Mlb has proposed “the Baseball Cup” a single elimination tournament between all MLB and MILB teams.

soxhop411

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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.
Of course as the article states the hurdles for something like this would be enormous. For example very few current MLB players play in the Olympics.

BA goes into more of the hurdles at the above link.
 

DeadlySplitter

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I'm sorry, what?

A) are there even going to be 120 minor league teams left?
B) who cares?? MLB teams will crush single A every single time.
 

scottyno

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I don't understand how this would work. Say a major league team is about to play its AAA affiliate and the major league team has an injury. They then pull the best player from... the team they're about to play?
 
It's the FA Cup, but in baseball instead of soccer. Sounds like a great idea to me - sure, MLB would defeat Single-A 999 times out of 1000, but what if they didn't? And bringing MLB clubs to small towns on occasion is a brilliant idea.

(Oh, and there's no reason they couldn't rig the draw to ensure that no teams in the same parent/feeder system are paired against each other until the semifinals.)
 

EvilEmpire

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Single elimination over the course of a season? That sounds like fun. Anything can happen single elimination, and with so many minor league teams, I imagine there will be plenty of upsets of MLB teams.

Minor league teams would be motivated and excited. Low stakes fun.
 

PC Drunken Friar

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I don't understand how this would work. Say a major league team is about to play its AAA affiliate and the major league team has an injury. They then pull the best player from... the team they're about to play?
How often might this theoretical happen? I'm all in. I'm assuming the MLB teams get byes?

If this goes down, I'd honestly probably watch more of these games than the Sox games in the next year or two.
 

shaggydog2000

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I'm sorry, what?

A) are there even going to be 120 minor league teams left?
B) who cares?? MLB teams will crush single A every single time.
The way the FA Cup (which this is modeled on) works is that it starts by pitting the lowest level teams against each other in random draws, both of team vs team and which gets to be the home team. Then each team plays a game and the winners go on to a further round. Each level enters the tournament at a different point, progressing to the highest level of pros entering last. So if an A ball team makes it to the level of playing an MLB team, it would be incredibly against the odds, and it might even happen at an A-ball park. Imagine the environment for that?

I don't understand how this would work. Say a major league team is about to play its AAA affiliate and the major league team has an injury. They then pull the best player from... the team they're about to play?
Who knows, but that would be pretty unlikely. They can change the random pools to make it so that the situation wouldn't come up unless the AAA and pro team both made it to the semi-finals or something like that. They'll figure it out.

It's not a terrible idea, and could be pretty fun, but what pro team would pitch their best pitchers in a game that doesn't count in the standings? You'd pretty much get a backup team until very final few rounds, and even then I don't think a team would pitch a real starter at the end of the season during a playoff race in order to win a brand new cup nobody cares about. The FA cup and other league cups work because they have tradition (they were the only playoff-like competition the leagues had until the European wide "champions" competitions came into existence). And they are a path to European competition. If you gave a playoff spot to the Cup winner, that might make it interesting.
 

scottyno

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How often might this theoretical happen? I'm all in. I'm assuming the MLB teams get byes?

If this goes down, I'd honestly probably watch more of these games than the Sox games in the next year or two.
Even if that doesn't happen, minor league players get promoted all the time. You'd kind of have to do a roster freeze before the tourney started, and then I'm not sure what you do in that case if there are injuries.
 

Cumberland Blues

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This definitely sounds fun to me.

And I think if you factor in MLB rehab assignments, the chances of an A-ball upset of an MLB team become a bit less far-fetched. And this could be the first step toward some sort of relegation system for baseball, which would be awesome, imo.
 

shaggydog2000

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Even if that doesn't happen, minor league players get promoted all the time. You'd kind of have to do a roster freeze before the tourney started, and then I'm not sure what you do in that case if there are injuries.
For the FA Cup, if a player gets "loaned" for a season to another team (which is like a one-season trade/sell) the player can't play against the original team. And once a player plays in a cup game, he is "tied" to that team for all future cup games. If he's sold to another team after that, he can't play for the new team in that season's cup. But since all minor league players are kind of loaned from the MLB team, that's not going to work if a team plays its affiliate. I don't see the real need for this in the MLB version though. The teams just play as they are. Most teams won't be in the tournament for more than a few weeks to a month, depending on how you space out the games. Unless you have an incredibly against the odds situation were an A ball team advances to face AAA or something like that.

