea that failure in the playoffs invalidates a season of achievement. I hope Mariner fans look fondly on 2001. As a Red Sox fan years like 1988, 1990 and 1995 all have great meaning to me. Even 2009 was a great year as far as I'm concerned. I think celebrating the steps in the journey is worthwhile.
   48. BDC Posted: May 02, 2013 at 02:28 PM (#4432008)
an emasculated league competition (so you won the pennant/division/WC - big deal!)

The Rangers this year appear to be flying six flags over the Ballpark: the three division titles from the 1990s, the two AL pennants, and the coveted 2012 Wild Card Runner-Up. I really think we should tear that last one down and burn it :)
   49. Nasty Nate Posted: May 02, 2013 at 02:29 PM (#4432011)
What I think Pos wants to say (he doesn't actually make this argument, but it's there), is that MLB needs to give out League championships as well as the ultimate "Cup" championship (WS winner), so that the pennant winners actually get something out of it.


What do you mean by "give out"? The league champions are recognized officially as such by major league baseball, and in general the public recognizes a team that reaches the world series but loses as had having a good season. Maybe you don't think there is enough importance given to the league championship, but there definitely is some.
   50. JRVJ Posted: May 02, 2013 at 02:33 PM (#4432015)
49, english as a second language writer here, writing quickly over lunch.

By "Give out", I meant make it a big thing, physically have a huge ceremony/hand out a huge trophy, turn it into a genuine THING, so teams and fans are psyched by it.
   51. Nasty Nate Posted: May 02, 2013 at 02:34 PM (#4432016)
The frustrating thing about the trend towards a 'championship or else' mentality and ring-worship is that it occurred concurrently with expansion that made it more difficult to win a championship (Beating out 30 other teams is tougher than beating out 15).

Are 95% of sports fans supposed to be disappointed with a season's results every year?
   52. Nasty Nate Posted: May 02, 2013 at 02:35 PM (#4432018)
By "Give out", I meant make it a big thing, physically have a huge ceremony/hand out a huge trophy, turn it into a genuine THING, so teams and fans are psyched by it.


I agree. That would be cool.
   53. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: May 02, 2013 at 03:07 PM (#4432071)
Every region in the country already has a college with a dedicated fanbase. Legally, Manchester United can move but where the hell in England could they move to?

You're completely correct, but in all fairness, I think United might be a bad example for your point. If they were to move here, for example, I think it would be completely reasonable for them to draw more/a comparable number at Wembley as opposed to Old Trafford. Now, obviously that wouldn't be the case if they moved to Bristol or something, but that's more because of the absence of a giant stadium than anything else (United do have a(n) (inter)national fandom, after all). It *is* pretty cheap and easy to move around England (though why anyone would *want* to go to Manchester is beyond me).
   54. Random Transaction Generator Posted: May 02, 2013 at 03:13 PM (#4432079)
The Blue Jays and the Expos played for the Pearson Cup, but it never got enough hype.
   55. mitchiapet Posted: May 02, 2013 at 03:17 PM (#4432086)
From just plain joe/#18:
I know nothing at all about how the EPL divides up the money but I would guess that any revenue sharing is rather limited at best.


I believe that in the English Premier League (and the other domestic leagues in Europe), there is a certain amount of money that is awarded for place of finish that is in addition to the revenue sharing from league-wide monies. The cup tournaments pay out for each match played, with increasing amounts for each round as the competition progresses. So there is a financial incentive for success. I don't know how significant that impact is, but I think it's enough to make a difference on the balance sheet.

Fully agree with JRVJ/#46 and the responses that followed. Maybe we seamheads should do as MLS fans did and petition the league for such a trophy to award to the team with the best record in each league. However, I think this should be coupled with re-balancing the schedule as much as possible to be considered viable.
   56. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: May 02, 2013 at 03:17 PM (#4432087)
Canada's MLS and NASL teams play in an extremely cleverly named tournament called the Canadian Championship. The games don't count in MLS standings or anything, but the winner does qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League.
   57. zack Posted: May 02, 2013 at 03:42 PM (#4432106)
What I think Pos wants to say (he doesn't actually make this argument, but it's there), is that MLB needs to give out League championships as well as the ultimate "Cup" championship (WS winner), so that the pennant winners actually get something out of it.

The NHL does this at three different levels. They have an eighty-two game season, and then let literally more than half of the teams into the playoffs, which are 5 rounds of best of 7. The 13th best team won the cup last year.

They give out a trophy to the best team, it's called the President's Trophy. And you know what? Most NHL fans think it's bad to win it. Then they give a trophy to each of the teams that win the first four rounds of the playoffs, which are taboo to celebrate, so much so that most teams won't even touch them. It's the cup or nothing.

