While I’m completely ecstatic about the Pirates making the playoffs (and clinching a home game, to boot), I can’t help but see the dark side of this situation. Call me a pessimist, but the success of the Pirates (and A’s and Rays and Indians and Royals) this year gives the large market a means of dismissing the need for wholesale MLB economic reform.
The fact that small budget teams are winning is fantastic. It proves that front office intelligence has the ability to defeat the brute force spendthuggery of teams like the Yankees and Angels. We love that stuff.
Hell, even big markets fans love that stuff. I can’t tell you how many Red Sox and Yankees fans told me that they were rooting for the Pirates this year. They’d usually see my hat; say something nice about McCutchen (McClutchen, McCrutchen, etc.); say something about Pittsburgh deserving a winner; that they’ve heard that PNC is an amazing place to see a game; and express some well wishes toward the playoffs.
They get it. Even in their big money blindness, they get it. They understand that it’s just more exciting to see the underdog win. And from that we must assume that, at some level (maybe a deep, dark, unexplored level) Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers fans know how unattractive and obnoxious their teams are – with their bloated payrolls, stances of entitlement, and abuse of the forgiving wrist-slap spending rules/penalties of Major League Baseball.
So let’s revel in the success of the Pirates. I really, really (really, really!) hope they meet the Red Sox in the World Series (rematch of ’03 – best of nine anyone?). That would truly be a dream come true.
But let’s not forget that just because the Pirates and A’s (and probably Rays) will be playing this October, it doesn’t mean we still don’t need a hard salary cap in baseball. The players union has been weakened by the drug abuse of its own members. They don’t have as strong a leg to stand on these days (as evidenced by the momentum MLB is gaining with PED penalties), so the time might be right to score a big win for competitive balance.
Bud Selig could make this his legacy. Instead of being remembered as a wishy-washy drug enabler, he could become the champion of the common man. We need a salary cap now. Email Bud today at firstname.lastname@example.org Tell him what you think!