Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci makes for interesting reading in an article today about where baseball stands at its halfway point in the season.
This baseball season is best represented by the Cincinnati Reds. Through their first 80 games, the Reds were 40-40 overall, 20-20 at home, 20-20 on the road, 36-36 in nine-inning games, 4-4 in extra inning games, 28-28 against right-handed pitchers, and 12-12 against left-handed pitchers. And where did such monumental mediocrity get them? Just one game in the loss column out of first place in the NL Central.
Parity -- otherwise known as competitive balance around MLB offices -- means anything close to .500 is contending. As this week began, marking the official second half of the season, 17 of the 30 teams were separated by just five or fewer losses. Eighteen teams were within four games of a playoff spot. The Mariners were closer to the playoffs than the Rays. The Astros were nearer the playoffs than the Mets.
The baseball season breaks down like this: you have the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers playing for October, then you have 19 teams that are fairly interchangeable, and then you have eight teams that are playing for next year. Of course, it's not quite that simple, but you get the idea.
Baseball 2009 means a wide-open playing field. It also means possible runs for .400 and a Triple Crown, a generation of young starting pitchers dominating the game, and a golden age of all-time great managers still at the top of their game.
And then there's ESPN's Peter Gammons weighing in on what's likely to be a quiet trade deadline.
George Streinbrenner's birthday seems to be a good time for a reminder that Bud Selig's revenue sharing has flattened the baseball earth. Salary cap or no salary cap. In this century, eight different teams have won nine World Series, compared to seven different NFL teams winning 10 Super Bowls, five different NBA teams winning 10 championships.
Ask Hal Steinbrenner and John Henry how much they're funding the delicate balance of power. Ask Fred Wilpon, and he'll point out that on July 4 the Florida Marlins are buyers and believe they can win the NL East.
Pittsburgh is only 6.5 games back in the wild card race, but there is no way the Pirates will get that spot. Arizona, San Diego, Washington, Oakland, Cleveland, Kansas City and Baltimore are out of it. Toronto is five back in the wild card and on the bubble. Otherwise, the AL East's big three are within five games of one another; the charging White Sox have made the AL Central a wild race, with three teams separated by four games; Texas and L.A. are tied in the AL West; four teams are within two games in the NL East; five teams are within four games in the NL Central; and while the Dodgers are off on "Mannygan's Island" in the NL West, the Giants and Rockies are No. 1 and 2 for the wild card.
That's how it works with revenue sharing and without a salary cap. In the last 25 World Series, 18 different franchises have won; the Yanks have won four, and the others with multiple championships are the Twins, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Marlins.
.........What is good for the industry is that at the midpoint weekend of the season, 22 of the 30 teams have hope -- two of the three sub-.400 teams (Arizona and Cleveland) have extraordinary young players -- and the Marlins are buyers in their attempt to not only win the NL East but finish with their fifth winning record in the last seven seasons.