Image credit: Members of the New York Mets and Washington Nationals line the baselines as they listen to the playing of the national anthem on Opening Day at Nationals Park on March 28, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Most of the items in Major League Baseball’s proposal to Minor League Baseball’s negotiating committee simply flesh out the details of structures that had already been informally discussed.
But there was one new, potentially significant addition that is sure to pique fans’ interest and likely raise some questions about its feasibility.
MLB proposed the idea of having a single-elimination tournament—known as the Baseball Cup—in which the 30 MLB teams and all 120 MiLB teams would compete for a title held during MLB’s regular season.
Theoretically, the New York Yankees could head to Eastlake, Ohio to take on the Class A Lake County Captains. Imagine Asa Lacy trying to lead a Royals farm team to a win against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The idea is modeled largely after European soccer competitions, in which lower-level clubs can compete with top-level clubs in yearly tournaments. For instance, England’s FA Cup allows soccer teams from 10 levels of English soccer to compete for a title. The FA Cup runs concurrently with the Premier League season.
The hurdles to any such competition ever happening are massive.
Such a tournament would require approval of the MLB Players Association as well as MLB teams. Scheduling for an in-season tournament, even a single-elimination one, would require finding ways to squeeze additional dates into an already-packed season. Even if MLB teams received byes through the first two rounds of the tournament, five dates during the MLB schedule would need to be left open to resolve a champion.
And that doesn’t address the injury issues. MLB teams are often reluctant to allow their players to play in the World Baseball Classic. What happens the first time a Class A pitcher hits an MLB star with a 100 mph fastball that got away?
But the Baseball Cup was cited as an example of the kind of MLB-MiLB cooperation that would be possible in an MLB-run system.