A player from Gigantes de Rivas celebrates scoring a run.

Professionalism Not Needed

I read a lot about the game of baseball. On a daily basis, I’m reading articles from every corner of the internet and working on finishing some baseball-related book. The reason for this is simple, I love the game and the more I read the better I believe I become as a writer. I don’t agree with everything I read, nor do I like every article or book that my eyes pass over. However, it’s very rare that an article manages to make me mad. That happened twice last week, and both times it was related to the same topic.

No one in their right mind would deny that Major League Baseball is the top of the mountain as far as professional baseball is concerned. If you are playing in MLB you are the best of the best when it comes to being a professional baseball player. That being said, MLB isn’t the only professional baseball league in the world. There are many different professional leagues that span the globe. There are professional leagues everywhere from Taiwan to the Netherlands. One could imagine my consternation then when not one but two articles published a mere day apart both referred to various professional leagues as not being professional.

The first article I read came from FanGraphs, and it dealt with the idea of expanding MLB and adopting a relegation system similar to what we see in football (the worldwide kind, not the American brand). It’s an idea I’ve often toyed with myself and something I would honestly love for MLB to adopt. However, a few paragraphs in the article’s author makes a passing reference to Mexico’s summer professional league, Liga Mexicana de Béisbol (the article, of course, couldn’t be bothered to use the actual name of Mexico’s pro summer league), before he quickly instructs his readers to leave the league be while his plan will bring baseball to the apparently baseball-less city of Mexico City (sorry, Diablos Rojos del México you aren’t professional enough to exist I guess). This is then followed up with the odd statement that his plan would make the current Triple-A level of Minor League Baseball into a professional league of its own. Not to possibly be misinterpreted the author hammers home his view of the minor leagues in the next paragraph by stating that his plan would restructure it so that Double-A was the highest level of minor league baseball before the pros.

That following day I came across an article from The Orange County Register discussing Nicaraguan players in the MLB and MiLB ranks. This article immediately drew my interest because I am a fan of both of Nicaragua’s professional leagues: Liga Nicaragüense de Beisbol Profesional in the winter and Campeonato German Pomares Ordoñez in the summer. Midway through the article, the author cites a statistic from The Baseball Cube that suggests only 54 Nicaraguan born players have ever played professional baseball. Problem is that the page linked to in the article says nothing of the sort and in its listing of Nicaraguan players the number totals far more than 54. I’m not sure where the author got 54, or how he decided that the two professional leagues that have existed for years in Nicaragua (with thousands of players having spent time in them) don’t count as professional?

These two articles combine to form a microcosm of the problem with the way MLB has branded itself, how we discuss MLB as writers and fans, and the disrespect shown to other leagues. There are a lot of sub-issues off of this main issue that merit time of their own. Heck, the lack of respect given to any of the Negro Leagues, both major and minor, by major websites when they discuss major league baseball history is a series of articles all on its own. The acute problem with these two articles is that they present the clear idea that MLB is professional baseball and everything else is amateur hour figuratively and literally.

As I stated earlier, MLB is the top of the mountain. It is the lone major league left standing (well, technically the American League and National League are the only major leagues left standing and MLB is but a governing body that oversees the two leagues) and that won’t be changing anytime soon. That doesn’t mean that other professional leagues are any less professional or that they aren’t providing professional baseball for their fans on a daily basis. If you are someone who writes about the sport of baseball do yourself a favor and give those leagues the respect they deserve. Research the history of other baseball playing countries, treat the leagues that makeup MiLB as the professional minor leagues that they are. This isn’t hard to do, and the more that discussions of MLB treat it like it is all there is to baseball the more fans of other leagues across the globe feel alienated from the greater baseball culture. If we are writing about the game of baseball on a global scale then from FanGraphs to The Orange County Register we need to do better, there’s no denying that.

Lead photo courtesy of Carlos Valle – La Prensa

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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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