This would make sense if the season was 2/3 as long, or if there were only 2 or 3 rounds of playoffs, maybe. For now it's just nuts.
   58. PepTech Posted: May 02, 2013 at 03:45 PM (#4432108)
Just to add on. I was recently talking with a Japanese friend about the massive annual high school baseball tournament in Japan. It sounds both insane and loads of fun.

It is both.

Technically, "they" are both; there's a spring tournament (invitational) and the summer version, which is truly an open tournament starting with district level knockout brackets. Both tournaments, quite simply, take over the country. Every TV in every public place shows every game, including giant TVs set up in plazas, electronics departments in stores where dozens of screens all show the current game... you name it. Every podunk restaurant TV and every security guard's monitor and every radio in every taxi is tuned to Koshien, which is the stadium the games are played in and really what everyone calls the tournaments.

Cool stuff about Koshien:
- the ritual collecting of baggies of dirt after you lose - because it's sacred ground
- the uniform numbers - pitchers are always 1, catchers are always 2, etc. Always. If you see 11 at bat you know it's a sub.
- small schools making first/rare appearances (think Quinnipiac or Stony Brook in the NCAAs)
- Frenzied (but polite!) masses of fans following each team

Not-so-cool stuff:
- Incredibly predictable strategy - every game is a knockout, so every run is precious. In Japan that means if the leadoff gets on base, the second kid will bunt. Always. Even if the first kid in the first inning walked on four pitches that hit the bull, the second kid will square up, guaranteed.
- Intense pressure on 16-17 year old kids. There's lots of crying in Japanese baseball.
- Per the above, many kids blow out their careers on the field at Koshien. Some kid might throw shutouts on back-to-back days. Another might throw >200 pitches in an extra inning game (I think Daisuke Matsusaka might have been one example of this).

I'm not sure whether it's cool or not, but the Hanshin Tigers in the JPL have to take something like a 20-day road trip every summer to accommodate the tournament. The whole thing is like March Madness, except every day for three weeks. Then it's over and it's amateur baseball withdrawal.
   59. BDC Posted: May 02, 2013 at 03:50 PM (#4432113)
They give out a trophy to the best team

When I was very young, I seem to remember that the Black Hawks had incurred an obscure curse: they were supposedly fated never to win the league championship, and even though they had won the Stanley Cup a few times (as recently as 1961, in fact), this was seen as a minor tragedy in the life of Chicago sports fans.

Then they easily won the championship in 1967 and proceeded to lose in the first round of the Cup playoffs.

That was when there were six teams, and four of them made the playoffs. It seemed to be a situation where fans spent more time brooding about losing the one or the other (league or Cup) than about winning either. The only satisfying outcome was to win both.
   60. Zach Posted: May 02, 2013 at 03:52 PM (#4432119)
Baseball's schedule is much longer than any regular season/cup sport. With 20 odd games against every opponent, who's going to go to games 15-20 after one or both teams have been eliminated?

The playoffs breathe some life into the dog days of summer. Right as the crummy teams are limping to the finish line your attention is drawn to the new, appealing teams that will occupy your attention for the next couple of months.
   61. OsunaSakata Posted: May 02, 2013 at 04:04 PM (#4432133)
Canada's MLS and NASL teams play in an extremely cleverly named tournament called the Canadian Championship. The games don't count in MLS standings or anything, but the winner does qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League.


In the United States the FA Cup equivalent is the U.S. Open Cup, which has been around since 1914. It didn't used to have all the MLS teams participating, but this year all 34 teams in MLS, NASL and USL Pro will play along with 34 amateur teams. The U.S. Open Cup winner, the MLS Cup finalists and the Supporters Shield (best regular season record) all go to the CONCACAF Champions League.

Baseball's schedule is much longer than any regular season/cup sport. With 20 odd games against every opponent, who's going to go to games 15-20 after one or both teams have been eliminated?


In OOTP, the only I found to make cup games work was to have regular season games on the weekends and cup and champions league games on weekdays.
   62. just plain joe Posted: May 02, 2013 at 04:08 PM (#4432136)
I believe that in the English Premier League (and the other domestic leagues in Europe), there is a certain amount of money that is awarded for place of finish that is in addition to the revenue sharing from league-wide monies.


Good to know. I think if MLB had a scheme like that (better record = more money), we might not see so many teams throw in the towel at the All Star break.
   63. OsunaSakata Posted: May 02, 2013 at 04:15 PM (#4432147)
Someone can correct me, but I thought 3rd place teams got a small share of World Series receipts, but it's not enough for teams to make an all-out effort for 3rd place.
   64. Nasty Nate Posted: May 02, 2013 at 04:34 PM (#4432174)
With 20 odd games against every opponent, who's going to go to games 15-20 after one or both teams have been eliminated?

