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Every so often, someone will mention that baseball parity might be improved through the use of “relegation,” common practice in European soccer leagues such as England’s Premier League.The English method wouldn’t exactly work in Major League Baseball, for a number of reasons, but apropos of Major League Baseball’s takeover of the Los Angeles Dodgers — as well as the impending sale of the Houston Astros and part of the New York Mets, teams owned by two of the worst owners in sports — it’s worth re-examining the tools that baseball has to ensure that clubs remain competitive and well-run.
In general, relegation only affects the very worst teams in the league, who get relegated to a lower division while the best teams in the lower division get promoted. The teams in the highest division, like those in the Premier League, get the privilege of competing against each other for the most prestigious championship.
They also get access to the highest revenue streams through television and advertising. (The Premier League itself is sponsored by Barclays; many of the lower leagues are sponsored as well.) Last year’s “floating realignment” suggestion — in which Bud Selig proposed that teams could be temporarily reassigned to different divisions, a Byzantine solution to the problem of the AL East — brought a number of responses discussing or recommending relegation. However, I’d prefer to propose it not as a competitive measure, but as a punitive measure.