Willie Mays poses for a picture with the Minneapolis Millers.

MLB and Baseball

I regularly watch Major League Baseball, I think that goes for most of us. Not just my favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, no, I try to watch as much MLB as I can in a given week. Again, this is something that I think goes for most of us. It may seem like I’m stating the obvious, and I am, but, sometimes the obvious is necessary to drive home a point. The point, in this case, being that MLB is nothing more than a brand and governing body for the American League and National League. Those leagues and the brand/governing body itself are a part of the game of baseball. However, MLB is not all there is to baseball, and it’s time that those of us who write about baseball did a better job of conveying that fact.

This line of thinking was brought upon by a recent FanGraphs article dealing with expansion. This is not the same article I write about a couple of weeks ago, but yet another article from FanGraphs with a decidedly limited view of what constitutes professional baseball (Sorry, Baltimore Elite Giants of various Negro Leagues and Baltimore Orioles of the International League, your professional status has been rescinded per this article). The article begins with a grab quote that speaks to the problem that peppers the entire article,

“The Twins’ early popularity in Minneapolis shows MLB could have brought baseball to the Gopher State sooner than it did.”

Later in the article, the Minneapolis Millers are mentioned, as in the actual professional baseball team that called Minneapolis home from 1884 to 1960. The St. Paul Saints are also mentioned, a team that has been active in the Gopher State from 1894 to 1960 (sans 1900) and then again from 1993 to the present day. Both teams played pro baseball in Minnesota for many years. When MLB chartered the Minnesota Twins franchise they weren’t bringing baseball to Minnesota, but continuing the baseball traditions already in place.

It’s really an issue of usage, which may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t. MLB and baseball aren’t one and the same. When MLB promotes their coming to London they aren’t promoting the game of baseball, but their brand. That is what they are bringing to London, the brand that is MLB. There is already baseball in London unless I missed something and the British Baseball Federation and London Meteorites, or Mets for short, don’t exist? It’s understandable for MLB to promote themselves as baseball, but it’s just as important that we don’t allow them to do as such.

MLB is a baseball organization, they offer a baseball product. The same is true for Nippon Professional Baseball, the BBF National League, the International League, Serie Nacional de Béisbol, and so on and so forth. Baseball is a global game, with many professional and amateur leagues found in various countries. MLB is the cream of the crop, but they shouldn’t be viewed or treated as a monolith. When we use the term baseball we should be referring to the game of baseball and not MLB in particular. They shouldn’t be afforded that type of power, but we have given them that power through the discourse we have chosen to engage in. In the end, it’s up to us, if we refer to baseball as baseball and don’t use baseball to refer to MLB in a monolithic sense then we can correct the narrative. It’s something we need to do, for baseball.

Lead photo courtesy of Ed Pippenger – Unknown

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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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