I think one benefit for this would be that when the MLB teams enter towards the end, you'd have teams that are out of the playoffs now having something to play for.
 

soxhop411

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I love it, for the record. Especially if the MLB team always plays on the road agains the MiLB team.



Apologies if I've missed something obvious -- how do the Olympics factor in?
Mlb doesn’t let current major league players play in the olympics due to injury concerns. The same could be said for this. A minor league pitcher usually has a lot less control of his pitches than one on a major league roster. What’s going to happen when a MILB pitcher (due to lack of control) beans mike trout and he ends up missing the rest of the season?
 
It's not a terrible idea, and could be pretty fun, but what pro team would pitch their best pitchers in a game that doesn't count in the standings? You'd pretty much get a backup team until very final few rounds, and even then I don't think a team would pitch a real starter at the end of the season during a playoff race in order to win a brand new cup nobody cares about. The FA cup and other league cups work because they have tradition (they were the only playoff-like competition the leagues had until the European wide "champions" competitions came into existence). And they are a path to European competition. If you gave a playoff spot to the Cup winner, that might make it interesting.
Actually, a lot of Premier League teams do field reserves in FA Cup matches against lower-tier opposition. (Same is probably even more true for the equivalent soccer cups in other countries, FWIW - that's not just an English phenomenon.) It's not really something to worry about in that regard; Mike Trout almost certainly wouldn't be picked to play against an A-level team, contra @soxhop411.

I do like the idea of giving a wild card playoff place to the team that wins the Baseball Cup if not already qualified for the playoffs - presumably instead of the second-best team in the wild card standings. Or even to bump up the status of a Cup winner who has already qualified for the playoffs by one seeding place (e.g., from away wild card team to home wild card team, from home wild card team to bye and 3rd seed, etc.). "This time, it counts" and all that.
 

Ale Xander

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The difference between the best and worst teams in the FA cup aren't anywhere close to single A and MLB. And pitchers have a lot more to do with the results of a baseball game than a goaltender or CMF or any other position.

I don;t even think this would work for hockey, but I'd still think that's a better bet than baseball, since theoretically you can get a decent young goalie.
 
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Liverpool fielded their U23 team in a domestic cup tournament. Bet the Red Sox would just field backups.

I'd like to see a tournament of international team champions play each other in the offseason. That would be cool, like the UCL of baseball
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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Fun idea but what would possibly incentivize a MLB team from fully participating - using up a pitchers' turns; players giving up their days off, etc.? And as soon as one star player gets injured, it's all going to go down the tubes.

Seems like a pretty dumb trial balloon to float without having more details worked out.
 

cannonball 1729

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This idea would be a whole lot of fun if the teams take it seriously and a gigantic bore if they don't. Unfortunately, the latter school seems to be what killed exhibition games in the past; I remember the BoSox vs PawSox games when I was a kid and the HOF game in the not-too-distant past, and those were killed by big league disinterest. So I'm betting on the latter.

On the other hand, anything that could make the minor leagues more interesting would be a bonus right now. MiLB is basically glorified spring training at this point. If there's one thing that baseball needs to fix, it's that half of the country can't go to a stadium to watch live competitive baseball; no one follows college baseball or the minor leagues, and 34 states don't have a major league team.
 

E5 Yaz

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I'd hate to see any major-leaguer* injured by a pitch from a minor-leaguer who has yet to establish control with his pitches.

*Unless it was a Yankee
 

tmracht

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How many times does a U23 team play in the FA Cup as a standalone team? I'm not being snarky I just didn't think it was allowed. For everyone saying field backups for an MLB team. There's not a reserve side to pull from if your AAA team is still in the competition etc. It's not really an apples to apples comparison. There only so many pitchers on each roster.

