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Nutshell: A Defense of Those Who Say “The MLB”

Have you been the victim of public ridicule over the use of the phrase "the MLB?" Sheehan is here for you!

Baseball discourse can get a little pretentious. A little smug. Perhaps this is to be expected from the oldest of the major U.S. sports, by far. Generations upon generations of people grew up with their version of America’s Pastime, and they’ll be damned if some little shit is gonna come talk to them about wRC+. An argument about baseball often devolves into an attack on one’s age, intelligence, biases, etc. 

This extends to the proper use of simple baseball terms. There’s one in particular that sends people into a tizzy, and that’s “the MLB.” 

Utterers of said phrase are shunned by the elitists of the sport. It’s not “Mike Trout is the best center fielder in the MLB,” it’s “Mike Trout is the best center fielder in MLB,” you stupid asshole! “The Major League Baseball???” What a mouth-breather!

Well, folks. I’m here as a defender of the innocent. Consider me Gandalf the Grey defending the Fellowship of the Ring from the Balrog, except if the Balrog was a collection of snarky twerps on Twitter/X and Frodo liked to say “the MLB.” 

Here’s my argument…

Grammatical Discrepancies

I get the argument against “the MLB.” I do. You are, in effect, saying “the Major League Baseball.” This is not an issue for sports like basketball and football, whose professional league names end with the right noun. You can say “the NFL” because you’re referring to the league, and you can say “the NBA” because you’re referring to the association. Baseball does it a little differently, with the relevant noun going in the middle, essentially making it an adjective to describe what type of baseball we’re talking about. What level of baseball is this? Why, it’s Major League Baseball, of course. In this sense, “the MLB” doesn’t work. 

Totally understand. 


"A MLB Player?"

Have we stopped to consider that acronyms can be their own similar, but separate entities? As in separate from that which it represents. What I mean is, maybe, just maybe, it can be acceptable for someone to actually be saying “MLB,” meaning they are not saying Major League Baseball. They are referring to it, yes. But they are not saying it, meaning the rules surrounding that phrase no longer apply.

Those who say “Mike Trout is the best center fielder in MLB” are using “MLB” and “Major League Baseball” interchangeably. This interchangeability is inconsistent, though. Have you ever heard someone say “so-and-so is a MLB player”? No, they say “so-and-so is an MLB player. If “MLB” always meant “Major League Baseball,” from a stylistic and grammatical context, “a MLB player” would have to be correct. Yet it isn’t. The use of an, which is reserved for a spot before words that begin with a vowel sound, suggests the existence of “MLB” as its own autonomous phrase/word. A synonym of “Major League Baseball,” yes. But also a word with its own set of rules. 

Now, extend this logic to the original debate of MLB vs. The MLB, and what do you have? It appears it should be acceptable to say “Mike Trout is the best center fielder in the MLB,” since it is possible to refer to the league, as a whole, by its acronym and only its acronym. Those who drop “the” are also right. Those who say “the MLB,” though? Not necessarily wrong. 

And people, stop kidding yourselves. We’ve ALL said “the MLB” before. The alternative, as correct as it seems, sounds worse. Get off your high horse one time. 

“The MLB” truthers, I am here for you. Have a great weekend. Spring Training is right around the corner. 

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