We spent the last 24 hours arguing about the Phillies’ Sunday ring ceremony, which Kyle and I both believe was too much. Celebrate the achievement? Absolutely. Hang the banner, leave it up forever, and move on. No fancy rings or public ceremony necessary.

The key to the discussion, however, is baseball’s pennant, a topic we fleshed out with Anthony on Tuesday’s episode of Crossing Broadcast:

Historically, the pennant came with distinction and uniqueness because baseball had two separate leagues in which the teams didn’t actually play each other. Not until the World Series. So the classic thought among baseball fans is that winning the AL or the NL is a special feat worth celebration, much more than the football/basketball/hockey equivalent, hence the tradition of the ring ceremonies that persist in 2023.

My argument is that the pennant doesn’t mean what it used to mean, because the leagues are no longer leagues. They are now conferences, like in every other sport.

Why?

Because the AL and NL started playing each other in 1997, when interleague play was introduced. Throw in recent changes like the universal DH, and the once-unique, once-separate leagues are more or less the same thing now. Truly. And there’s nothing distinguishing baseball’s National League from football’s NFC or the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Throughout the regular season you are playing teams from both sides of the bracket, then meeting in the championship game, so the competitive model across the four majors is essentially the same.

When football, basketball, and hockey fans criticize the thought of celebrating “second place,” that’s the angle from which they’re coming. They don’t look through this lens of tradition. They see baseball as having the same setup as the other three majors in 2023, which is why the pennant is no longer viewed with the special distinction it used to have. If we would not favor a public ring ceremony for the runner up in those other three sports, why would baseball fans favor it now, more than 25 years since interleague play was first rolled out?

Full discussion/episode here: