Listen to any talking heads these days and they'll tell you that Major League Baseball has a problem. Read any mainstream media column and they'll tell you that Major League Baseball has a problem. Heck, read countless sports blogs on any number of sports websites and they'll all say the same thing - Major League Baseball has a problem. And they're not even talking about steroids now. The alleged problem in baseball is competitive imbalance. And, we've been told by the media that a salary cap will solve everything. The big market teams won't be able to spend as much. The small market teams will get to be more competitive. They point to the three other major sports as examples of how the salary cap works to keep a somewhat level playing field. And this must be true, since the media is never wrong. Well, wait, what if someone went and actually did research? Would the media's assertion still hold true? Turns out, it doesn't. The media and all its sheep believe a bill of goods that not even President Obama and his minions would try to slip past the American public.
With the sample size being the current decade (since that's when this alleged competitive imbalance has hit its peak), there are some startling numbers. Just not the numbers the mainstream media ever shares (for either lack of research or just plain good old fashioned lazy reporting).
In the current decade, each sport has had the ability to crown 9 different champions so far. The NHL has crowned 7 Stanley Cup winners out of that potential 9. The NFL (the model by which all things are measured in America now) has crowned 6 different Super Bowl Champions. The NBA has crowned just 5 different champions. Meanwhile, MLB has had only one repeat winner (the '04 & '07 Red Sox). Meaning that out of 9 possible champions, MLB has had 8 different winners. But that's only one out of 30 (or 32) teams. You have to go deeper than that to prove your theory, David. Ok. Let's do just that.
Since their have been 9 championships awarded, that means there have been a total of 18 possible teams playing for their respective league's title. Again, here are the numbers. NHL - 11 total teams have played for the Cup. NFL - 13 total teams. NBA (pulling up the rear yet again) - 10 total teams. While MLB has had 14 out of 18 possible teams playing for the World Series. 14 teams. That means, in 9 seasons, almost half (14/30 = 47%) of all the teams in MLB have played in the World Series. 14 out of 30 fan bases have been 4 wins away (or fewer) from buying World Championship t-shirts and other swag. But David, that's still not enough information. You're skewing something. Ok, let's look at trends.
The NHL and NBA each invite 16 teams to their tournament. That's over half the league. Yet the NHL has only had 37% of it's teams play for the Stanley Cup and the NBA has only had 33% of it's teams make the finals. Even more disturbing is the fact that in the NHL, the last two Stanley Cup Finals featured the same two teams. The last time MLB had the same two teams play in the World Series in back to back years was in 1977-1978. Meanwhile, in the NBA, the Lakers have appeared in the NBA finals 5 out of the 9 years in question. Throw in the Spurs' 3 appearances in that span and the Lakers or Spurs have been the western conference's representative in 8 of 9 seasons (and NBA Champions 6 of 9 years). The NFL is a little bit better, but they have their share of competitive imbalance, too. That Patriots have appeared in 4 out of a possible 9 Super Bowls, and the Patriots and Steelers have combined to represent the AFC in 6 out of 9 Super Bowls (and 5 out of the last 6 Super Bowls).
All the while, the cap-less and "un-level" playing field that is baseball has not had a team in the World Series more than 3 times during the same span (the Yankees, who have not made a World Series appearance since 2003). And no two teams have combined to represent it's respective league more than 5 times in 9 years. Baseball has also produced at least one World Series team every year that is making it's first appearance in the World Series this decade. And in 5 of the 9 World Series', it was a first trip this decade for both teams. But David, you're still only talking about the World Series. In order to get to the World Series, you have to make the playoffs, and not enough teams in MLB can be competitive enough to even make the playoffs. Oh really?
The NHL and NBA each let 16 teams into the playoffs each year. The NFL lets in 12. MLB lets in 8. Paultry, by comparison. Yet, in just the last 9 seasons, 23 out of 30 teams in the MLB have made the post-season, at least one time. That's 77% of teams in a playoff system that lets in only 27% of it's teams each year. Only 7 teams have failed to make the playoffs this decade - Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Baltimore, Toronto, Cincinnati, Montreal-Washington and Texas (though the Rangers have a real shot at the playoffs this year). It has been reported that competitive imbalance is getting worse by the year. That big market teams are pulling away from small market teams. What they fail to tell you is that traditionally small market teams such as Milwaukee and Tampa Bay made the playoffs last season, while the biggest of big markets - New York - failed to put either of its teams in the post season. And god forbid anyone mention traditional mid-market teams, San Francisco, Colorado, Texas and Minnesota, are all in playoff contention this season.
In 2003, Larry Beinfest built a World Champion with the smallest payroll in baseball. And who did he beat to win the World Series? The highest payroll in baseball that year, the Yankees. Competitive imbalance has nothing to do with a salary cap. It has to do with drafting right. And trading right. And making the right decisions in your front office and on the field. Ineptness is what creates an un-level playing field, not how much money a team has to play with. Remember, it was just three years ago that the Pittsburgh Pirates (who allegedly have no money to spend) traded for an aging Matt Morris. They still had to pay Morris $9 million a season. They had the money. They just invested it poorly. Very, very poorly. Don't cry for a salary cap. Just cry for better management.