It’s not just baseball. Take anything you want and it’s always going to boil down to a history of the haves versus the have-nots. Imagine how boring baseball, or any other sport for that matter, would be if all teams were equal in every way possible. To carry the idea to its illogical conclusion, a game would never end because neither team was better than the other. Imbalance is good, and MLB should consider itself fortunate to still have it.
Dan Szymborski, writing for ESPN, laments that there are no “tales of the underdog” rising to victory from the agony of defeat in baseball anymore. And that the fairytale story of the Chicago Cubs wasn’t really that at all, because the Cubs “were supposed to win.” But whether that’s splitting hairs or not, does it really matter?
Isn’t the only thing that really matters the fact that we witnessed one of the most highly contested and entertaining World Series in recent baseball history? And that the two teams matched against each other were just the actors on stage giving a performance that is destined to be recounted again and again?
The fact that there is an imbalance among teams in baseball is a good thing and it should be embraced by all fans. We all know about the revenue disparity that exists and will continue to exist, despite the efforts of MLB to temper it through revenue sharing. But at the same time, we also know that being at the top of the revenue chain doesn’t automatically transfer to being at the top of the standings.
True parity, even if it could be achieved, is not desirable in baseball for the same reason that socialism has failed as an economic system. Where’s the “juice” in life if everyone is the same? Where’s the mystery, and where’s the intrigue? Where are the challenges, for example, in NASCAR racing when all engines are, in theory at least, equal and tuned to the same specifications?
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Imbalance in baseball does not, as the aforementioned article suggests, make the upcoming season irrelevant because the Cubs and Red Sox should be given the right to print and sell World Series tickets tomorrow. Quite the opposite is true, and if anything, 2017 is likely to be even more interesting and exciting than 2016. In fact, just that question alone as to whether either or both teams can fulfill their expectations over the course of a 162-game season is enough drama to carry the season.
But there are still other more intriguing questions that will have answers filled in by October. For instance, which one or more of the sleeper teams will emerge from the pack this year to exceed their expectations? Who will emerge as the Rick Porcello of 2017 and even win a Cy Young one year after going 9-13 with an ERA approaching 5.00? Will Ichiro ever get old? The list goes on and on.
It’s always been said that the reason why baseball maintains itself as America’s National Pastime is because it mirrors our society as a whole. And while rags to riches stories exist, they are the exception and not the norm. Though unlikely, it would be a great baseball story if the Philadelphia Phillies or the Baltimore Orioles made it deep into the playoffs next season. But on the other hand, would it be the same story if both teams were balanced equally against the Cubs or Red Sox?
We should not lament the fact that baseball is imbalanced. Instead, we should embrace it and do everything we can to preserve and celebrate it. Because the last thing baseball needs is a bunch of also-rans qualifying for the playoffs with .500 and sometimes even sub-.500 records like we see in the NBA, and to a lesser extent in the NFL as well. Parity breeds malaise. Imbalance breeds rivalry and spirited competition between the haves and the have-nots. Thankfully, baseball chooses the latter.