What's a Level Playing Field?
Here’s a quick quote from Tyler Kepner’s piece yesterday defending Major League Baseball from the likes of, I assume, Jonathan Mahler, who, in the Times last week, wrote about how baseball was no longer central to the culture. One of Kepner's talking points is how MLB has leveled its playing field:
Twenty-six of the 30 teams—all but Kansas City, Miami, Seattle and Toronto—have reached the playoffs in the last eight seasons.
Fans in Seattle: *heavy sigh*
Not sure why Kepner limited it to eight seasons, though. Two years earlier, Miami, then Florida, won its second World Series title, so he could've eliminated them by making it an even 10. Toronto has its two titles, of course (’92 and ’93), while KC its one (’85). Which leaves our Seattle Mariners as the worst of the worst. No trips to the postseason in eight years; no trips to the World Series ever. Despite the talent that came through here in the 1990s. Despite “Refuse to Lose.” Ever since, it’s been “Stallin’ to Win.” They’re good at that. I’m talking the front office. I’m talking Lincoln and Armstrong.
Kepner’s math is also a bit off. Does he mean the last eight seasons including this one? That’s the only way you include the Pirates. Or does he mean 2005, too? That's the only way you include Houston. In eight seasons you can't have both, yet he includes both. So he obviously means eight-plus seasons. Nearly nine.
What does Kepner's level playing field look like anyway? Here's a chart of the post-season trips, etc, dating back to 2005, and including 2013 thus far:
Not that level. A few teams still dominate, and titles are won by those few teams: Yankees, Cards, Phillies, Red Sox. The ChiSox and especially the San Francisco Giants are the exceptions to this latter rule. Generally the more often you get to the post-season, the better your chance of winning it all. The Braves, Twins and Reds are exceptions. Numerous trips, not even a championship series, let alone a pennant, let alone a title.
At the least, though, these eight-plus years are more level than the previous 10, 1995-2004, when the Yankees won four titles and six pennants. That's the sad thing about this unlevel playing field. It's comparatively level.
The Giants are 2 for 2 in recent postseasons.