Once that happens, it goes back to simple economics. And despite a luxury tax and some amount of revenue sharing, Major League Baseball remains a caste system, and proud of it, almost reeling when someone other than the rich guys has success.
Over and over, we’ve heard that the large markets and the big-name teams deliver the higher TV ratings. Then that perception becomes reality, and a Giants-Rangers World Series is treated as a contagious disease that must be avoided, instead of a wonderful story that should be highlighted.
From a long-term standpoint, this does not help baseball one bit. In essence, you’re telling at least 20 of the 30 teams that they don’t count, even when they’re good. Add to it an economy still in the dredges, and no wonder game attendance has sunk in so many places, even where teams have recent playoff appearances and a rather rich history, like Cincinnati.
Now, look at the stadium issues on two coasts. Oakland, the focus of Moneyball, still is in search of a way to get out of the Coliseum and into a real ballpark, so that it can have actual revenue streams. Despite all that it’s done well, Tampa Bay’s long-term viability is nonexistent unless it gets a stadium that doesn’t have a catwalk.
No one is saying that baseball needs a strict salary cap system as in the other major pro sports. But it wouldn’t hurt to have a sport where fans of every team have some sense of optimism. And by that, I don’t mean the spring-training-everyone-has-a-chance optimism, but real hope that, every season, they have the will, and the means, to go out there and compete.
It says something that even the most iconic of players are vulnerable to earth-shaking moves if they’re not in pinstripes. Never once, in his prime, did Derek Jeter have to consider whether his team could afford him, as St. Louis must do with Albert Pujols, or be sure that they can’t afford him at all, as Milwaukee faces with Prince Fielder.