I'd watch the heck out of it but it would be interesting to see how MLB teams would handle it if they couldn't go full reserve squad.
 

shaggydog2000

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Actually, a lot of Premier League teams do field reserves in FA Cup matches against lower-tier opposition. (Same is probably even more true for the equivalent soccer cups in other countries, FWIW - that's not just an English phenomenon.) It's not really something to worry about in that regard; Mike Trout almost certainly wouldn't be picked to play against an A-level team, contra @soxhop411.

I do like the idea of giving a wild card playoff place to the team that wins the Baseball Cup if not already qualified for the playoffs - presumably instead of the second-best team in the wild card standings. Or even to bump up the status of a Cup winner who has already qualified for the playoffs by one seeding place (e.g., from away wild card team to home wild card team, from home wild card team to bye and 3rd seed, etc.). "This time, it counts" and all that.
They certainly do play b-squads, often calling up players from their youth level teams. But to make this work, you couldn't have Boston call up a player from AAA just for the game, because it breaks the model. So why use up your 5th starter, if that even lines up to be his day, or the long man from the pen if you're in a playoff race at the end of the year (which is when the MLB teams would enter)? You wouldn't want to. So that is why I suggested some playoff ramifications if you win. Maybe a play-in game against the lowest ranked playoff team. It's the only way to incentivize the teams into even bothering to play.
 

wiffleballhero

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For years -- or really since the 90s -- I've thought MLB should do a more modest version of this: have an upper division of eight teams in each league, have a bottom division of eight. Bottom two of the upper and top two of the lower flip in both leagues at the end of the year. Have a lower division championship as well.
 

jon abbey

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For years -- or really since the 90s -- I've thought MLB should do a more modest version of this: have an upper division of eight teams in each league, have a bottom division of eight. Bottom two of the upper and top two of the lower flip in both leagues at the end of the year. Have a lower division championship as well.
I have argued this for a while too, but also merge the leagues, 16 team 'A league' and a 14 team 'B league' with relegation and promotion between as you say.
 
How many times does a U23 team play in the FA Cup as a standalone team? I'm not being snarky I just didn't think it was allowed. For everyone saying field backups for an MLB team. There's not a reserve side to pull from if your AAA team is still in the competition etc. It's not really an apples to apples comparison. There only so many pitchers on each roster.

I'd watch the heck out of it but it would be interesting to see how MLB teams would handle it if they couldn't go full reserve squad.
Liverpool had to field a U23 team because of its parallel commitment to the World Club Championship, if I recall correctly - it was effectively playing two matches at once. But clubs do field reserve sides in the FA Cup all the time, and not just at the Premier League level.

And look: there are all sorts of reasons why this might not work. But isn't MLB in a position where trying something different and taking a chance on growing the game is worth the effort? I love the WBC too, but I recognize how awkward it can be to get MLB fans excited an event in which their players could get injured while on national team duty. But this is about your MLB team - and all of your MLB team's minor league teams as well, let us not forget - playing real baseball in places and against teams they would never otherwise see. This could be great!

(By the way, I think there's a rule in the Copa del Rey - FA Cup equivalent in Spain - that when a top-level team plays a team two or more divisions lower than it, it automatically becomes an away match. That'd be a fun wrinkle for the Baseball Cup to think about as well.)
 

DJnVa

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I'm sorry, what?

A) are there even going to be 120 minor league teams left?
B) who cares?? MLB teams will crush single A every single time.
A-who cares? If there's 100, it can still happen
B-The MLB won't be playing a A ball team unless that A ball has likely advanced a few rounds

Read up on the FA Cup.

I'm all in.
 

wiffleballhero

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I have argued this for a while too, but also merge the leagues, 16 team 'A league' and a 14 team 'B league' with relegation and promotion between as you say.
I'd take that deal.

It would be a great model -- middling and lower level teams would have a championship to play for, and underperforming top level teams would have incentive to not mail it in.
 

