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Parity Stinks
2005-08-20 21:05
by Scott Long

Okay, it's time someone says it. We need to put an asterisk behind whoever wins the 2005 World Series, because there is not a team worthy of being hailed the champ. Sure there have been second-rate champs like the 2003 Marlins, 2002 Angels, 1990 Reds, and any year the Twins won it all, but at least these teams had to beat a high quality opponent to be the ultimate victor. In 2005, all the playoff contenders have major flaws.

The St. Louis Cardinals have followed up 2004's best regular season record with the top mark of 2005, but this is an inferior team to last year's NL champs. The Card's offense is nowhere as good, as their OPS has dropped by 30 points. Considering the age of many of their top players, it's amazing that they have been this good. The combination of their bullpen and Chris Carpenter having career years has kept the St. Louis far ahead of the pack, but considering the pack is the rest of the National League, another asterisk should be considered for that accomplishment.

Despite the miracle performance of the Atlanta Braves, the league just isn't good. The amazingly close NL Wild Card race should be tempered by the fact that these teams shouldn't even be in a playoff race. I mean, when the Dodgers are 10 games below .500, but only 5 games out of 1st place in the NL West, this is the subject the Senate should be conducting a hearing on. I mean does anyone believe that besides possibly the Cardinals, any other NL franchise could beat the AL Champ in 2005? I know some of you would point to the Astros, but I don't even see them making the playoffs, as I have a hunch their Big 3 starters will be lucky to be the Big 2 by the end of the year.

While the AL is superior to the NL, the league also lacks a great team. The White Sox posted a record during the first half of the year that would have given one the impression they might have the skills, but they were somewhat lucky, early on and the injury problems of Frank Thomas have really exposed their lack of a consistent stud hitter in their lineup. The White Sox starting staff is the best 1 through 5 in baseball, but their starters don't have the kind of stuff that makes them a team to fear in the post-season.

Last year, the real World Championship was between the Red Sox and Yankees. Both of them were great teams in 2004, but this year, a mix of injuries (Red Sox) and poor roster decisions (Yankees), have left both as extremely flawed teams. At this late point of the season, the two are struggling to qualify for the playoffs, despite enormous salary disparity advantages versus their competition.

Current AL Wild Card leader, the Oakland A's, lack enough power-hitting to make a run at a World Championship this year, but they could be the best team in baseball by 2006. The addition this month of Casey Kotchman to the Angels lineup has really helped the offense, but their starting pitching is very flawed. The Indians are similar to the Angels, as their starting pitching is questionable, but their offense will keep them in the hunt. The Twins have the pitching, but the season ending injury to Torii Hunter I think will be too much for them to overcome. I would argue that all 4 of these teams were better in 2004, but the mediocrity of 2005 has kept them in the playoff chase.

So put this season under the category of "be careful of what you wish for", because I've always hoped that MLB could have more parity, being tired of knowing the Yankees had an advantage over the rest of the league. Well, unless Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke start pitching like they did last year, 2005's post-season will be one of a lot of mediocre teams fighting it out to be the top dog. (A better description would be, top of the dogs.)

POSTNOTE: Continuing in my process of putting my neck on the chopping block, here are the teams I see in this year's playoffs. AL: White Sox, Red Sox, Angels, and Yankees. NL: Cardinals, Braves, Padres, Marlins.

2005-08-21 09:14:21
1.   Adams
I've always said, this so called parity is just one more step towards the doldrums of NFL football. In that league, they have at least one .500 team that makes the playoffs every year. And, there's always a half dozen teams under .500 who are in the race until the last week. Who cares? Parity should be called what it is, medioctity.
2005-08-21 09:21:48
2.   TFD
"any year the Twins won it"...

Oh that's funny. Smack from a GFWS fan, always hilarious.

2005-08-21 09:53:23
3.   RickM
This is why I like ... no ... love baseball. There are so many opportunitites for discussion.

By saying the the 1990 Reds, the 2003 Marlins, the 2002 Angels, and the Twins were undeserving is to forget their accomplishments. Each of these teams beat a "powerhouse." In the Twins case they beat the "miraculous" Atlanta Braves. The Marlins beat the Yankees in New York, the Angels beat those same Yankees and beat Barry Bonds and the Giants. the 90 Reds were never out of first place the entire season and beat the Tony LaRussa managed Oakland A's 4 straight. I guess you think that we should rate our champions using statistics rather than wins on the field.

