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Starkey: MLB 'parity' a sham

| Friday, Oct. 16, 2009

Hope you enjoy Major League Baseball's version of the Final Four, even if games are snowed out ... even if the World Series stretches to its last scheduled date of Nov. 5 (or later) ... and even though the only teams still standing spent at least $100 million on players.

What a farce.

I'm not sure which is more outrageous, that commissioner Bud Selig continues to push the parity myth, or that so many national pundits continue to buy and disseminate it.

This is what Bud told the Los Angeles Times, regarding the second consecutive season in which five of the top 10-spending teams made the playoffs while nine of the bottom 10 sat home.

"I think this year is an aberration. In the last five years, we've had as much competitive balance as we've ever had."

Wow. Not only is Bud allowed to skate free with such a preposterous statement, he is backed on it. The parity pushers love to recite the fact that from 2005-2008, eight World Series slots were filled by eight different teams.

What they don't tell you is that the payrolls of the World Series winners were $75.1 million (White Sox); $88.8 million (Cardinals); $143 million (Red Sox) and $98.2 million (Phillies).

The fact that so many people consider this season to be an "aberration" inspired me to research and prove what I already knew - that baseball's economic system is blatantly unfair, giving the largest-revenue teams a monstrous advantage that is consistently reflected in the standings.

Call it my Bh.D project, the letters standing for "Bud's highly Delusional."

Bud says the years 2004-08 were competitively balanced. The facts disagree. The facts tell us that of the 48 teams with a sub-$60 million payroll during that span, only 13 had a winning record and only four made the playoffs. That's a .083 batting average, which would be good for Brian Bixler but doesn't exactly spawn hope for the lower third of the league's spenders.

Meanwhile, of the 30 teams that spent at least $100 million, 26 had a winning record and 16 made the playoffs.

Let us review: More than half of the $100 million teams made the playoffs, compared to fewer than one in 10 of the sub-$60 million teams. Nearly 90 percent of the $100 million teams had a winning record, compared to 27 percent of the sub-$60 million teams.

So, tell me, are we talking parity or parody?

By the way, look at what has become of two of the Pirates' low-revenue role models: The Oakland A's have posted three consecutive losing seasons, and the Cleveland Indians have failed to produce a winning record in six of eight.

Only the Minnesota Twins continue to defy the odds as a lower-revenue team that consistently challenges for division titles.

That makes one.

My Bh.D project, incidentally, goes back to the turn of the millennium. Pirates president Frank Coonelly and every other lower-revenue, smaller-market executive should use these nuggets when it comes time for a new CBA in 2011:

• Of the 40 "Final Four" teams since 2000, 22 were top-10 payrolls, seven were bottom-10 — and you don't need Bill James to tell you that a .550 average looks real good next to .175.

• While at least one top-10 payroll made the "Final Four" every year, the bottom-10 was not represented five times. Oh, and if you want to talk about an "aberration," try 2007, when three bottom-10 payrolls made the "Final Four." That was the only year this decade when more than one went that far.

• Thirty of the 40 "Final Four" teams had a payroll of at least $70 million. Of the 10 under $70 million, only three were under $50 million.

All of which is why I had to chuckle at a recent New York Times column, one that wished for a Yankees-Dodgers World Series so that baseball could "reinforce its roots, and, yes, (its) relative purity."

The only thing a Yankees-Dodgers Series would reinforce is the inequity of Major League Baseball's idiotic economic system.

Parody, indeed.

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