Opening Day and Competitive Balance

Well, opening day is here for the third time this season. Now I think is a good time to view the competitiveness of the league before all the winning and losing starts. The “Blue Ribbon” Panel of Bud Selig states the standard for competitiveness is “every well-run club has a regularly recurring reasonable hope of reaching postseason play.” While, this is only one season I think it is interesting how few teams currently do not have a hope of reaching the post-season this year. According to all the predictions I have seen, the following teams (by division) appear destined to miss the playoffs already.

AL East: Tampa, Baltimore
Al Central: Detroit
AL West: Texas
NL East: NY Mets, Montreal
NL Central: Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee
NL West: Colorado

One-third of the league (10 teams) is likely to miss the post-season. I am not sure if this is high or low, but that seems pretty good to me. Someone has to lose, right?
And when I look at the long-run state of the game things look even better. Only Tampa, Detroit, and Texas are hopeless due to bad management. They are 100% rebuilding or simply not trying (I’m looking right at you Tampa Bay) this year. Montreal has no owner and will move, and no one should expect them to compete. The rest are trying, but will likely fall short. They are all waiting for next year. So, that is a total of five teams who will likely not make the past-season this year or next. Also, I think there is a very good chance that one of the “hopeless” teams will have a surprise year. So, at the start of it all the state of baseball seems pretty good to me. It seems to me that very few baseball fans have reason to start the season without a “reasonable hope of reaching post-season play.”

And how does market size play into this? Well, you certainly have the big-market winners (Yankees and Red Sox) and your small-market losers (Reds and Brewers). But don’t forget about the big-market flops (Mets, Tigers, and Orioles) and the small- market winners (Royals, Cardinals, and Twins).

Update: Rob Neyer has a interesting column that makes a related observation.

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