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MLB’s parity problem never more present than in playoffs.

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Par-i-ty

  • n. pl. par·i·ties
  • 1. Equality, as in amount, status, or value.

When a casual baseball fan can determine who is going to make the playoffs before the season even begins, you know there’s a problem.

But according to commissioner Bud Selig, there’s nothing wrong: “People sometimes equate spending money with success. I still think we have enormous competitive balance.”

Really, Bud?

When Bud Selig’s reign as commissioner of Major League Baseball comes to an end, it will be characterized by one word: naivete. Thinking the All-Star game ending in a tie would be a good thing for baseball is one example. The rampant steroid use under his stead is another. The ever-expanding gap between baseball’s richest and poorest teams, and the inherent success directly related, is just Selig’s most recent guffaw.

All four of the remaining playoff teams are among Major League Baseball’s top 10 clubs in payroll. The Yankees, and I know this information has been regurgitated thousands of times before, spent over $201 million on player pay checks in 2009, by far the most of any club. The Angels coughed up $113 million for the sixth highest payroll, just a bit higher than the reigning World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. The Dodgers spent the least (but still ninth highest in the game) with $100 million.

The Boston Red Sox, fourth most on that list at $121 million, were ousted in the second leg of the playoffs by the Angels. The Detroit Tigers, fifth most on the list at $115 million, were shanghaied from the playoff picture by the upstart, low-market Minnesota Twins on the last day of the season.

That puts six of the highest payroll teams in the playoff picture.

That’s telling. That’s the highest batting average baseball’s seen since Ted Williams in 1941.

Sure, some teams with low payrolls make it; the Twins, Rockies, and Cardinals all fall on the lower half of the expenditure’s list. But more often than not, that success is directly related to everything coming together at the right time: the Twins getting Joe Mauer and developing a crop of talented starting pitchers; the Rockies having a serious surge following the firing of Clint Hurdle and subsequent management of Jim Tracy; the Cardinals drafting baseball’s best player, Albert Pujols, and augmenting that with free agents.

Simply put, they didn’t buy their success. They developed it and aided it while doing some needed spending.

Don’t even get me started on the Tampa Bay Rays. Their 2008 achievements were a direct product of years of getting the last pick in the draft and those players developing at the same time. Their eventually demise at the hands of the big spending Phillies should have come as no surprise.

So when does baseball take a serious look at this problem? When the Pirates lock down their 20th consecutive losing season? When the Marlins or Royals don’t get enough bodies into the seats to be a money making team?

If baseball won’t institute a salary cap (as I suspect it never will), then some changes must be enacted to ensure some, really any kind, of parity.

Limit the number and type of free agents a team can bring on. And certainly limit the amount of money they can spend on those rent-a-players. That way, we won’t have another Mark Teixeira, A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia debacle.

At the same time, make the front offices of lackluster teams do some kind of spending during the offseason. Many of the least successful teams have owners who are satisfied with finishing last, getting the first pick, and earning money from the revenue distribution system currently in place. While baseball is a game, it’s unfair to the fans and players to play this kind of baseball.

Without considering a salary cap, what measures would you take to increase baseball competition?

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Written by dylansharek

October 16, 2009 at 1:27 pm

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