Astronomers from across the world have been gathered in the Czech Republic for the last couple weeks debating what is, and what is not, a planet. The main controversy centered around Pluto, "The Little Planet That Could" if you will. Pluto is smaller than any other planet, farther from the sun than any other planet until its orbit crosses Neptune's, and the elliptical plane its orbit travels in is much different than that of any other planet. Furthermore, thanks to research since Pluto's discovery in 1930, astronomers have discovered it is far from alone out in the nether regions of our solar system. There are several celestial bodies that are remarkably similar to it, such as UB313 (nicknamed Xena), which was discovered in 2003 and is actually bigger than Pluto. The discovery of UB313, along with the fact there was no definition for what makes a planet, fueled debate over the planets as we know them.
For those of you going "Hey, this is a sports blog!" stick with me, I'm getting there. The International Astronomical Union has met over the last two weeks to finally end the debate by defining what makes a planet. As of last week, it looked like they were zeroing in on a definition that would include Pluto and UB313, but also include some asteroids and even one of Pluto's moons. The definition seemed really stupid; it had the potential to add dozens of planets since there is little doubt many more Plutos and UB313s are just waiting to be discovered. However, the IAU thought about it, realized how dumb the definition would be, talked about it for another week, and yesterday told the world the official criteria for a planet. Pluto no longer makes the cut because its orbit is not round enough. Pluto is the first planet demoted since the 1800s when Ceres, an asteroid, had its planetary status revoked. Ceres would have also been added as a planet if the IAU had not switched up the guidelines they were considering just a week ago.
Though the IAU's ruling is unpopular right now, they got it right. Keeping Pluto in any definition of a planet was going to open the door to asteroids, moons, and other bodies which clearly should not be planets, and I think if most of the people currently upset took the time to realize this they would not be so upset. In case you could not guess, I have a bit of an interest in astronomy but I promised this would ultimately be a sports blog. The IAU meeting in Prague made me start to wonder: Why doesn't sports have a similar union?
Let's create the American Team Sports Union and it would be comprised of sports writers that follow pro baseball (both major and minor league), football, basketball, hockey, and soccer. Everyone would vote on every issue, whether the issue be within their sport of expertise or not. Just as it has been proven planets can be demoted, I would like to see the ATSU start by demoting some teams. Let's start with baseball. What have the Royals and Devil Rays done in the past decade to warrant staying in the major leagues? Nothing, and I believe this union would see it the same way. Both would be demoted to the minor leagues, leaving baseball with 28 teams again. This decision would also require re-alignment (another decision for the ATSU) since it would leave the AL with 12 teams and the NL 16, but ultimately the two leagues would have the same amount of teams again for the first time since 1997.
In fact, I'd like to take this sports union idea one step further. I think each team could have fan unions to keep their team in line. How cool would it be if you were part of a panel for your favorite pro team that could actually veto a move if the vast majority of the panel disapproves of it? Let's set the bar really high; 75% of the panel has to veto it. Even with such a high standard I think a Mariners fan union would have had Joel Pineiro in the bullpen and Carl Everett completely off the team by June (though I would hope that even signing him would have been vetoed). By now Mike Hargrove would have been fired, and maybe even Bill Bavasi too. Certain things, like minor-league call-ups, would be off limits for the union, but if whoever was called up clearly isn't pulling their weight after a month, the union would have the power to send him back down. If a bunch of men and women who stare at the sky for a living can meet in Prague and debate about something billions of miles away and reach a consensus, a bunch of sports junkies could band together and settle disputes over moves in their own backyard.