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As Major League Baseball’s 2012 Playoffs approach, a crop of new teams appear poised to contend in October. With perennial doormats such as the Baltimore Orioles, Oakland Athletics, and even Pittsburgh Pirates now in the heat of the competition, a trendy, new train of thought comes with them. The era of big market teams is over and the rise of small market teams has begun. This is what real baseball should look like!
The only problem is that this sentiment is completely false. Luckily for teams like the Red Sox, big market franchises are no less successful than they were last year or in the years before that. They say meat tastes better when it’s local and grass-fed, but it tastes fine when bought from a giant, faceless slaughterhouse too. So eat up, because in the MLB that’s a good thing.
CC Sabathia. Adrian Gonzalez. Roy Halladay. Whoever. If they have the slightest amount of talent they probably, one way or another, ended up with a big market team. Additionally, baseball purists have probably complained about how it’s ruining the sport. Never mind the fact these players are now playing for teams with fans eager to watch and owners willing to compensate them accordingly, because that pokes a hole in their logic.
So maybe people were a little to excited to finally write off big spenders, hoping to kill off the “money wins championships” philosophy once and for all. Because a quick look at the standings renders that argument worthless. Almost every team with a payroll over $100MM is still in contention this season. The Yankees, Giants, and Rangers all lead their divisions. The Angels, Tigers, and Cardinals are still in the mix. The Dodgers are not too far behind and even the Phillies are only 3.5 games out of the Wild Card. Only the Red Sox and Marlins have performed horrendously and that’s more of an indictment on how their franchises are operated than anything. Otherwise, big market teams seem to be doing better than ever.
In the same token has anyone who values their time given any thought to the Rockies, Padres, Royals, Astros, and company? Sorry guys, but I guess not being a mean and nasty northeastern baseball team still doesn’t automatically translate into winning.
But I get it. This injection of new teams is refreshing. Maybe.
The playoffs are supposed to be exciting. A time when you can see the best players in the sport compete. That’s a little problematic when the casual fan doesn’t know any of the players and can probably assume none of them will be in the league five years from now. And while name recognition isn’t everything, a good litmus test is seeing if you can name the best player on any given team. So instead of David Ortiz and the Red Sox this year we have…Miguel Tejada and the Oakland A’s. What do you mean he hasn’t played for Oakland in like a decade? Fine, instead of David Wright and the New York Mets you have…Miguel Tejada and the Baltimore Orioles. Wait he’s not on Baltimore either? Baseball just isn’t the same without Miguel Tejada…or slightly interesting athletes.
Like the All-Star Game, the Playoffs should be a showcase of baseball’s best and brightest. The casual fan likes the NFL and NBA because star power is readily available. It’s not easily recognizable in MLB, so why make it even harder to get people interested? On principle, I’d rather watch iCarly reruns than a Pirates-Nationals game. Just because you’re a winning team it doesn’t mean you’re a relevant team.
In 2012 there are some small market teams and some big market teams competing. The obvious takeaway is that it doesn’t matter how much money a franchise spends, but how it spends it (What’s up, Red Sox?). To say otherwise might be jumping the gun. As for teams like the Pirates…if you take enough dumps, you’re bound to find a golden nugget in there eventually. This isn’t to say that the Red Sox, Yankees, and Cubs should get annual spots reserved in the playoffs, but just don’t expect people to watch if that’s the case.
If the season ended today, players who wouldn’t be participating in postseason play would include Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Chase Utley, and Matt Kemp among others. That’s a lot of meat.
Unfortunately for MLB, I’m not so sure people are crazy about this 2012 vegetarian option.