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Redefining the Major Leagues

For the past few years, a part of baseball has been gnawing away at me. I’ve tried to stifle it, to lock it away and ignore that it is calling to me. Alas, I am weak and keep getting into discussions and arguments related to this part of baseball. I’m not referring to anything torrid or scandalous, rather I am referring to what the larger baseball community has decided to classify as the recognized major leagues.

Those who know me, and especially those who have been reading this site since its inception, know that major league classification has been a pet project of mine for some time now. I have spent a lot of my time thinking about the leagues we presently recognize as major and the leagues that we probably, or possibly, should recognize as being at the major league level. I’ve written about the issue of recognizing major leagues, Tweeted about it, and had emails back and forth with various historians over the matter. Through it all, I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that we are missing out on leagues that are major but have never been recognized as such.

Two events happened recently that got me back on this track. First and foremost was the decision by Major League Baseball to recognize the leagues that have traditionally been thought of as the Negro Leagues (or Negro major leagues if we’re being more specific) as being major leagues in actuality. I wrote about that decision and I’m not about to rehash all of that argument here. What I will say is that I am not of the belief that MLB should be the arbiters of history for all of professional baseball. To that end, it doesn’t really matter to me all that much what they choose to recognize and not recognize as far as the major league classification is concerned.

The second event just ended a few days ago, the 2021 Serie del Caribe. As I was watching that tournament it dawned on me, this is a major league. It meets every possible criterion there could be for what constitutes a major league and there’s absolutely no reason it shouldn’t be recognized as a major league on the level of any of the MLB major leagues. I became mad at the fact that people, myself included, had spent years glossing over the major league status of what is without question a major league. What could be done about the slight, especially by me?

I’m no historian, I want to get that out of the way right away. However, I am someone with a deep-rooted interest in the history of baseball and pushing back against the often untrue and self-serving narratives put forth by MLB. To that end, I finally decided to take the plunge and dig into redefining what the baseball community recognizes as the major leagues. Yes, I am talking about writing a book. Specifically, a book that will lay out definitive criteria for recognizing what is and isn’t a major league and then go about presenting the leagues that should be granted major league status as well as those that should possibly lose their present major league status.

This isn’t something that will take place overnight, it’s likely a project that will take me a few years, or longer to put together. I’m a full-time Paramedic after all and I have a family. Those things are more important to me than writing about baseball and for as much passion as I have for this book it will be something I work into my schedule as opposed to something that takes over my schedule. Still, I am writing it, because it is high time that we truly dug into baseball history and better defined what leagues should be recognized as major league outside of MLB’s self-serving reasons.

Why am I letting you know? Mainly I hope it’s because you’re interested and also because you will be understanding when there will be times that I write less on this site. I’m definitely not abandoning this site, expect regular content every month, likely every week, but perhaps it will only be a post or two a week as opposed to my regular output. I may also be pulling back from some of the places I get paid to write about baseball. That is why I’m asking for anyone who thinks that the major leagues need to redefined to head over to my Patreon and help out where you can. The project will happen regardless, but the help would be greatly appreciated.

We have allowed MLB to define what is and isn’t a major league for far too long. It’s about time that we started the effort to better define the major leagues and to break from the yolk of MLB’s misguided and often damaging influence. It is my hope that this project will spur more discussion and get others to break free from MLB’s limited definition of the major leagues. No matter what I want the discussion to continue and my book will go a long way towards that goal. Baseball owns the major leagues, not MLB, and redefining what is recognized as a major league would go a long way towards making that reality rather than wishful thinking.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Major League 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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