With nearly a month to go until the All-Star Game in New York, one looks at the standings this season and sees some surprises. For some of us, the parity is a big one.
Who would have thought Tampa Bay would be 11 games over .500 in mid-June?
Who could believe the team with the most wins in baseball would be the Chicago Cubs? Even if it is only by one win.
Even more surprising is the parity we find in today's game. 50 years ago it was all the Yankees, 30 years ago there was the Big Red Machine, in the 80's we had the Oakland A's, and the 90's had the Atlanta Braves and Yankees again representing baseball's elite.
Now, the elite is a melting-pot of teams like the Boston Red Sox, both the Chicago clubs, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (which is really tough to say five times fast).
While these teams have the best records today, a week from now the whole picture could be totally different. That's how close everyone is behind them. That's what makes the game exciting for longtime fans like me and hopefully many many others.
Surprisingly, the first-place divisional team in baseball with the largest lead over the second place team is the Chicago White Sox who are six and a half games in front of the Minnesota Twins. Man, the Twins must miss Santana right now. But even a six and a half game lead isn't really that much of a concern at this stage of the season.
The standings don't really have significance until after the All-Star Game. That's when it's time to start playing your best ball and forget about the first half. Once the trade-deadline passes and the calendar flips to August, then we go full-throttle until the end of the season with only a pit stop for reinforcements in September when the minor league season concludes.
What's more surprising right now are the teams currently in the cellar or are just keeping their necks from being in the cellar—entertaining teams like the Mets, the Rockies, the Yankees, and the Padres. These were all playoff caliber teams within the past few seasons, or in the Yankees' case every season. What's going on?
The game of baseball, while the rules generally stay the same, is constantly evolving. Over time the players change positions, ability, and sometimes teams, just as the coaches, managers, and GM's come and go too. The World Series trophy hasn't gone to the same team two years in a row since the Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000.
The game seems to thrive on the parity as well, generating record numbers of fans coming to see the games live. Baseball is good for TV too, as stations that air ballgames get good ratings during those time slots.
Football doesn't have baseball's parity, certainly not even close to similar length of season either, but honestly I think the fans prefer it that way. It's more entertaining right now.
Baseball truly is the greatest American Pass-time.
With so many games to be played, so many teams, players, and coaches fighting hard everyday and so many fans coming out to see them all, how can anyone say any game in America, or the world, is better?