MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is famous — or infamous, depending upon your stance — for often stating that baseball is currently in “another Golden Age.”
To this, even I, a baseball ‘apologist’ who’s preferred the sport far more than any other his entire life, would perhaps snicker; but on the other hand, when Selig says baseball is “as popular as ever,” I maintain he is correct.
And one of the prime reasons, believe it or not, is the great parity in today’s game.
With regards to the sport’s popularity, consider 162 games, most during the doldrums and heat of summer, rarely accompanied by complimentary publicity or hype from the media, and in an impatient society with short attention spans to the nuances of such a fascinating game, it’s a miracle that baseball continues to break attendance records and keeps interest so high.
Yes, that word we hear so often associated with the NFL — and which baseball was maligned often for lacking — perfectly describes Major League Baseball as we motor into 2011. (And no, steroids is not an issue of concern for 95% of baseball fans I know. It’s a past problem that’s been remedied, and polls show very few fans care about it. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis and many other cities will sell out their entire seasons – 81 home dates – in spite of ESPN’s obsession with this regressive, outdated issue.)
As to comparing baseball’s parity with the other major sports leagues, the NFL has it (though it’s true only three teams have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl the past decade), and the NBA does not (an astonishingly paltry six title winners in over three decades, and four or five dominant teams each year depending upon where the next superstar runs to), as has been accurately documented over and over and over and over recently, much to the chagrin of its incredibly arrogant commissioner, many sportswriters, and the “company men” at ESPN and TNT.
And while the NFL and NBA are headed toward lockouts, MLB has had “labor peace” for nearly two decades.
But since none of that will quiet the imperious critics, let’s see how “bad” the parity in baseball is.
ONLY TWO teams coming into our new season that begins in three weeks have endured years of frustration: Pittsburgh and Kansas City.
And while Pittsburgh appears to lack the pitching to compete for awhile, they do have some of the best young hitters in all of baseball in Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Garrett Jones and Jose Tabata. I watched all these guys in person in Indianapolis from 2008-2010, and they’re extremely talented.
The Royals, as many realize, have the best rated farm system in a decade! As players matriculate down I-29 from Omaha to KC, they’ll be playoff contenders in 2013, if not 2012.
Everyone else competes well now, and all quite recently.
*For years, people mocked the so-called small market Rays, Reds, Padres, Blue Jays, Brewers, Athletics, and even Rockies, Tigers and Twins for subpar performances. Well, that’s factual rubbish here on 3/11/11.
Not only are these teams consistently competitive and successful, but they’ve had World Series appearances, playoff runs, 85-90 win campaigns in tough divisions, and should all be pretty darn good against his year.
Between 2001 and 2011, TEN different teams won the World Series. While the Yankees and Red Sox had their runs, FIVE other squads (Rangers, Angels, Rays, White Sox and Tigers) also won American League pennants.
*In the Senior Circuit, the parity was even stronger, with SEVEN different clubs claiming the pennant — not even including Atlanta, who’s only had two losing seasons in the past 20.
*In all, just five of 30 baseball organizations (a paltry 16%) have failed to play postseason baseball–the most exclusive playoffs in sports, with only eight spots available, as opposed to double that number in the NBA or NHL. And one of those, the Washington Nationals, have only been in existence for six seasons.
I can go team by team, but that would be overkill. Let’s just ponder something in comparison:
Can the NBA say the above about the Pacers, Kings, Wizards, Warriors, Clippers, Timberwolves, even Bucks, Hornets, Sixers, Nets and Raptors in the past 5 years or so, despite more than half the league making the postseason? Nope.
So why does the NBA get a pass from obsequious blowhards like ESPN radio’s Colin Cowherd and those other company men of the mainstream sports media brass? (i.e. fatuous fools who consider themselves “rebels” but are the exact opposite)? Because we’re all supposed to embrace and adore big stars in big cities? Baseball gets hammered for that! The regional elitism and hypocrisy is breathtaking, my friends.
At the end of the day, the only argument they give to NBA critics like me is, yep, calling someone a “racist.” Sounds like our political climate, where name-calling has replaced rational discourse far too often the past few years. When you deviate into name-calling, you’ve lost the argument.
In any event, there’s clearly no “racism” in the NBA, nor among its fans; nor is there “racism” in football or baseball. That’s simply a bad and inappropriate cop out.
If you really want to talk about “racism” in the NBA, why won’t the great Kevin Love receive the accolades, attention, and long-term/max contracts of other strong players in smaller markets past and present, a la Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett, et al?
Interesting…but silly too…
So unlike the debacle Mr. Stern has created over his endless NBA tenure (I won’t even get into the insane “one year in college” rule that’s hurt the amateur game I love; or the off-field “character” issues, since the NFL now has even more troubling issues there), parity is as strong as ever in Major League Baseball.
Mr. Selig, you’ve made glaring errors in your tenure, but you’re definitely correct about the sport’s popularity, division of power, and perhaps we are enjoying another “Golden Era,” sir.