Ten Changes over the Next Decade for Baseball
#5 Competive Balance Issues Addressed Again
As I sit here watching game 7 of the 1992 NLCS, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves history took polarized turns after this game. The Pirates have not had a winning season since 1992 and the Braves went on to win a World Series and they were in year two of fourteen consecutive winning seasons. Competitive balance has been a big conversation in baseball since free agency dollars started having such an impact which has resulted in increased costs for the fans and the corporate clients. Baseball, just as all sports has become an expensive activity to enjoy on a regular basis in most markets. Large market teams have been well equipped to spend on player talent and improve their team easier than opponents in small or medium markets. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals have 1 winning season since the 1992 season. They are a collective 1-33. This is not healthy for the sport to have two teams with strong histories to be simply woeful over the years.
What the Rays did in 2008 was remarkable and helped temper the talks of competitive balance trouble in baseball. Their model for success was executed perfectly and it is the model that the Pirates and Orioles have been building and rebuilding upon year after year without success (Pittsburgh and Baltimore were the only two teams from the decade that did not have at least one winning season).
While there should never be a perfect competitive balance. What the fans in Pittsburgh have had to endure since 1992 is terrible for the game of baseball. Even one winning season every five years and a playoff appearance each decade would be an upgrade on nearly 20 years of losing. In part, team management is at fault. The way that large market teams operate is also at fault. Not being able to solve this problem at the previous two collective bargaining agreements puts both the office of the commissioner and the MLBPA at fault too. In essence, everyone is at fault for this issue and it is going to need to have new resolutions during this decade that will change revenue sharing and the luxury tax. A point of reference to the amount of money that has entered the free agent market since 2000 is shown easily by the average MLB player salary. In 2009, that figure was 3.26M, in 2000 that figure was 1.99M(64% increase). Small market teams just can't keep up with that spending increase unless they execute perfectly like the 2008 Rays. Or should I say 2005 Rays, when they launched their player development plan because the rebuilding process takes a significant amount of time.
In the next decade, watch for competitive balance talk to return to the forefront.