Is it just a matter of hope for baseball fans?
With MLB’s All-Star Game fast approaching, baseball’s calendar will flip from its first half to second. With it, teams jockeying for position at the top of the standings will look to make a stretch run that will keep them there and push them into the postseason. But for some teams, the mid-point of the season might as well be its end. Teams such as the Orioles, Indians, and Mariners find themselves so far back in the standings that their focus is already on next season. So do only a handful of teams have a chance at the playoffs each and every year? Based on the last decade, the answer is no.
From 2000 to 2009, MLB saw 23 of its 30 teams (77 percent) make the playoffs. Only the Expos/Nationals, Royals, Pirates, Orioles, Blue Jays, Rangers and Reds missed going to the postseason during that time. By comparison, the NFL has seen 29 of its 32 teams make the playoffs with only the Bills, Texans, and Lions missing the postseason. The NBA had all but one miss the postseason (Charlotte), while the NHL had all 30 reach the playoffs over the last decade.
But is the MLB’s 77-percent figure really low compared to the others? Is that proof that there is an imbalance? Hardly.
Major League Baseball has eight playoff spots available to the 30 teams in the league each year, or 27 percent. In the NFL, 12 of 32 (38 percent) teams make the playoffs each season, while in the NBA and NHL, 16 of the 30 teams (53 percent) advance each season. The low number of teams in the playoffs for MLB is a matter of practicality on one level as the postseason in late October or early November sees the impact of the weather. Expanding the playoffs would mean either lengthening the postseason or shortening the regular season, something owners would likely reject due to loss of revenues for those clubs that did not make the postseason.
And yet, with all the extra playoff spots available, it is Major League Baseball, not the NFL, NBA, and NHL that have seen the most parity in terms of championships.
So, the league and union have forged a stronger relationship that looks to prevent a work stoppage, and MLB has most of its teams making the playoffs. But, for the fans of the Pirates or Royals, who have been consummate cellar dwellers, is it the system or those in charge of running the clubs that are to blame. In discussions with several high-ranking executives within MLB, there is agreement that poor management is likely to blame. Still, Rob Manfred believes the system is equitable for all.
“Baseball has always been about going through cycles,” said Manfred. “We believe all our franchises are well run and that ultimately the management of those franchises will eventually all produce cycles of winning, given enough time.”
Maury Brown is a contributor to NBCSports, and the President of the Business of Sports Network which includes BizofBaseball.com
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