Jeff Wolfe's Weblog

Saturday, September 21, 2002

SHAWN BLACKFORD, 1985-2002 - My nephew died Thursday, after a short battle with cancer. Memorial donations may be made to American Cancer Society or Columbus Children's Hospital.

UPDATE: Shawn's obituary can be viewed here.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

WHY IRAQ? - I've been thinking about why we are about to attack Iraq, and not the real enemy, Saudi Arabia.

Most of the debate has been focused on the first part of that question, so I decided to look at the second part a bit. I pulled out a map to see how I might execute a war against Saud-controlled Arabia if I were the general in charge. It wouldn't be easy. Once you no longer count Saudi Arabia as a friend, the U.S. doesn't have very many friends left in the region. Israel and Kuwait are too small (and Israel is unsuitable in any event for obvious reasons), and Turkey and Afghanistan are too far away.

If we need somewhere from which to base an attack on Saud-controlled Arabia, and none of our current bases are suitable, where do we turn? Going back to the map, we see that the best situated country is probably... Iraq.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

ANNIVERSARY - I'm afraid I don't have anything useful to add to the discussion of the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks that have come to be known collectively as "9/11," but I did want to mark the occasion. To the memory of those who died and to their families....

Thursday, September 05, 2002

THE MYTH OF COMPETITIVE IMBALANCE - Reason Online has a new article about how Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, specifically the revenue sharing portion, will make things worse, not better. It says, "Baseball's push for economic reform was founded upon wildly overstated competitive-balance concerns." The competitive-balance concerns aren't overstated, though, they're flat-out inaccurate.

Before this season, 23 of the 30 teams had made the playoffs at least once in the previous 10 years. And there were only 64 playoff spots available in that 10-year period (1992-2001).

Only seven teams didn't make the playoffs in that span. Two of those look to make the playoffs this year: Minnesota is currently leading the American League Central by 12-1/2 games, and Anaheim is leading the American League Wild Card race by 3-1/2 games. One of the seven, Montreal, was leading its division in 1994 when the player's strike ended the season. One, Tampa Bay, only began play in 1998. And the other three, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Kansas City (plus Minnesota), had the misfortune of playing in the American League Central in the late 1990's, when Cleveland won the division every year.

But what about the Yankees and their free-spending ways? George Steinbrenner has never been one to hold back when it comes to spending money on players. But the Yankees only made the playoffs three times between their championships of 1978 and 1996--and not at all from 1982 to 1993. The turnaround didn't come from spending money, but from the Yankees' uncharacteristic use of their farm system. Key players including Soriano, Posada, Bernie Williams, Jeter, Rivera and Pettitte all came up from the minor leagues. If the Yankees falter, it won't be because of revenue sharing, it will be because the pipeline is dry: their top minor league affiliate (and my local team), the Columbus Clippers, just finished the season in last place.

As we saw, looking at the last ten years reveals a strikingly balanced picture in Major League Baseball. If you go back another decade, the picture is downright astounding. Since 1980, every team has made the playoffs at least once, except one of the 1998 expansion teams (the other 1998 expansion team and both 1993 expansion teams have made the playoffs, with two of them winning the World Series.) And it's not just limited to squeaking into the first round of the playoffs: fully half of the teams in Major League Baseball have won the World Series at least once since 1980. Fifteen different winners out of the last 21 World Series (16 out of 22, if you include 1979 winner Pittsburgh) is hardly a measure of imbalance.

An interesting angle is looking at who has been shut out of the playoffs the longest. Except for Montreal, which had a playoff run stopped by the 1994 strike, the longest record for futility belongs to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers last made the playoffs in 1982, when they won the American League Eastern Division title and the AL pennant. Perhaps realignment has hurt them, as they moved to the AL Central Division in 1994, and then to the National League Central Division in 1998. Or perhaps they have other priorities. As I mentioned in March, the most profitable team in baseball last year was the Milwaukee Brewers. As a so-called "small market" team, revenue sharing could only push those profits higher. Surely it's only a coincidence that the team was formerly owned by one of the biggest champions of revenue sharing, Commissioner Bud Selig. After all, Selig no longer owns the team. His daughter does.

Or maybe that explains where the myth of competitive imbalance comes from.

(Thanks to Retrosheet for some of the data used here.)