A new simulation: the Proper MLB

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A new simulation: the Proper MLB

Post by scooter »

HISTORY

Major League Baseball was developed as a competitive series of leagues, franchises, and players. Early attempts to form a league were focused on the players rather than the teams, but this was superseded by the formation of the National League in 1876 - the oldest sports league in the world that is still in existence. The National League brought professionalism to its players and organized around its franchises. It immediately became a "major league" mostly due to placing its teams in the biggest cities, all located in the Northeast and upper midwest U.S. Rival leagues, such as the Union Association and Players' League attempted to challenge the NL's dominance, but didn't last more than a year. It wasn't until 1901 that a minor circuit, the Western League, reorganized itself and went head-to-head with the NL, renaming itself the American League in the process. An agreement by both leagues to, among other things, play their champions against each other - the first World Series - was made two years later, but it didn't stop the fact that the leagues were bitter rivals in the press and in the boardrooms for player contracts and fan dollars.

For the most part, this was still the status quo fifty years later. The NL and AL had both had eight teams since 1901, and each league had competing teams in Boston, New York, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Chicago as late as 1952, with a sixth NL team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, also residing in the New York area. The game was stagnating, with teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cardinals becoming dominant in their cities, causing the rival league's teams to suffer dwindling attendance and importance...meanwhile, regional leagues, though nominally part of the minor league system established at the same time as the World Series, were beginning to draw attention equal to the majors. The Pacific Coast League, also an eight-team circuit which had started up independently in 1903, was the premiere league outside of the Majors, reaching an "Open" classification in 1952, restricting the Major Leagues' ability to purchase players' contracts from the PCL and essentially making it a major league in all but name. Throughout the 1950s, however, the PCL suffered from the Majors taking advantage of the new technology of television to reach crowds beyond their hometown locations. The death blow to the PCL was delivered by Walter O'Malley, who moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1958, with the Giants following suit in moving to San Francisco immediately afterwards.

The early 1950s also saw the majors branch into other different locations, with outmatched teams from the original core cities of the AL and NL moving to Milwaukee, Baltimore, and Kansas City by 1955. But rearrangement wasn't enough for some cities - they wanted an expanded league, beyond the two groups of eight, and they had some keen baseball minds and deep-pocketed owners who could make it happen. Chief among them was Branch Rickey. A brilliant and shrewd manager and executive, Rickey essentially invented and developed the idea of the farm system while with the Cardinals in the 1930s, and broke the informal-but-pernicious "color barrier" in the 1940s, signing Jackie Robinson after buying into the Dodgers as a part-owner and general manager. As for the potential owners, New York attorney William Shea (in concert with New York's Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr.) saw an opportunity in bringing a franchise back to the city (which had just lost two), and future Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke was looking for a way to enhance the profile of his minor league franchise in Toronto. Rickey joined Shea's effort in 1959, and together with other interested financiers in Minneapolis, Houston, and Denver, they conceived the Continental League, a proposed eight-team major league to begin play in 1961 with Rickey as its president.

The existing major leagues panicked. Going behind Rickey's back, the owners called the prospective owners of the CL with an offer to expand by 1962, and many in the upstart enterprise considered it easier to join them rather than beat them. New York and Houston received NL franchises that year; other teams moved to CL prospects Minneapolis (1961), Atlanta (1966), and Dallas (1972). Toronto received its expansion team in 1977.

The National and American Leagues did not fully merge into a single entity until 2000.

SIMULATION


The simulation will identify and highlight a number of points of divergence.

First is the PCL becoming a major league in 1952. The breaking of the color barrier in 1947 signaled to MLB that change was coming regardless of how comfortable they were with the status quo. The "Open" classification, which limited the drain of talent to the east would have allowed the PCL to keep, develop, and market players; all that was necessary was for the PCL to declare independence completely rather than waiting for permission, and seek their own television deal. (Paramount was experimenting with a television network in the late 1940's, buying into and expanding the New Jersey-based DuMont Television Network in 1946, two years before CBS or ABC aired their first programs...as Paramount was based in Los Angeles, promotion of the locally available league would have been advantageous, and DuMont's reach in the east would have given the fledgling major league nationwide exposure.) This game will bring the classic eight-team PCL fully intact into MLB: Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres, Hollywood Stars, San Francisco Seals, Oakland Oaks, Sacramento Solons, Portland Beavers, and Seattle Rainiers.