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Notes:
  • The article stipulates that MLB teams would receive byes to round 3. So if you start with 120 MiLB teams, that means 30 of them make it to the round where the 30 MLB teams enter.
  • You'd then need another 4 teams in Round 3 to make it a 64-team tournament, unless you wanted to give 2 MLB teams byes to Round 4 as well (say, either conference leaders at the time of Round 3, or defending AL / NL champions).
  • The US Open Cup in soccer pre-dates MLS (first held in 1913-14, so 106 years ago), and involves teams from every level, including MLS. Two professional tiers, and 4 semi-pro tiers. MLS clubs enter at Round 4, and are geographically matched to minimize travel, much as the European cup competitions do.
  • Minor League teams have never before gotten to play against Major League teams for any semi-meaningful stakes, except in Major League 3. This will be a huge financial boost to minor league clubs if it happens, just think of what they could charge.
  • They should include CWS teams, and teams from Caribbean / Central America / Canada.
  • Joe Posnanski's awesome article, Free The Minor Leagues, applies in spades here.

Regarding "freeing the minor leagues", what that would look like is:
- Minor teams are financially independent, can run youth teams, and can sign amateurs at any time
- Major-league clubs can field reserve and youth teams (U23, U21, U19?) in the minors, though they won't be allowed to be promoted beyond a certain level. They just wouldn't have 5 of them each, as is the case right now.
- Teams buy and sell players' contracts, at market-clearing prices, rather than just player-for-player trades. This means if a lower level club is good at developing talent, they are rewarded financially for it, and can either take the check or try to compete, win and move up.
- This creates enough competitive legitimacy that local TV stations would probably look to host and promote minor league ball in ways that they just don't right now.
- The draft might end up being converted to a sort of "right of first refusal" among major league clubs, such that if a big-league club wants to buy his contract, the drafted team gets the right to match and take them.
- Then, and only then, you can implement (regionalized) promotion/relegation among every team at every level below MLB, because the competition of a league season will actually have competitive meaning.

You do that, and suddenly the Baseball Cup has real stakes, with the Tacoma Rainiers wanting to stick it to Seattle so bad they can taste it (not least to prove their readiness to compete in the bigs). You also get regional rivalries as smaller-town teams compete among each other, and the numerous smaller cities in america get a pro team they can root for without it being a farce (i.e. having their best talent snatched from them for no compensation in the middle of the league season).
 

tmracht

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Liverpool had to field a U23 team because of its parallel commitment to the World Club Championship, if I recall correctly - it was effectively playing two matches at once. But clubs do field reserve sides in the FA Cup all the time, and not just at the Premier League level.
Definitely understand that, I also know Chelsea frequently used the FA cup to bleed in youth members in with some second choice guys in say the 5th round.

Just trying to explore the difference in that there's minimal similarity between roster structure when an EPL team can use someone from their U23 or reserve squad who hasn't been entered in the tournament.

And an MLB team whose Equivalent U23 (AAA or AA) would also be registered. Would there be no "cup tying" so if your AA team is eliminated then you could use a AA player on your AAA team as a backup or injury replacement?

I'm sometimes frustrated by my inability to articulate over text so hopefully I'm making sense!
 

Awesome Fossum

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Mlb doesn’t let current major league players play in the olympics due to injury concerns.
Maybe that's the excuse, but it has a lot more to do with MLB/MiLB not profiting in any way from Olympic baseball. Presumably they would here.

What’s going to happen when a MILB pitcher (due to lack of control) beans mike trout and he ends up missing the rest of the season?
Is the HBP rate significantly higher in Single A? (I'm on my phone, or else I'd try to answer this myself.)
 

Harry Hooper

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Interesting if they can make it work somehow, but there's the geographic reality that the UK is much, much smaller than the USA:

 
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singaporesoxfan

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The difference between the best and worst teams in the FA cup aren't anywhere close to single A and MLB.
This isn't true - the FA Cup has like 700+ teams in it, with vast differences between an EPL team and, say, a Combined Counties Division One team. It's just that in the U.S. (and even in the U.K.) you only really see the teams from the 3rd round onwards, which is when the Premier League teams join the competition. You basically never hear about the Qualifying Competition, which determines the 32 teams from levels 5-10 (National League downwards) that even go into Round 1.

