A Solution for Parity in MLB

Theo GeromeCorrespondent IIIMarch 19, 2010

BRADENTON, FL - MARCH 14:  Pitcher C.C. Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at McKechnie Field on March 14, 2010 in Bradenton, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

The issue of parity has come up frequently since the end of last season. Many have argued that MLB has become unfair to certain teams, and several ideas have come of it. However, I believe that I have the perfect solution to the problem.

First, though, some refutations. Baseball is not nearly as unequal as some would have you believe; as ESPN writer Jayson Stark noted on his January 18 blog entry, eight different teams won the World Series in the last decade, while only seven teams won the Super Bowl in the same time span, despite the NFL’s reputation as being a fairer league. Also, the breakdown of teams to reach the semifinals of each league’s playoffs is identical. Each league had 21 different teams in the semifinals, 10 of whom made that round twice, four of which made it three times, three of which made it four times, and two of which made it five. When we consider that the NFL has two additional teams, MLB gains a slight advantage in percentage of teams to reach the semifinals for each number of times.

Another refutation that I have to make is that of a salary cap. Many people are already against this concept for several reasons. Most point out that it is unlikely to happen, as the MLB Player’s Union would have to okay it. Additionally, this move would essentially guarantee larger profits for the owners and little else (as several studies have already disproved the link between ticket prices and player salaries). Also, owners that spend money to compete would be punished, while stingier owners would be unintentionally helped. Salary caps can also have additional problems (I would recommend a quick look at this Wall Street Journal article ).

Realignment has gotten some attention as of late, but many fans agree that the plan is filled with holes, which I will not go into here. Both ideas may help if implemented in smaller scale, such as improved revenue sharing or changes to scheduling. However, there is a simpler solution.

Add two more wild cards to each league. Treat it like the NFL, and give the two best records byes. Or do something else. Either way, adding four more playoff teams would completely mask, if not compensate, for any faults in parity. For example, I went through the last decade’s playoffs for both sports. 29 of 32 NFL teams reached the playoffs at least once (Buffalo, Houston, and Detroit were left out), while only 23 of 30 MLB teams did (Toronto, Baltimore, Kansas City, Texas, Washington, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh). However, if we were to adjust the NFL playoffs to something similar to MLB’s system, the numbers change. If we only take each league’s division winners, three more would miss every playoff of the decade (Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Washington). As many as seven more would only make one postseason in that time frame. On the other hand, if MLB took its division winners and its three next best in each league, they would have had as many as 26 teams in the playoffs this decade. The only teams left out would be Baltimore, Kansas City, Washington, and Pittsburgh, all of which have outside circumstances (read: incompetent ownership) for at least part of the decade. As many of 16 of these new slots would have gone to teams with two or fewer playoff appearances this decade.

These extra teams would require an extra round of playoffs, which would essentially mix the results even more. As they are now, the playoffs serve as a randomization, due to the nature of the sport. The best team does not always win a short series. So, more rounds mean the greater chance that different teams will move on. Also, these two extra slots means teams will not always get stuck under two dueling powerhouses during the regular season (such as the Yankees and Red Sox over the rest of the AL East).

In conclusion, it seems adding four playoff teams would be the quickest, and possibly most efficient, action MLB could take in regards to calls for greater parity.