With the example of the success of the PCL, Rickey's Continental League would be a more viable proposition as an intact league. Granted, it wouldn't have its flagship city of New York driving its creation, but there were plenty of other large cities with successful baseball programs that could have competed in a major league. (There are also some things to twiddle in the existing leagues which would make it more attractive...these are based more on my own wants for a simulation rather than historical what-ifs, but there's at least some internal logic to much of it. More on that later.)

The CL would come over mostly intact as well. The difference would be the New York franchise, which would at least stay in the area as a recreation of a successful Negro League team: the Newark Eagles. The others: the Minneapolis Millers, Dallas Renegades, Houston Oilers, Buffalo Bisons, Denver Bears, Toronto Huskies, and Atlanta Gray Sox.

The third and final major point would be the introduction of promotion and relegation. This goes against the idea of Rickey's farm system, but it could be kept in an altered form. For a pseudo-historical justification, let's say the introduction of the PCL and CL to the majors opened the floodgates for cities with successful minor league teams to form eight-team regional circuits with the intent of assimilating themselves in as well. This could cause a reduction of the farm system to two levels of feeder system, while other leagues signed European-style deals with one of the now-four major leagues.

Additionally, there's the fun of introducing foreign leagues to the simulation, allowing for slightly more international representation and taking advantage of the dynamics introduced in the World Baseball Classic, which started in 2005.

Welcome to the proper version of Major League Baseball.
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Re: A new simulation: the Proper MLB

Post by scooter »

RULES AND SETTINGS

The new version of MLB will revert many of the rules of the game back to an earlier time. Along with more recent changes being reverted, such as 26-man rosters, man-on-second in extra innings, and declared intentional walks, the chief rule change will be the elimination of the designated hitter introduced in 1973. Pitchers will bat for themselves throughout all of the major and adjunct leagues.

The simulation will also address the problem of the runaway home run phenomenon.

home runs.PNG
Home runs per year in the Majors. Notable anomalies: the strike years of 1981 and 1994; the CoViD year of 2020; the current year of 2024, which is only two months in.

For the first fifty or so years of baseball, the home run as an offensive weapon wasn't even a serious consideration. During the so-called "dead ball era", the ball was malleable enough and the fences far enough that a home run was basically a happy accident, and couldn't be counted on. Each league as a whole hit a few hundred per season. All of this changed with the coming of Babe Ruth, the professional athlete who perhaps did the most to change his sport. In the span of three seasons, 1919-1921, Ruth broke the single-season home run record each year, more than doubling the initial total by the end. Hitting dominance, encouraged by the new-found stardom of Ruth and similar sluggers, culminated in the "Guns of Summer" year of 1930, where league-wide homers were almost triple the totals of ten years before.

In the 1960s, smaller spikes in homer totals would occur with each round of expansion, as pitching proved to be a commodity that was harder to replenish than hitting.

Starting in the late 1990s, baseball saw its largest jump yet in hitting power. For about twelve years, baseball saw home run records fall across the sport, to names such as Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds. It was later established that steroid use accounted for at least some of the increase, and as the sport was pressured into taking anti-doping efforts more seriously, totals began to steadily decline.

The final jump took place in 2017, when a new, more tightly-wound baseball pushed the totals to new highs that surpassed even the steroid years. After many years of denying that MLB "juiced" the ball in order to manipulate home run totals - which were thought to sell more tickets - Commissioner Rob Manfred was forced to admit that there were differences, though he unconvincingly denied knowing why. While it is true that the general upward trend over the years has more to do with the conditioning and training of today's athletes, who are bigger, faster, and more scientific in their approach to the game than baseball players of the past, one can no longer deny the factors of steroid use and the juiced ball, which caused the phenomenon to increase exponentially and unnaturally.

In addition, there's the matter of in-game pitcher usage. Current teams often carry 13 or 14 pitchers, and starters will rarely be asked to finish the game.

CG.PNG
Percentage of games finished by the starting pitcher, by season.

The simulation will once again look for an earlier time in the history of baseball when finishing a game was notable, but not as rare as today - perhaps 10% or so. Accordingly, teams will carry 12 pitchers on the roster, on average, leaving 13 position players as well as placing a premium on the very few two-way players in the game (and providing incentive to develop such players accordingly). However, the rule that pitchers must face at least three batters in a game will be eliminated.

