Chad Jenning of The Athletic wrote an article about the idea of promotion and relegation in Major League Baseball. This is an idea that is well known in the sport of soccer. This got me thinking about who would be the Major League Baseball equivalents of the 20 English Premier League teams. For my non-scientific method, I used a bit of history from both sports and some traditional perceptions of the teams involved. Your list could look different because of differences in how the teams are perceived, but it is all in fun, so here we go!
Manchester City: Dodgers. It isn’t the fact they both wear blue. The Dodgers are among the most well-monied clubs in the league on their way to putting out consistent winners year after year. Imagine if the Dodgers were by a sheik from Abu Dhabi.
Liverpool: Red Sox. No brainer here. Both have the same owner and are the archnemesis of the clubs with the most name recognition in the leagues they call home. John Henry is welcome at the Shankley Gate just as much as he is on Yawkey Way.
Chelsea: Astros. This is a successful club despite the drama, self-induced and not, that constantly seems to surround them. Chelsea doesn’t have a sign-stealing scandal to taint their Champions’ League title, but the Astros aren’t being sold under duress by a Russian oligarch.
Manchester United: Yankees. Another easy choice. These are two of the most iconic franchises in all global sports. They are loved and loathed with little in between. From the Theater of Dreams in Manchester to the House That Ruth Built in the Bronx.
West Ham United: Phillies. They try to convince us every season they have addressed their issues only to see them crop up once the season starts as they end up in the middle of the pack. Be it selling your best player for West Ham or having another shaky bullpen in Philadelphia.
Arsenal: Padres. They are young and exciting teams that haven’t gotten over the hump in their quest for championship-level contention. Arsenal is led by young talent like Bukayo Saka whereas the Friars have Fernando Tatis Jr. as their electrifying superstar.
Tottenham Hotspur: Cardinals. They are classic teams that fly below the radar a bit, but they end up in the mix for the title once all is said and done. The Cardinals have had talismanic players such as Albert Pujols and Tottenham only goes as far as Hary Kane can take them.
Wolverhampton: Angels. Clubs with money who spend without a real cohesive plan. At least Wolves aren’t wasting the talents of the greatest player of his generation. Wolves had an influx of Chinese investment capital and still didn’t do it, where the Angels will spend on a third baseman when it is obvious they need starting pitching.
Crystal Palace: Guardians. They are mainly existing to fill out the schedule. They are not seriously looking to compete, however, the MLB paychecks are a lot better than many other places. Crystal Palace has one elite talent who wants to leave in Wilfred Zaha kind of like Cleveland sending Francisco Lindor out of town.
Southampton: Blue Jays. They play in a town that loves their team but is still waiting for a winner. The Blue Jays are exciting, so there is hope the drought may end soon. I don’t know if Dante Bichette Jr. is a household name in Toronto like James Ward-Prowse is in Southampton, but he is in the middle of whatever the Jays will do.
Aston Villa: Braves. A classic team that plays in a new stadium. The recent title shows they are squarely in their window of contention. Aston Villa gets overshadowed by some of the larger clubs in London similar to the way the Braves aren’t always part of the national discussion about the elite clubs.
Leicester City: Brewers. They are a gritty bunch that hangs around the top end of the standing while spending a lot less for talent than their competition. Jamie Vardy can come out of nowhere to win a goal-scoring title the same as Corbin Burnes strolled in and cooly walked away with a Cy Young.
Brighton & Hove Albion. Mariners. They are playing with the big boys, but they will have to prove they have staying power. Hanging on the edges of contention can’t be enough. The Mariners haven’t been to the playoffs since 2001, and Brighton has a knack for getting relegated to the second division. But hey, Seagulls and Mariners even have a sea theme in common.
Newcastle: Mets. It is a classic franchise that has recently received a huge influx of new money. Saudi oil money and New York hedge fund money spends pretty well. They will have to see if it is a fantasy league team or an actualized and sustained winner. At least it isn’t sportswashing going on in Queens.
Brentford: Athletics. They have been at the forefront of the analytical revolution to build a winner for pennies on the dollar. They are known for Moneyball and finding inefficiencies in the market for players. Brentford has done the same thing as they have risen to the Premier League.
Leeds. Reds. This is an old-school classic franchise that hasn’t been relevant in a long time. The Reds last won the title 32 years ago, and it has been 30 years for The Whites. Leeds got stuck being able to play only one way under their last manager, the Reds have spent the past few years being cheap and getting cheaper.
Everton: Giants. They are low-key no worse than a middle-of-the-pack team every year. Everton has a well-heeled crosstown rival in Liverpool. The Merseyside Derby pitting those two against one another has nothing on the rivalry Giants have with their cross-state rival in the Dodgers.
Burnley: Rays. They have a distinct style of play which leads to their success. While Sean Dyche has Burley competing by playing a boring defensive style, the Rays are innovative in their use of openers, shifts, and platoon matchups. The Rays would love to draw the way The Clarets pack in the fans to Turf Moor.
Watford: White Sox. They have an owner who wants to win but might be more a hindrance than a help in the long term. Elton John (Yes, that one.) once ran the club so it doesn’t get more eclectic than that for current Watford ownership, although the current set likes hiring Italian managers while the White Sox owner came up with an old one.
Norwich City: Tigers. Their current project is coming to a conclusion to have them on the edge of being competitive. Now time will tell if it all comes to fruition or if they will be relegated to their former status as also-rans. They need Spencer Torkelson to be their Teemu Pukki.
The relegated teams are the: Diamondbacks, Orioles, Rangers, Pirates, Nationals, Marlins, Cubs, Twins, Royals, and Rockies. There are some major clubs in the second-tier of English soccer (Blackburn Rovers and Millwall), so just because a big league team has had some recent success (Nationals), or has a long history (Cubs and Pirates) there is no guarantee of competing on the top level. Maybe your favorite club will soon get their act together and get back among the big boys. Now I am waking from my fever dream of comparing what a Premier League equivalents would look like, I think it would be amazing if baseball had a soccer-style pyramid to get to major league baseball. This would fix a lot of the competitive balance issues in the game for sure.