MLB, unlike NBA or even NFL, does NOT have a problem with parity

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other cities will sell out their entire seasons – 81 home dates – in spite of ESPN’s obsession with this regressive, outdated issue.)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.


About AJ Kaufman

A former schoolteacher and military historian, A.J. now works in public relations. As an MSF columnist since 2009, he supports anything baseball-related. Raised in San Diego, A.J. has since resided in numerous parts of America, including Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio and Washington State. After departing the coasts in 2005, he's traveled the back roads of all 50 states and prefers the Heartland. Married to Maria, A.J. is the author of three books and enjoys reading presidential biographies.


  1. Steven L says:

    I was right there with you until you linked to a pro-Tea Party story from a right wing propaganda outfit. If you're going to write about sports, stick with sports.

    • Steve every ESPN or Yahoo Sports editorial story has a left-wing bias. You just dont notice it because you agree with it. I see it, but I dont call it propaganda.

      Andrew Breitbart has done a brilliant job of pointing out this profound bias by offering his one hundred thousand dollar reward for provable instances of Tea Party racism, which, thus far and not surprisingly, has not been claimed.

    • yo Steve, if you're going to write comments to sports articles, stick to comments about the substantive content of the article, not the links. Newsflash, if you don't like what the article links to, don't click on it…

  2. Why pick on that? If people cannot discuss without name calling, it should be called out. You apparently agree with me but get distracted and then call names. Thanks for clicking the link. I guess only opinions you agree with count.

  3. A propaganda outfit? How the heck is Pajamas Media a right-wing propaganda outfit? It runs piece from Ruben Navarrette and Taylor Marsh. Huh??? It's a centrist newssite. I'm lost… Talk about close-minded.

  4. So what. What the hell is so great about parity. Will u tell me that. Its not parity, its mediocrity. Give me one or two Super teams to shoot for. Another reason that hardly anybody under the age of 25 likes baseball.

    • What is the point in having 30 teams if only four or five of them are worth cheering for? At least with parity it allows a fan of any team to have hope that maybe their team can win it all one year. As a T'Wolves fan, I know they are lottery bound, so I don't even watch the games, there is no point. As a Twins fan, I know they at least have a chance.

      • Thanks, Drew. Correct. Good to see an intelligent young person. The Twins, despite a low budget, CAN compete in MLB. Not so for NBA.

    • The reason people under 25, in your view, don't like baseball as much as they do is due to lack of hype, And 1 mix types, hard hitting and a general impatience. You know that. Baseball is a bit more mature and cerebral…and in my vciew, by far the best game. I'll take a 50 yr old's view over a 22 year old, with the maturity of a 16 year old in today's world.

      Also, the parity comment is insane. You must live in a big city. It's a league as a whole. You don't care about fans in 25 NBA cities? Pure arrogance.

    • "Another reason that hardly anybody under the age of 25 likes baseball"

      Keith, please show me your survey of demogrpahics that proves this. I just returned from spring training in Arizona and would say the VAST MAJORITY of people at the game were under 30. I saw it with my eyes. So don't spew vague theories unless you can back it up. And trust me, the guys who run and publish those polls don't get out much either.

  5. I also find it interesting that you complain that people dont deal with your 'arguments' and just call you racist but then you do the same with Colin Cowherd who I think raises some good points about the difference between the Pro Sports leagues. Instead you just call him and other 'fools' and 'company men'. Seems like you are doing the same thing.

    • Cowherd calls intelligent people who dont like the NBA "racist" on a national radio show. That's different from me saying he's wrong and is a "company man" who parrots ESPN's views.

  6. I agree with Mr. Kaufman's comments about the lack of parity in the NBA as compared to MLB. Although both sports have their "super teams," with baseball there's more of a feeling of unpredictability. We saw that with the Tampa Bay Rays last year, as they were able to beat the Yankees and the Red Sox on a regular basis. Even the world champion Anaheim Angels team defied expectations on their run to the top. Compare that to the situation in the NBA right now where there are teams who are all but guaranteed postseason entry by showing up due to the lack of meaningful competition in their divisions. Why else do you think so many people want the Miami Heat to lose this year?

    • Well said. Factually correct. Any other argument is just cliche straight from the "company men" in the media, esp ESPN who wants ratings, not competition

  7. Evelyn Dunn says:

    I enjoyed the article by Mr Kaufman but I have to admit some of the comments lost me. Perhaps someone can explain to me why a well thougt out, well researched article about parity in MLB has anyhing to do with The Tea Party. Could it be that someone does not understand parity or baseball and just wants to promote his political bias no matter what the topic? I personally didn't even see a PJM I had all the info I wanted from the article itself.

    • Exactly. Yes, I linked something "political" to back my point, but somehow that angered one guy who decided to mention and rant about that instead of the article–to which he agreed. Silly. And PJM is a news blog, not right wing. Oh well. Some people…

  8. Kurt Allen says:

    The problem with baseball's 'parity'. The Twins do things right, same with Atlanta, Tampa has had a run for a few years, Texas caught lightning in a bottle, Colorado's done it a couple times – and the entire NL as a whole has a chance because the Yankees/Red Sox aren't in the NL and the Mets and Cubs invest badly. But when the contracts of the young players come up, they head for greener pastures – usually Boston or the Bronx. The Padres had to get rid of Adrian, the Brewers are not going to give up a nine-figures for Prince Fielder (or should they). Matt Holliday got out of Colorado saying he doesn't want to play for a team that (in his mind) will contend only once a decade.

    Yes, the Royals may be in the World Series in 2013, but the players that would take them there will be in New York, Boston, or LA by 2016.

    Maybe there will be another surprise World Champ this year – but who wins the most between now and ten years from now???

    Either the Yankees or Red Sox…

  9. the nationals have been in washington for six years but they have been in existence since they were the montreal expos

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