Thursday, October 23, 2008

Parity Smarity

Mike Lopresti has been hitting the "Rays Aid" and has hopped on the Rays bandwagon. He also seems to think that there is parity in baseball. (In a bad Jim Mora imitation) Parity?! Parity?! Don't talk about parity! Are you kidding me? Parity?!?

AL champion Rays are parity's poster child

Who's the kid being interviewed by a television station?Apparently, he's someone important with the Tampa Bay Rays. Seeing how young he is, I'm guessing he's in charge of the cotton candy.

Oh, nice start here. Just because he is young, he can only handle cotton candy, huh?

"We're here with Andrew Friedman," the TV man says.

THE Andy Friedman?

Good grief. That's Andrew Friedman? The front office guy who built most of this juggernaut? Thirty-one years old, it says here in the Tampa Bay media guide. We'll have to take their word for it.

Oh, sorry, I was thinking of Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago.

Former Tulane outfielder. Former Wall Street analyst. Former fantasy league player. Former child in Houston who used to make his mother take him to the Astrodome at 4 o'clock for a night game, so he'd be there in time to watch batting practice. A baseball nut while he was still in Happy Meals.

Enough with the fucking food references! Obviously Andrew is quite talented to be in the front office of a MLB team at a young age and obviously he has had the right touch to put together the current Rays team in the World Series.

Now he's constructed an American League champion with the second lowest payroll in baseball — and stands there as the latest proof that just about anybody can get to the World Series these days if he is shrewd enough and lucky enough.

Yes, anybody CAN win in professional sports, but the Rays have paid for it in the fact they had never finished above fourth place in the division in there entire existence before this year. When you have a Top 10 first round pick every year, you should eventually be good, I would hope.

Which is why Bud Selig sounds so happy.

"I just can't tell you how important this is," the commissioner of baseball said over the phone. "I'm really lucky I was able to see this."

Yes, we figured someone would have either taken you out or your ass would have exploded since you are the owners puppet, although this might explain why Bud is so happy.

Selig doesn't just mean the Rays in a World Series. He means the current unbridled parity in baseball.

Once again - Parity?! Parity?! Don't talk about parity! Are you kidding me? Parity?!?

Just because the team with the second-lowest payroll made it to the playoffs and the World Series, does not mean there is parity in baseball.

Only the NFL is supposed to distribute power like this. But count the franchises lately in a World Series. Eight pennant winners since 2004, eight different teams. Fifteen teams — fully half of the major leagues — in the past 10 years. Baseball is guaranteed of having its ninth different champion in nine years.

OK, eight different teams have won pennants in the past five years, but Boston, New York Yankees, St. Louis, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels have all been in the playoffs at least three out of the past five years. So out of eight playoff teams, those six teams have been in the playoffs the majority of the time! That is not parity you fucktard!!!!

You MIGHT be able to claim parity for playoff teams because the majority of those teams rank in the top half of the payroll, but not for all of baseball.

Over the past 10 years, here is a breakdown of the number of playoff appearances by each team and their payroll ranking for 2008.

American League
NYY - 9 appearances, #1 payroll
BOS - 7, #4
TB - 1, #29
BAL - 0, #22
TOR - 0, #12

MIN - 4, #24
CWS - 3, #5
CLE - 3, #16
DET - 1, #2
KC - 0, #25

LAA - 5, #6
OAK - 5, #28
SEA - 1, #9
TEX - 1, #21

National League
ATL - 7, #10
NYM - 3, #3
PHI - 2, #13
FLA - 1, #30
MON/WAS - 0, #26

STL - 6, #11
HOU - 5, #14
CHC - 3, #7
MIL - 1, #15
CIN - 0, #18
PIT - 0, #27

ARI - 4, #23
SF - 3, #17
LAD - 2, #8
SD - 2, #19
COL - 1, #20

If there were parity, then you would see more appearances by the Pirates, Reds, Royals and Nationals. Of the eight teams that made the playoffs this year, only the Rays ranked lower than 15th and five of the eight were in the top 10.

If anything, last year was more of a sign of "parity" since three of the teams making the playoffs (Cleveland #23, Arizona #25 and Colorado #26) were in the bottom half of the MLB payroll.

Wasn't this sport going to be co-owned by the Yankees, Red Sox and a small number of other gold bullion owners?

The Yankees and Red Sox typically have some of the highest payrolls in baseball, but as has been proven many years, the highest payroll does not guarantee you a ring, or even a playoff spot. It does generally give you a good team that will at least make a run for a playoff spot. But just because you got to the playoffs does not guarantee a trip to the World Series.

"I could write a book on that," said Selig, who then recounted the owners' decision in 2000 to give the commissioner wide powers to bring parity to the game, from revenue sharing to construction of the draft.

The vote, Selig noted, was 30-0. You normally couldn't get a 30-0 vote from baseball owners on what time of the day it is.

Now Selig looks at a world where the Tampa Bay Rays can lose 96 games one season and go to the World Series the next, with a payroll one-fifth of the Yankees.

The Rays made the right draft picks and trades over the past several years that have finally paid off this year. The Phillies payroll is less than half of the Yankees. Why are you not including them in this article?

Where Houston and Colorado and Arizona and Florida are all recent passersby.

Huh? What?

Not many strategies to come out of an office ever work this well. Whatever Selig was aiming at, he nailed.

The Diamondbacks and Rockies were both in the bottom fifth of payroll last year and the Rockies lost in the World Series. So will the Rays be a passerby as well if they lose? The Marlins won with a small payroll and then were blown apart by Wayne Huzinga because he knew he would not be able to afford the players after that. Will the Rays be forced to do the same thing?

"The one thing I always say to the clubs is it's the job of the sport itself as well as all its individual franchises to provide hope and faith in as many places as possible," he said. "Do I believe in the hope and faith theory? I certainly do."

"What a story this is. When I was watching Game 7 on Sunday, I said over and over to myself, 'Unbelievable.' It finally hits you how remarkable this is. And the game is better for it."

Is it? It is the "feel good" story for the Rays to make the World Series after finishing in last place the previous year. However, Fox Networks will probably tell you this is the worst that could have happened after both Boston and the LA Dodgers make it to the Championship Series and then lost.

What does the current poster child of parity have to say?

"Have you seen me?" Not yet.

"Payroll definitely doesn't decide the standings," said Friedman, turning conventional baseball wisdom on its batting helmet. "You look back over the last 10 years and see that.

And it never will. But the teams with the highest payroll generally have the better players.

"The hardest part for a small revenue team is not necessarily to compete in any one given year, but being able to sustain it. Certainly that is our biggest challenge going forward."

Exactly. Let's see if the Rays can keep the core of their young team and start a playoff streak. Or are they just the latest Florida Marlins and be forced to kill their team by breaking it up?

Once this World Series party is over, the price of putting the Rays on the field is about to go up from $43.8 million — which is less than one Alex Rodriguez and one Derek Jeter. Friedman accepts that.

"But relative to other teams in our division," he said, "it won't be in the same stratosphere."

Even if the Rays doubled their current salary, they would only rank 15th, right behind the Houston Astros at $88 million.

Still, if the Rays can win, can't anybody?

Yes, but how long did it take the Rays to be really bad while trying to put together this team? Any team CAN win in baseball, but the smaller market teams have a harder road to travel.

Check back when we look at a World Series and find the Pittsburgh Pirates playing the Kansas City Royals. Parity's last holdouts.

I'm think that won't happen in this lifetime. What about the Reds, Orioles, Nationals who haven't sniffed the playoffs in the past 10 years plus?

Until there is a salary cap, there really will not be any parity in baseball.

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