Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Myth of Baseball Parity

If you remember President Obama's interview during the All Star game, you heard him say there was parity in baseball. Let's just hope he's better on the economy than baseball. Because as the Reds season melts down again, there are some who say there is baseball parity. That's a an urban legend that Commissioner Bud Selig would love you to believe. Here's why baseball parity is a myth.

Parity is more than just new playoff teams every year. It means that lower payroll teams have just as good a chance to make the playoffs as high payroll teams. If the definition is whether there are new playoff teams every year than there is parity in baseball since the high payroll teams alternate on who makes it every year. Don't get me wrong, low payroll teams do make the playoffs but nowhere in the frequency as high payroll teams. Compare this to the NFL, where every team except the Lions and the Bengals have a chance to make the playoffs every year.

Let's look at the numbers. For this analysis, I will say the top third of total team payroll will be high payroll teams or the top ten. The lower third of team payroll will be low payroll teams. From the years 2002-2008, 35 teams in the high payroll category made the playoffs. While only 10 teams in the low payroll category made it. That's not parity.

(Check out the team payrolls that I used to make the analysis from the Biz of Baseball. Here's also a great article on how parity and how the Rays' "lose to win" strategy works.)

The lose to win strategy is where a team loses year after year to get high draft picks with the hope that someday in the future it will work. The question becomes as a Reds fans are we willing to endure years of losing for the big pay day that may never come.

What the Reds need is a balanced approach. Use free agency to sign players to fill needs. That means signing quality free agents, not the Eric Miltons of the world. It may require that they spend more than what the player is worth. So be it. Signing Greg Vaughn in 1999 worked. For the 2003 Marlins, signing Pudge Rodriquez was a good move.

Baseball in the future needs a salary cap. If the mid-level and low payroll teams want to cry poverty, they should vote for a salary cap when collective bargaining agreement is up. Otherwise expect to see the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs dominate the playoff appearances.

C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. You didn't think these guys would play for the Pirates, did you?

No comments: