Despite this being my first semester of graduate school, I have spent a considerable amount of time watching my team, the St. Louis Cardinals, play baseball. First they made an incredible September come-back (thank you Braves), and now they are mid series with their division rival, the Milwaukee Brewers, for a chance at the World Series. However, I feel it is important to point out that more than a chance to win the World Series is at stake. The true contest is about which beer company makes the best baseball stadium. I don’t drink, or even condone the libation, but considering the annual average of twenty gallons of beer consumed by those who drink, I think it is an important question. The Cardinal’s Busch Stadium has been rebuilt twice. The first one was built in 1920, but picked up the name Busch Stadium in 1953, and it was most recently rebuilt in 2006. It has a capacity for over 46,000 fans. The three stadiums over the years have welcomed six World Series titles, the most recent was in the inaugural year of the current stadium, 2006. On the other hand, the Brewers’ Miller Park holds 41,900 fans, and was built in 2001. It has not seen any Word Series titles, or even witnessed a World Series game. The conclusion it pretty obvious, but we’ll just let this NLCS decide it.
I don’t know anybody more passionate about baseball than my buddy Jimmy. So I’ve invited him to be a guest blogger from time to time. He sent this to me about a week ago so a little has changed since he wrote this, but the point remains the same. Enjoy!
A couple of days ago I listened to some local guys on the radio complain about baseball. They said baseball is suffering because the lack of a salary cap creates too much of a competitive imbalance. The other guy said he looked at the standings and they were pretty much the same as last year. I almost called in to tell him how wrong he is but decided to keep driving instead. So I’ll do it now. Of the six teams that won their division last year, only one (the Yankees) are currently leading their division as of August 9th. In fact, the other five current leaders combined for a .500 winning percentage last year. Two of them (Padres, Reds) finished FOURTH in their division, and two of them (White Sox, Braves) finished third. Eight different teams have won the last nine World Series. Conversely, the last 11 NBA Finals have been won by five teams, and it is worse if you include Jordan’s Bulls before that. Six teams have won the last nine Super Bowls. One could argue that baseball has more of a balance of power than the other major sports.
I do agree that it is frustrating to see the Yankees have nearly six times the payroll as the Pittsburgh Pirates, but it is not a lost cause for half of all MLB teams as many believe. The Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992 and the Kansas City Royals have nearly been just as bad, but the little guys can succeed in baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays went to the World Series as little as two years ago with the 29th (out of 30) highest payroll in the majors. This year the White Sox (7th in payroll on Opening Day), Braves (15th), Reds (20th), Rangers (27th), and Padres (29th) are all currently leading their divisions, and the Rays (19th) are leading the AL Wild Card race. Those numbers are hardly top heavy, at least 4 of the top six teams in payroll will not make the playoffs this year. While a salary cap like the NBA would prevent the best players from all signing onto the same team (wait…), baseball has never been more competitively balanced. There are some things wrong with baseball (steroids residue, long games…), but the big market teams don’t rule the MLB as much as you may think.