Welcome to baseball parity.
After years of lamenting about the haves (Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers) having a distinct advantage over the have-nots (Oakland, Kansas City, Tampa Bay), Major League Baseball’s transformation into a league where every team has a chance at the postseason is nearly complete.
The addition of the second wild-card spot, which started last season, has given any team hanging around .500 a belief that a playoff spot can be earned.
And this season, there are plenty of teams in the vicinity of .500 that can dare to dream. Of the 30 teams in baseball, there are 22 teams that are over .500 or within three games of it.
“Isn’t this wonderful?’’ commissioner Bud Selig told USA Today. “This is what we set out to do. We have, unquestionably, more competitive balance than at any time in history. We had to do a lot of things to achieve this, make changes in the economic system, and it has led us to where we are today.”
It’s why the Minnesota Twins spent the money to sign Kendrys Morales to a one-year contract a few days after the MLB draft.
It’s why teams aren’t as likely to wave the white flag and start dumping players for prospects.
It’s why the Mariners and their .235 team batting average can still try to find a bat or two to make a push for the postseason.
It’s why more fans can still believe there is meaningful baseball being played late into the summer.
In all three American League divisions, the leaders Oakland, Toronto and Detroit have leads of 3 1/2 games or less going into Saturday’s games. In the National League, the Giants carry a seven-game lead over the Dodgers, but the N.L. East has Atlanta and Washington tied, while the Brewers’ lead in the N.L. Central has been whittled down to 4 1/2 games.
With the exception of San Francisco, no team has pulled away yet. That could change in a month. But this season has shown that the margin between the best teams and the worst has been reduced. There isn’t a true dominant team.
Selig believes the rise in overall attendance, which is at a high for the last decade, is a product of the parity, er, competitive balance.
“The fact that this is the best 10 years in attendance in history is no accident,” he said.