Similarly, you could run this cup with a system of byes that make the single A teams play each other first and have AAA teams join in later rounds and MLB teams join even later.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Baseball's setup is vastly different than European soccer leagues, and the current setup would make this tournament much worse than the FA Cup and other similar tournaments.

Minor league teams are way, way younger than lower division soccer teams. When Barnsley upset Chelsea in the 2008 FA Cup, they had 4 players over 30 in their starting lineup and only one guy younger than 23. It was at least a matchup of men vs. men, not men vs. teenagers. Minor league teams below AAA almost never have anyone over 30 and rarely anyone over 25 or so.

Then you have the issue of pitchers. There is no equivalent position in soccer. Minor league teams don't really care about winning games until the playoffs and even then the big club will have limits on what they can do with pitchers, especially any top prospects. Big league teams would not let their top pitching prospects throw a lot of high leverage innings in this tournament. And big league teams aren't going to want to stress their pitching staff in games against minor leaguers, or the early rounds of this kind of tournament.

Which brings up another big issue: when would these games be played? Would they just be added on to the major league season, which is already long and already has players getting rest days and pitchers fatigued, etc.?
So then some teams would play a bunch of extra games but others wouldn't? Or would they shorten the MLB season to make room?

If major league teams enter the tournament in the round of 64, teams reaching the finals would have 6 extra games added to their schedules, most of them probably pretty late in the season, since they would be in a tournament that progresses. A team knocked out in their first game would only have one extra game added, and it would be earlier in the season than the teams that progress deep in the tournament.

Say the Yankees get knocked out in their first game but the Red Sox progress to the semis. Boston would have their pitching taxed more, and later in the season. They would presumably also be playing the later rounds intensely if there was anything at stake, while their rivals are already out of the tournament, putting them at a competitive disadvantage in the "real" race.

This tournament could potentially really mess with the pennant races, especially if some later round games get rained out and need to be rescheduled.

There's no way MLB teams would take this seriously in the early rounds, which would make it boring and pointless.

There are a lot of obstacles to this and it doesn't sound like MLB has considered many of them. First of all, I highly doubt they are ready to Free the Minor Leagues, as mentioned above, as they rely on them for development. That would need to happen for this to be a competition with any integrity.

I would absolutely love this tournament if it was done right-- if the minors were totally emancipated, if MLB came up with a schedule that was fair and didn't impact the regular season, if they came up with a reasonable idea to deal with the impact on pitchers, and it didn't impact the pennant races. They will never do those things. That's why if this happened, I think it would end up being a promising idea turned into a dumb and pointless waste of time.

This makes me mad, because good leadership could find a way to make this happen the right way, and lead to a really fun and interesting addition to the game, but MLB and the union as they currently are absolutely can't make that happen, and would ruin it.

IMO, this is just more evidence that Manfred doesn't understand baseball and doesn't like baseball. Instead of proposing something like this, he should be pushing a pitch clock and working on ways to make the game more attractive to young people. A good commissioner could do both, but this clown can't.
 

Awesome Fossum

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Is the HBP rate significantly higher in Single A?
There's probably a better way to do this, but here's what I found for 2016:

Level HBP PA HBP/PA%
MLB 1,651 184,580 0.89%
Triple A 1,343 160,962 0.83%
Double A 1,619 157,125 1.03%
Advanced A 1,781 156,502 1.21%
Single A 1,990 155,509 1.28%
Short-Season A 988 62,787 1.57%
Rookie 2,025 114,420 1.77%
Foreign Rookie 2,403 109,828 2.19%


 

LogansDad

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So when the Red Sox get relegated to AAA, do they still get to pull players from Pawtu.... Worcester? Or is that a conflict of interest?
 

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So when the Red Sox get relegated to AAA, do they still get to pull players from Pawtu.... Worcester? Or is that a conflict of interest?
I think I'm the only guy who spoke of actual promotion / relegation and who wasn't joking.

