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Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on August 19, 2007
You can’t really say that revenue sharing has brought parity to baseball but you can make a good argument that it has helped improve a lot of teams by allowing astute GM’s to chase free agent talent or hang onto players who an organization has developed. I hesitate to credit that move as the catalyst for making baseball more competitive overall but certainly the game has changed for the better.
Sure there are teams that are still sucking bottom like the Devil Rays and Pirates, where running in place seems to be the rule, but there are more teams who have taken steps forward. Just a couple of years ago you could have written off teams like the Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies and Seattle Mariners before the first pitch of the season had ever been thrown. Today they have pushed to the fore and are competing for playoff spots.
Across Major League Baseball there is more competition. With roughly a quarter of the season left there are ten teams still in the hunt for a playoff spot in the NL* (11 if you count the Astros who are 7.5 back), and six in the AL (8 if you count the Jays and Twins 7.0 and 7.5 back respectively). That’s means that almost two thirds of baseball is still playing with hopes of the postseason. Admittedly it’s a stretch for some of these teams but at least it gives the fans something to root for.
Impressively, out of last year’s playoff teams only the Mets find themselves atop the standings. The Yankees find themselves 5 games back, the Cards 4, the Dodgers 7 back, the Padres 5, the Tigers 1.5, the Twins 7, and the A’s a whopping 12 games out.
So, why has the game changed so much? Why is the established guard reeling? Part of the reason might well be revenue sharing, part may be that teams are relying more on developing talent rather than relying on the free agent market, and part may be new philosophies about running a team. Whatever the reason it’s being accomplished as much by the guys running the front office as the guys on the field.
And watching all of the playoff races tells you that parity is very good for the game. Fans stay absorbed longer thus increasing revenues from ticket sales and television advertising. It definitely keeps things interesting.
*meaning less than 5 games out of either a division title or Wild Card spot.