Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The More Things Change...

It's a familiar lament in baseball that just like in life, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Just ask any Kansas City fan. Teams like Kansas City can't compete because of the imbalance of financial conditions of certain teams that can fill holes with money to spare. Typical for Kansas City was to lose one of the best up and coming outfielders. They bowed down to financial pressure and let the outfielder go to a richer team. He went on to become a star and his team had success on the field. Poor Kansas City fans riled with bitterness watching that outfielder perform on the national stage in the post season. Typical and a product of modern baseball, right?

But we're not talking about Johnny Damon or Carlos Beltran. The outfielder was Roger Maris who had a 126 OPS in 1959 for the Kansas City Athletics. Maris, as most of us know, went on to win two straight MVP awards with the Yankees in 1960 and 1961.

Another power house team won appeared in the World Series and the very next year landed in last place. No, that team wasn't the Marlins, it was the 1914/1915 Philadelphia Athletics. Connie Mack's team had been to the World Series four out of five years while averaging 96 wins during that span (in a 154 game season). They won three of those series. But by 1914, the team was broke and Mack had a fire sale. The next two years, that once powerful team won a combined 79 games. Wow, that should make some fans feel better.

There has always been teams that were richer and teams that were poorer. The Boston Braves couldn't buy anything and escaped to Milwaukee and just barely. And yet, we are constantly hearing that there is unfair competition because some teams have more money than others and it's getting worse and it's a recent phenomenon. It isn't. It's always been that way. Always.

The Oakland A's were the best team in baseball. With Reggie Jackson, Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers and others, they won several championships. But eventually, Charlie Finley couldn't afford them and they all went away to richer teams. It was true then and it's true now.

So yeah, Royals' fans can talk about Beltran and Damon and others and say it isn't fair. And they have some merit in their feelings. But it's no different when the Kansas City team of the 1950s was joked as being another of the Yankees' farm teams because of all the players the A's sent the Yankees' way. The Red Sox sent Ruth to New York for the same reason 90 years ago as Sabathia signed with them last year--the Yankees could afford them.

As many writers have pointed out, MLB competition over the last 20 years fares very favorably with the NFL and other sports. That means that poorer teams can reach the top. The reality is that just like Connie Mack's A's and Charlie Finley's A's, they just can't stay there for very long.

Update - Here is a link to someone who said it much better than this post ever could.

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