If it ever happens - and to be clear, that's a LONG shot - it would be only among the minor leagues, and the majors would remain "closed". Everybody else could wax and wane as their fortunes dictate, and compete for the title of whatever league they're in, with whatever resources are at their disposal. If they develop a player who looks MLB-ready, they decide when and for what price they sell the player to the bigs. To maintain competitive balance and profitability, presumably MLB limits the (net) transfer fees that can be paid out, but frankly you want those numbers to be big in order to incentivize MiLB teams to develop talent.

You could see a situation where MLB might see some profitable AAA team with a large following in a non-MLB city and consider just directly admitting them as an expansion team, rather than building a new team from scratch a la the Devil Rays in 1998, but I doubt they'd ever do league contraction and kick a team out down to the minors.

Anyway, one consequence is that the minor league teams, at least in the upper levels, would be composed of modestly-paid professionals who are fully developed adults in their prime, who just topped out at below MLB-quality, so you'd expect the overall level of play to improve as people aren't as aggressively weeded out merely for not being MLB-level talent. Those guys would be supplemented by the true prospects who might get sold to a higher league if they develop. But overall, teams would tend to be well-balanced for competition.

Average salaries today in baseball:

MLB: $4,400,000 (min: $563,500)
AAA: ~$80,000 (min: $2150 / month, for 6 months out of the year)
AA: ~$24,000
A+: $7,500 for a 5-month season (min: $1500 / mon)

(of course, anyone who's made it to the majors for even a day, on the 40-man roster, gets the minor-league rates negotiated in the major-league contract, roughly $90k).

And then there's this:


But now compare what it looks like when you've got fully competitive tiers of play and true free-market wages:

English Premier League: ~$4,100,000 USD
EFL Championship (Tier 2): $422,000 USD
EFL League One (Tier 3): $90,000 USD
EFL League Two (Tier 4): $52,500 USD
National Conference (Tier 5): $34,000 USD (not all teams are fully professional)

There's a lot of minor league ballplayers who drop out of the profession because they're not paid even a living wage. But if instead, you replace those english football salaries with the equivalent tier in baseball, so AAA players are making a couple hundred grand, AA players making high five figures, etc... well then it doesn't look like a half-bad way to earn a living. Players' wives aren't going to have to work 2 jobs so a lot of them can chase a dream for pennies the way they do today. You could stick in that, even at the A+ level, until your skills deteriorate or you decide you want to do something else with your life. So it would be the very best ballplayers up in MLB, and then the next tier, the next 400-500 or whatever, making very good (but not obscene) money, and the next tier in AA making well above national average salary, and the next tier after that making, well, roughly the US average household income, except they get paid to play baseball every day. All while their teams fight in a meritocracy to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts and climb the ladder.

There are a million caveats to that comparison, especially that (1) EFL Championship teams can get promoted to the Premier League and immediate make oodles of cash, and (2) Most teams in the EFL pro leagues have been around for a century, with a diehard fanbase (though a few with just the latter). But you look at that trickle-down of salaries, and it seems much more reasonable as a pyramid of players getting paid what they're "worth", sort of in line with what you imagine you could charge regional sports networks to let them air the games. It'd also be great for the game as a whole.

edit: I want to make clear that I think a reorganization of the minor leagues that freed them to hold competitive-focused rosters would be a big step towards making this Baseball Cup a successful and exciting endeavor. If they were to do that, then most teams would stand a chance of upsetting a team one division up from them. Some minor league teams would stage a dramatic run to the later stages of the tournament. And it would be the most exciting (and profitable) thing to happen to these teams all year, excepting possible promotion.
 
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sean1562

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How often do we really expect upsets to happen? We have seen what happens when a team fields a AAA pitching rotation, you dont think major league hitters will absolutely tee off on all of these AA and below guys? Could you imagine, as a 21 year old pitching prospect with a somewhat promising future, going to Yankee Stadium and getting absolutely demolished in front of a packed house by the NYY? Would probably destroy my confidence for a bit