The playoffs breathe some life into the dog days of summer.


In MLB, teams don't have 20 odd game against every opponent, they don't even have 20 odd games against any opponent. Also, the playoffs don't take place in the dog days of summer.
   65. Nasty Nate Posted: May 02, 2013 at 04:37 PM (#4432181)
Good to know. I think if MLB had a scheme like that (better record = more money), we might not see so many teams throw in the towel at the All Star break.


Pro leagues should correlate the draft order with the order of finish of the teams that didn't make the playoffs instead of the opposite order (with some specifications depending on the league).
   66. OsunaSakata Posted: May 02, 2013 at 04:43 PM (#4432187)
I've heard the suggestion that draft order for non-playoff teams should be based on wins after playoff elimination. Therefore, the first team eliminated has more games left to get the most wins and get the first pick.
   67. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: May 02, 2013 at 05:49 PM (#4432247)
I've heard the suggestion that draft order for non-playoff teams should be based on wins after playoff elimination. Therefore, the first team eliminated has more games left to get the most wins and get the first pick.


One issue is that you would in part be rewarding teams for having a really good team in their division. To give an extreme example, the 2001 Rangers won 73 games overall and yet were eliminated two weeks earlier than the 65-win Royals. I like the impulse, however.
   68. musial6 Posted: May 02, 2013 at 06:14 PM (#4432269)
I will continue to beat this drum as I have been ever since 2004...

10-team AL
10-team NL
10-team Relegation league (call it something else obviously)

No regular season inter-league play. Everyone plays 9 league opponents 18 times. AL and NL pennants go to respective teams who finish 1st. Last place AL and NL are relegated. 1st place in RL wins automatic promotion to the league of choice. 2nd and 3rd place RL play series for the other promotion.

8-team inter-league postseason tournament to determine World Series Champion, with 1st place AL seeded against 4th place NL, 2nd place AL vs 3rd place NL, etc...

If we must have the 4th and 5th place teams play an eliminator game for the 4-seeds, so be it.
   69. Greg K Posted: May 02, 2013 at 06:24 PM (#4432280)
This would make sense if the season was 2/3 as long, or if there were only 2 or 3 rounds of playoffs, maybe. For now it's just nuts.

There's a lot of odd things with the Stanley Cup. You're also not supposed to touch it (either on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame, or whenever it gets shown publicly by one of the guys who's won it) until you've won it. It didn't apply to me or my brother, who go to touch it once at a showing, because we didn't play hockey so there was no chance of us eventually playing in the NHL. But among some hockey families kids are forbidden from touching it just in case they grow up to be professionals and one day compete for it.

EDIT: growing up it was always shocking seeing promos of the Super Bowl with players posing with the trophy before-hand.
   70. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 02, 2013 at 07:27 PM (#4432333)
It's the Stanley ####### Cup. If any other sport had a trophy that awesome, it would be all its players would care about, too.

I would sign off on musial6's (#68) proposal because it seems interesting, but I really don't see what it would accomplish, honestly.
   71. Richard Posted: May 02, 2013 at 08:30 PM (#4432417)
Notts County are also the oldest continuously running football club in the world...or so they claim, for all I know they're making that up.

I believe they are.


No, it's Sheffield FC, in the Northern Premier League, who are 5 years older. Notts County are the oldest club currently in the league, though.
   72. musial6 Posted: May 02, 2013 at 10:23 PM (#4432537)
I would sign off on musial6's (#68) proposal because it seems interesting, but I really don't see what it would accomplish, honestly.


It would accomplish many things

1) Restore legitimacy to the NL and AL Pennant winners to the pre-1969 standards
2) The first round of the playoffs would be a fascinating benchmark for league supremacy
3) There's a real possibility that any 2 teams could meet in the World Series
4) Instead of positive re-enforcement (top draft pick) for being the worst, we punish last place with relegation
5) More teams will be playing meaningful games in September as there are compelling races for the top spot in each league, races for the last playoff spots, races to avoid relegation, and races to win promotion back to the top level.

There would need to be a radical 1981-ish split transition season to decide the 10 inaugural relegation teams, but no need to hash that out until we get serious about the idea.
   73. Mefisto Posted: May 02, 2013 at 11:07 PM (#4432587)
I like musial6's idea. Sign me up.
   74. zachtoma Posted: May 02, 2013 at 11:54 PM (#4432631)
The teams agreed to play a five-game "Championship of the West" series, won by St. Louis, 4 games to 1


I wonder why they played the 5th game.
   75. Dan Evensen Posted: May 03, 2013 at 12:32 AM (#4432650)
After skimming through this thread, is the consensus that we won't ever see another Clough-era Nottingham Forest in English football?