Fortunately, there is a period when both of these pre-chosen attributes - pre-steroid power totals and a reasonable number of complete games - both converge. Therefore, we are choosing to simulate based on statistics in 1993-1995.
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Re: A new simulation: the Proper MLB

Post by scooter »

LEAGUE STRUCTURE AND SCHEDULE

There are now four major leagues - National League, American League, Pacific Coast League, and Continental League - with eight teams each for 32 teams. Each of these teams has one minor league team and one rookie league team which function in much the same way that the current minors do; collectively, they are known as a "franchise". The minor league team is located in a suburb or nearby town to the major league team and simply acts as an adjunct from which the major team can promote talent and keep players under contract. Minor league teams are arranged in one of eight regional leagues with between eight and sixteen teams each. The rookie league team for each franchise is located in one of four baseball academy locations, and acts as the first taste of professional baseball for the players, who are required to be 21 years old or younger. Twenty-four teams play at each academy.

Each franchise may have 25 players on their Major League or top-level roster, 35 players on its minor league roster, and 40 players on their rookie team, for a total of 100 players under contract.

Additionally, there are two other levels of baseball which operate in a promotion/relegation arrangement with the Majors: Champions League Baseball (the second division) and the Union of Professional Baseball Teams (the third division). Each of these is also separated into four leagues of eight teams each, and each of these potential major league franchises has a similar minor league and rookie league team. (That's 96 franchises in all.) Champions League Baseball (CLB) consists of the American Association, Eastern League, Pacific Association, and International League; The Union of Professional Baseball Teams (UPB, or Baseball Union, or just "The Union") consists of the Challenge League, Diamond League, Empire League, and Golden League.

Promotion and relegation is done across leagues on a strict affiliation basis. For example, the National League (MLB), Eastern League (CLB), and Diamond League (Union) are all in affiliation. At the end of each season, the last place team in the NL joins the EL, the Eastern League winner is promoted to the NL, the last place EL team is demoted to the Diamond League for the next season, and the Diamond League winner joins the EL. Minor League and Rookie League teams cannot be promoted or relegated.

The schedules are arranged such that most of the play is done within each eight-team league. Of the 156 games in the schedule, 140 are played in-league - 20 against each other franchise. The remaining 16 will be played against four franchises in another designated league, on a rotating basis. For example, in 2024, the NL will play against the AL; in 2025, they'll play against the PCL; in 2026, they'll play against the CL. The cycle repeats in a predictable fashion from there.
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Re: A new simulation: the Proper MLB

Post by scooter »

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

At the start of the simulation, MLB will consist of the following leagues and teams:

The National League
established 1876
(relegates to the Eastern League, CLB)

NL.PNG
The Long Island Ducks play their home games in Islip, New York.

Notes: The Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953, so we'll keep that in the history, with the slight change of using Milwaukee's current team name. The later move to Atlanta won't happen with the CL joining the Majors. The Dodgers and Giants had no need to move, so the Dodgers remain in place, but the Giants will be written out of the sim to make room for another CL team, Newark. In this case, we'll include them as the Expos, who were originally an expansion team in 1969 and who I wanted to bring back for this game.


The American League
established 1901
(relegates to the American Association, CLB)

AL.PNG
Notes: The Yankees become the Knights simply because I don't want the Yankees in any league I run, so I'm borrowing a team from The Natural instead. Cleveland's original problematic name is changed; they were originally associated with the color blue, so I'm restoring that. The moves of the Browns to Baltimore in 1954 and the A's to Kansas City in 1955 have been kept, but there will be no subsequent move to Oakland as the PCL will take care of that. The Senators move to Minnesota is similarly pre-empted by the CL franchise in that state.


The Pacific Coast League
established 1952
(relegates to the Pacific Association, CLB)

PCL.PNG
Notes: These were the teams in 1952, and there's no reason not to bring them over exactly as they were. This is also the only major league that is specific to its region. While the NL and AL are roughly located east of the Mississippi, they can promote teams from lower levels that will take them outside of that zone; all of the teams that could potentially join the PCL are located no further east than the Rockies.


