Various Atlantic League logos

Let’s Bring Back the Fun

Let’s talk about fun for a second. Specifically let’s talk about fun, professional baseball, and the unaffiliated leagues. The 2021-2022 season has been a great season for unaffiliated baseball the globe over. There are still plenty of games to go, leagues yet to throw out their first pitch, and championships to be decided. Still, based on what we’ve seen so far I think it’s safe to say that professional baseball on the unaffiliated circuit has been giving baseball fans exactly what they want and then some.

The main reason that I’m writing about this today is that fun is typically what separates the unaffiliated leagues from Major League Baseball and their affiliates. There’s no way to gauge this, anyone can freely disagree with what I’m saying and there’s no way for me to objectively prove my point correct. Be that as it may, I know that when I watch baseball I want to have fun and I am having way more fun watching baseball from the unaffiliated leagues than I am MLB or the affiliated leagues.

That I find the unaffiliated leagues to be more fun does not mean they are free of any issues or problems. The reality is that I have written plenty this season about off-the-field issues, and even on-the-field ones, that have caused problems with my enjoyment of one unaffiliated league or another. Despite all those problems at the end of the day I still enjoy the in-game action provided by unaffiliated leagues more than I do that of MLB or its affiliated leagues. I don’t think the quality of play in the unaffiliated leagues is better, though there are leagues where a case could be made that they are playing at a major league level and deserve that recognition. I’m not talking quality of play though, I’m talking the total package of the baseball experience and how much more fun I find that package to be when it comes from unaffiliated baseball.

The above being said, there are instances where some of that fun has been stripped away. The Atlantic League is the most obvious example of a league shooting itself in the foot for no apparent reason. I’ve watched plenty of ALPB this year, yet I almost always find myself turning to some other unaffiliated league when given the chance. In terms of pure enjoyment the product that the ALPB put on the field this season has been a chore to sit through. Most of that rests with the MLB mandated rule changes and the games themselves feeling more like experiments in a lab than actual baseball. Whatever the reason, it became clear as the year went along that when it came to my personal enjoyment the American Association and Frontier League had both flown right on by the ALPB.

I know that most ALPB fans think this is yet another negative article from yours truly about their favorite league. It is true that I have negative thoughts about the league, but we know based on history that the ALPB can be so much better than it has been in 2021. The ALPB spent years cultivating a well-deserved reputation as the top unaffiliated league in America. The quality of play was a major reason for them reaching such heights, but even more than that it was how compellingly fun the games and the general atmosphere of the league remained year in and year out.

I want to see the ALPB succeed. I want to see a league that has been known for years to have some of the most fun and entertaining baseball found outside of MLB’s walls return to that. The only thing standing in ALPB’s way is MLB and a President, Rick White, who seems to have lost the vision of what his league has been, can be, and should be. I’m tired of writing negative articles about the ALPB, I want nothing more than to write positive articles about what should be a powerhouse league on the unaffiliated baseball scene. Whether or not I can get back to enjoying the league and writing positively about the many great players it houses all comes down to how far White is willing to let the league go down their present experimental circus league rabbit hole. For the sake of unaffiliated baseball fans, the health of the United States unaffiliated leagues, and my own personal enjoyment I hope White has some method in mind to turn the ALPB ship around starting next season.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Atlantic League of Professional Baseball

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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