It’s hard to care about baseball if you’re not from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or another similarly big market.
The 2021 postseason comes down to Boston taking on Houston and Atlanta taking on the winner of the Los Angeles/San Francisco matchup tonight.
From a league perspective, baseball is doing what it should be doing. The most marketable teams are advancing to the playoffs, where hardcore baseball fans can enjoy the classic battles of the big market teams.
It’s Yankees/Red Sox culture, where two massive fan bases get to celebrate that baseball is made for them, while everyone else gets told that this is the baseball that should be celebrated.
Who are those fans who actually watch the game with the same intensity when their favorite team is eliminated?
I’d have to think gamblers and fantasy players make a big portion of that, which is why every major outlet focuses on those two accessories to sports.
But what is MLB doing to its long-term, 30-team fanbase by continuing to allow the league to cater to the top ten?
The Atlanta Braves are now the small market team in the playoffs, opening the season with around $150 million in payroll, ranking just inside the top half of the league.
The three remaining teams opened the season inside the top ten in payroll, and are names we’ve seen before. Here are the last seven World Series winners:
2014 – San Francisco
2015 – Kansas City
2016 – Chicago Cubs
2017 – Houston
2018 – Boston
2019 – Washington
2020 – Los Angeles Dodgers
Three of those teams will remain in the League Championship Series this year.
If the Dodgers advance to the World Series, it will be the fourth appearance for them in five years.
The Astros would make three in that time span.
The Red Sox could have their second appearance in five years.
The Giants have won three World Series titles since 2010.
The Atlanta Braves would be the only semblance of parity of the remaining teams.
The only team remaining that would allow MLB to say, with a straight face, that the league is fair because there have been eight different World Series winners in the last eight years.
That doesn’t mean there is parity in the sport. In a league that has 30 teams, you could get that result while still shutting out over a third of teams from real competition.
If there was actual parity, the Kansas City Royals wouldn’t be the only exception on that list. The Royals haven’t had a winning season since. Meanwhile, the Dodgers, Astros, Giants, and Red Sox have all won a World Series in the last seven years and all have another shot this year, among their other shots in previous years.
MLB has parity for half the league, and parody for the other half.
As a fan of small market baseball, I’m just sitting here waiting for the Arizona Fall League.
I can’t imagine I’m the only one.