The Continental League
established 1962
(relegates to the International League, CLB)

CL.PNG
The Niagara Falls Daredevils play their home games in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Notes: The most geographically diverse league, and the one that gave me the biggest chance to come up with creative names (in real life, the CL didn't last long enough to get team nicknames). The Millers, Bisons, and Bears were all former minor league teams in real life; the Eagles were a successful Negro League team; the Gray Sox was a chance to get rid of another problematic name; and the Renegades and Oilers are former football team names - which is kind of appropriate for Texas. I suppose I could have kept the Blue Jays for Toronto, but I figured I should change them all.
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Re: A new simulation: the Proper MLB

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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE BASEBALL

The CLB is the second-tier of professional baseball franchises, and as the simulation opens, it will consist of the following leagues and teams:

The Eastern League
established 1932
(promotes to the National League, MLB; relegates to the Diamond League, UPB)

EL.PNG
The Arkansas Travelers will play their home games in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Notes: All of these are traditional minor league cities with a fairly sizable population. Providence could be seen as a second Boston franchise - replacing the Braves - but given that this is New England, cities and towns tend to be rather distinct even over just a few miles.

The American Association
established 1882
(promotes to the American League, MLB; relegates to the Empire League, UPB)

AA.PNG
The Delaware Foxes play their home games in Wilmington, Delaware; the Springfield Pioneers will play their games in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Notes: Once again, any of these could be additions to the Majors, as they are around the size of Milwaukee or Buffalo. Delaware is essentially a second Philadelphia franchise, replacing the A's. I'm particularly proud of Austin's name, as it's named after the city's "moonlight towers" which functioned as early street lights, and "Moonlight" Graham from Field of Dreams. Plus, any team in Louisville really does need to be named the Sluggers.

The Pacific Association
established c. 1965
(promotes to the Pacific Coast League, MLB; relegates to the Golden League, UPB)

PA.PNG
Notes: First example of an IRL Major League team, Arizona, being started as a second-tier team in the simulation; now they have another one in state to keep them company. Most of these teams are using their IRL older minor league names; the Fresno Nightcrawler is a cryptid local to that area and seemed like a great choice.

The International League
established 1884
(promotes to the Continental League, MLB; relegates to the Challenge League, UPB)

IL.PNG
The Saratoga Ponies will play their home games in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Notes: This one was rough, because there were teams in the South and North that needed to be included; I almost tried to tack on a specific regional Southern League, but went with this instead. Tampa and Miami were dismissed to the second tier to start because I kind of look at them that way in the real leagues. They're poorly attended, gimmicky, and annoying.
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Re: A new simulation: the Proper MLB

Post by scooter »

UNION OF PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL

The Union is the third and lowest tier of professional baseball franchises, and as the simulation opens, it will consist of the following leagues and teams:

The Diamond League
established unknown
(promotes to the Eastern League, CLB)

DL.PNG
Notes: A lot of these are classic minor league teams. Keep in mind that we have 64 other franchises that are already in, so we're getting to the smaller metropolitan areas at this point. An interesting tidbit: the Garden City Wind is an actual independent league team in real life, and it's the smallest location by population in the U.S. to have a professional team in any sport.

The Empire League
established unknown
(promotes to the American Association, CLB)

EmL.PNG
The Charleston Charlies will be playing in Charleston, South Carolina; the Iowa Barnstormers will be playing their home games in Des Moines, Iowa.

Notes: Again, some great minor league towns. Galveston is added as essentially a second Houston team.

The Golden League

established unknown
(promotes to the Pacific Association, CLB)

GL.PNG
The Alaska Goldpanners will play their home games in Anchorage, Alaska; the Ventura Highwaymen will play their home games in Oxnard, California; the Sonoma Green Sox will play their home games in Santa Rosa, California; The Silicon Rangers will play their games in Sunnyvale, California.

Notes: A lot of towns in California are actually pretty densely populated in comparison to the rest of the country, so it makes sense that they'd get a good number of teams, even if it seems surprising that cities like Oxnard and Bakersfield aren't that much smaller than New Orleans or Albuquerque. The Goldpanners actually play in Fairbanks, but I liked the name so much I allowed them to set up in the "big" city. Obviously in real life, travel costs to get to Anchorage (or Honolulu) would be prohibitive, but I took a bit of artistic license.

The Challenge League
established unknown
(promotes to the International League, CLB)

ChL.PNG
The Texarkana Twins will play their home games in Texarkana, Arkansas.

Notes: Again, this highlights the spread-out nature of the Continental and International Leagues.

I'd thought of including a fourth tier of franchises, but by that point, we'd probably be including places which wouldn't have a chance of competing for the World Series at any time. I may still do so, but probably not.
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