The Marlins have charged into the thick of the NL Wild Card race. The Yankees acquired two useful relievers for next to nothing. The Pirates also showed it was a buyer’s market, selling Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, and Mike Williams for modest returns. These and other news and notes out of Florida, New York, and Pittsburgh in today’s Prospectus Triple Play.
Congratulations to Eddie Murray, Gary Carter, Bob Uecker and Hal McCoy for their inclusion among baseball’s immortals. Uecker’s speech was one I hoped to hear, but Comcast doesn’t see fit to provide me with ESPN Classic among the 16 versions of Lifetime spread across the 340 channels of digital cable.
And speaking of things that I’d like to see: if they can’t have the exhibition game there during induction weekend, why not put together a team of reserves and prospects and play an exhibition under, say, 1896 rules. Pick a different year every year, do up the (marketable) uniforms and funny hats, and for at least a couple years, people would watch. It couldn’t be any worse an idea than “This Time It Counts!”
The sky is falling! The Huns are at the gates! Dogs and cats have been eyeing each other lustily! There’s a competitive imbalance problem, where 28 teams entered the season with no chance of finishing within 40 games of .500!
OK, enough of that. The notion that Major League Baseball has a competitive imbalance problem has been so thoroughly discredited in these and other forums that I’m not going to waste too much time on it here, although some of the supporting data below touch on it tangentially. It’s actually a worthwhile question to note that the extended playoffs might have pushed things to the point where MLB has a competitive balance problem, which in the NFL is known as the parody of parity. It’s possible that it’s currently too difficult for a well-run club to sustain prolonged excellence, not because of some silliness about market resources, but because the playoff marathon frequently randomly robs the best teams of chances at deserved high-revenue World Series shots. I think we’re in the range where this is a matter of individual aesthetic choice, though, so we’ll leave that discussion for after the incoming (duck) round of playoff expansion. In the meantime, I want to show you what actual competitive imbalance actually looks like on a large scale, identify some of the causes, and discuss just how big a problem competitive imbalance actually is.
College baseball has a considerable amount of competitive imbalance. There are factors that have nothing to do with baseball that have a great effect on the quality of team that a school is likely to field, variables like weather (which, due to the early schedule, influence the amount and type of practice a team can get), enrollment, tuition, and how many games the football and basketball teams have won lately. With my External Factors Index, I’ve done some analysis on this stuff; you can create a single number which has a .82 correlation with results in my rating system (which only considers on-field results). It’s certainly possible to overcome these factors–which Rice was nice enough to demonstrate by winning this year’s College World Series–but the issues do exist.
Rich Harden sparkles in his major league debut. Aramis Ramirez apparently thinks he’s been traded to the Braves. Sadly, George Brett may be better known for pine tar than for being one of the greatest third basemen in baseball history. Brendan Donnelly gave up a run, a sure sign that the apocalypse is near. Mike Hargrove has an exceptional grasp of the obvious. These and other pontifications in The Week In Quotes.