I will agree that parity is boring. The NFL sought parity as a policy (on any given Sunday ...). That parity is enforced by the salary cap, and the draft. Baseball falls into parity as part of the natural ebb and flow of the game. A 30 team MLB adds to the parity, but the lack of a cap still gives us the Yankees, the Red Sox, and good management gives us the A's. But this isn't a reason to denegrate the winners.

If we don't have "parity" to some extent, what would you suggest the leagues look like. Yankees and Cards every year? In the fifties I believe the Yankees won the and series 8 or 9 times, and people refer to the fifties as the golden age of baseball. Is this what we want?

2005-08-21 11:27:37
4.   Scott Long
Rick, I think you missed my point, as I wasn't trying to denigrate the past champs I mentioned (well, maybe the Twins), but instead had said they were legit because there was a high quality team in each of those playoff seasons and for the most part, these teams had to beat them to reach the pinnacle.

I would argue that the 2004 Red Sox, Yankees, Twins, and Cardinals were better than any team of 2005, which goes to my point that there are no great teams this year.

2005-08-21 14:40:36
5.   chris in illinois
It is possible that (in the NL at least) there just aren't any terrible teams to pad the records of the rest of the league? Last year in the NL there were four teams at a .420 winning % or lower, this year there is one and the Dodgers have the fourth worst record at 56-67 (.455).

Of course it could go either way, maybe the best teams aren't as good this year or maybe like I said, the bad teams are better. The question that might solve the problem is this:

Is there another team in the NL other than the Rockies that you would give NO chance of winning a playoff spot in '06?? By no chance, I'd say less than a 20% shot at the wild card. In my opinion I'd say the Rockies are it---every other team has something going for it going into next season.

2005-08-22 01:03:27
6.   Richard Gadsden
Take a look at the AL, though. The Royals and the Devil Rays stink, but the playoff contenders aren't fattening up on those games.

If you look at the AL playoff teams from last season, the Yankees, Red Sox, Twins and Angels are all worse this season and yet at least two of them make the playoffs. The White Sox and the As are no better than this season's Yankees/Red Sox/Angels.

Over in the NL, the Cardinals and Braves are worse than last season but still running away with their respective divisions; the Padres are blatantly worse than last season's Dodgers in the West, and the Wild Card winners are comparable to this year's Astros; ie not noticeably better than last year's Astros.

I think there is a case that all eight playoff teams will be worse than last year; even if not, the ones that have improved are the NL Wild Card and the AL Central, which were the weakest two last season, for all the Astros post-season heroics.

2005-08-22 09:01:01
7.   RickM
Scott - Great teams, IMHO, are made by their circumstances. Last years Red Sox was the wild card team, what made them a great was that eight games in a row they won after being down 3-0 to the Yankees in the ALCS. I think history will look on them as a great team, even though their season performance, while very good, wouldn't mark them as a great team.
2005-08-23 01:10:36
8.   TracedOut
I've been saying this since May. It's like a Charlie Kaufman movie: every team has a little charm, yet they also all suffer from some horribly debilitating problem. Really, I think only the Cardinals could even win a wildcard in any other year. Everyone else stinks.
2005-08-23 14:20:35
9.   spycake
If, as you say, "there is not a team worthy of being hailed the champ", then why do we bother playing the season? Should the World Series only exist in years where there's a couple dominant teams? If you want to say "this year's champ won't be as good as last year's champ" that's pretty pointless -- you're comparing apples and oranges. Each year there exists a single champion FOR THAT YEAR. That's what keeps us interested every year. Should all WS champs have an asterisk saying they're not the '27 or '98 Yankees? Or the '75 Reds?

I think that whatever the field is, if you beat the rest of them in the accepted format, you're the champ. And if the teams are all evenly matched (i.e. fairly mediocre) then the competition should be even tighter and the outcome even harder to predict, which should be a good thing. Maybe you'd prefer a matchup of two powerhouses every year, but I prefer a wider field of competitors. And who knows -- maybe a "powerhouse" will emerge between now and October, or a perceived powerhouse will fail (see '04 Cards).

2005-08-23 18:19:20
10.   Smed
It's better for the league if no one is truly wretched and most teams think they have a chance. Then the chicken littles don't carp about not having a chance to win, because they don't have the dough. Now only KC, Pittsburgh, and Tampa can really say that, and they're just being idiotic.
2005-08-25 11:24:42
11.   RickM
There are actually 5 teams that have, in a phrase, given up. Include Colorado and Cincinnati to the three that Smed listed. The bottom of the barrel is KC. When the luxury tax checks went out, the KC owner pocketed his, and you see the result.

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