As a fan, I've got to say that I prefer the old Football League setup for the parity. The gap between rich and poor teams, and then the gap between the super rich and the sort of rich, has grown so large that there really aren't any surprises anymore. My bet is that the development of Champions League has a lot to do with that as well.

Kind of makes me wonder what kind of impact an all-Europa league would have, rather than the CL tournament.

At least the EPL isn't as skewed towards one or two teams as the SPL has always been. By the way, how have the "new" Rangers been doing? I haven't been good at keeping up with the news.

There are 100+-year-old clubs in the lower tiers of English football, some of them obviously not all that well-supported, and continually courting financial disaster, but with traditions and histories and generations of supporters that mimic the teams at the very top.

That reminds me -- I should take a look to see how Port Vale has been playing lately. They make for a very good Football Manager challenge, that's for sure.

By the way, to make this baseball relevant again, I'd rather see the divisions eliminated and the postseason reduced to a single World Series. I'd also like to see expansion to 32 total teams and the elimination of inter-league play. It's never going to happen, but at least I can make it happen in DMB, APBA, SOM, Skeetersoft, OOTP, Action, Replay, DLB and a bunch of other games.
   76. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: May 03, 2013 at 05:04 AM (#4432719)
By the way, how have the "new" Rangers been doing? I haven't been good at keeping up with the news.

24 points clear at the top of division 3, sadly.
   77. BFFB Posted: May 03, 2013 at 08:23 AM (#4432740)
No sports system anywhere should be based on the model of the EPL. The reason supporters live on the day to day results is because you can count the number of teams with a realistic chance of winning the thing on the hand of a three fingered man. Everybody else, more or less, just makes up the numbers.

Without the inherent "randomness" of a play off system you have one of the best 2-3 teams win every single year where "best" = "spent the most money" and you end up in a Premier League death spiral where the teams who can "spend the most money" in any given year get smaller and smaller.
   78. Mike Emeigh Posted: May 03, 2013 at 09:02 AM (#4432751)
I wonder why they played the 5th game.


At the time, post-season exhibition tours made some money for the teams and players - and there is little question that from the perspective of both this wasn't about "declaring a champion", this was about making the money. Teams playing series like these would almost always play all of the scheduled games.

-- MWE
   79. zack Posted: May 03, 2013 at 10:29 AM (#4432837)
zack Posted: September 05, 2012 at 12:19 AM (#4226797)
Who will be the first team to hang a "2nd Wildcard Champion 2012" banner in their stadium after losing the playoff?

BDC Posted: May 02, 2013 at 02:28 PM (#4432008)
The Rangers this year appear to be flying six flags over the Ballpark: the three division titles from the 1990s, the two AL pennants, and the coveted 2012 Wild Card Runner-Up. I really think we should tear that last one down and burn it :)

The Texas Rangers, YOU are the biggest losers!
   80. Ron J2 Posted: May 03, 2013 at 01:04 PM (#4432998)
#15 The regular season tends to feature meaningful games regardless of team quality. It's rare to have a team that just strolls to the title. A few teams are in the mix for the title more or less down to the wire.

A slightly larger group is involved in the fight for Champions League spots. The last of which is almost always decided on the last day of the season.

Then there are teams playing for Europa League spots (often with an outside shot at the Champions League)

Teams that are not in the hunt for any spot in Europe generally are heavily involved in the battle to avoid relegation. It all works quite well in sustaining interest interest in what is an uncompetitive league if one defines things strictly on the chance of winning the league. Teams in effect create goals to compete against and success is largely measured against this.
   81. Ron J2 Posted: May 03, 2013 at 01:13 PM (#4433006)
#29 Soccer doesn't have a huge "luck" factor, but fixture congestion (plus suspensions, cup tied players, injuries, etc.)makes for something similar. No major team can play their best players all of the time, so early rounds of some competitions feature an awful lot of squad players.

Basically the deeper you go into a competition the more likely you are to see the very best a team can field.
   82. Ron J2 Posted: May 03, 2013 at 01:26 PM (#4433017)
#75 There are only a handful of managers who've ever won more games than you'd expect given the payroll of the club. I guess it's technically possible for a relatively small place to find one and to have a strong academy setup.

It's just very unlikely. You need to find the guy, keep him in control and have him not choose to move on to a club with more resources.

It's slightly more likely that some oil oligarch would pick some place like Notts County (rather than Chelsea or Man City for instance). It's not like Roman Abramovich had any strong reason for picking Chelsea.

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