Is Baseball Rigged For the Rich Teams? Yes and No.


You may have noticed that whenever the Yankees win, you start to see ripples — first from the Commissioner’s office, then from Major League Baseball owners, then from half-informed sportswriters — that baseball is suffering from an imbalance of “revenue sharing” — i.e., that salaries are too high — and that the small markets can’t compete. Sometimes it all comes together in one phrase: “lack of competitive balance.”

Maury Brown, president and editor-in-chief of the Business of Sports Network, has done fans and baseball writers alike a great service with his current article on using research from the Biz of Baseball.

Here’s Brown’s bottom line:

“Eight different clubs won the 10 World Series in the 2000s, which is the most of any major North American professional sport. In that same period, the NBA saw five different champions, the NFL and NHL saw seven, though the NHL did not have a season in 2004-05. Eight different clubs have won the last nine World Series, dating back to the 2001 Fall Classic, and the Yankees (2000-01) and Phillies (2008-09) are the only clubs in the last decade to go to the World Series in consecutive years. No club has won back-to-back titles.

“In that same time period, MLB can boast that 23 of its teams have reached the playoffs. Only the Expos/Nationals, Royals, Pirates, Orioles, Blue Jays, Rangers and Reds missed out. If you tie team payroll ranking to the equation, looking at who is making the postseason and how often, you see that clubs at the low end of the revenue spectrum can make the postseason, just not as often. With the exception of Oakland and Minnesota, low-revenue clubs see an exceptionally small window. Consider this: of the 23 clubs that made the playoffs, the top nine in payroll made up 58 percent of the postseason appearances. That makes sense: If you invest wisely in player payroll, you increase your chances of making the postseason. From there, the dynamics can change. Just ask the Marlins, Rays, Rockies, and Diamondbacks.”

Here’s the bottom line to Brown’s bottom line: Is there competitive imbalance in baseball? Yes. Is it because of the disparity in revenue between the Yankees and Red Sox and just about everyone else? Yes. But baseball just happens to have a system that is fairer than any other sport’s.


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