Playoff run by Blue Jays would show parity is thriving
By Mike Bauman
If the Toronto Blue Jays reach the postseason, all 30 Major League teams will have qualified for the postseason in the 21st century. And only the fact that this is mid-August keeps that "if" from turning into a "when."
The Blue Jays are baseball's hottest team. They have won eight straight, including a three-game sweep of the Yankees in which the Bronx Bombers scored one run. Toronto is 1 1/2 games behind New York in the American League East and is in the No. 1 spot in the AL Wild Card race, heading into play Tuesday.
Now that the Blue Jays have fortified themselves with the non-waiver Trade Deadline haul of ace David Price, one of the best all-around players in the game in shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, outfielder Ben Revere and relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe, what reason is there to pick against them? Some teams help themselves with Deadline deals. Toronto appears to have transformed its team instead.
Good for the Blue Jays. Good for their fans, who have waited since 1993 for another postseason experience. Admittedly, 1992-93 is a storehouse of Toronto baseball memories, with those back-to-back World Series championships. But how about some fresh October material?
If/when the 2015 Blue Jays qualify for the postseason, baseball will be 30-for-30 in this century. Parity's cup will runneth over.
Yes, there are more playoff opportunities than ever now, with five teams per league qualifying. But if you take a long look at the postseason history of the past 15 years, you'll see that many teams' appearances were not just cameos.
Since 2001, 29 teams have qualified for the postseason. Kansas City had the longest postseason drought prior to last year at 29 years, but the Royals broke that up in a big way, going to the World Series.
Since 2000, 16 franchises have reached the World Series. Nine have won at least one World Series. It wasn't always anything like this.
As far as the postseason is concerned, the so-called "Golden Era" of post-World War II baseball was golden in New York, but not everywhere else.
From 1949-58, a grand total of three teams from outside of New York reached the World Series; the Philadelphia Phillies in 1950, the Cleveland Indians in '54, the Milwaukee Braves in '57 and '58. Of those three, only the '57 Braves won the World Series.
So for this 10-year period, the World Series score was: One Gotham Borough or Another 9, Rest of World 1. That wasn't competitive balance. That wasn't even geographic balance.
Admittedly, the vast majority of the time, the winning borough was the Bronx. The Yankees won seven World Series from 1949-58 and nine of 14 from '49-62. These were great clubs, part of a great tradition. They were truly the stuff of legend.
But the value system of Major League Baseball changed, altered, evolved. The sport had to shift directions or both the quality of the competition and the business of the sport were going to suffer. Vast increases in revenue sharing and a more general level of prosperity have spread not only the wealth, but the chances for success.
This was the game plan put together by former Commissioner, now Commissioner Emeritus, Bud Selig. He saw the game's greater good being served by "hope and faith" for a genuine shot at winning being extended to the fans of as many teams as possible. The Yankees, it must be said, have also chipped in over the years as the biggest contributors to the luxury tax.
And so, with 29 of 30 teams having been to the postseason in this century, the qualification of the 30th team would be a landmark for competitive balance.
The Blue Jays, based on their astute acquisitions and their subsequent impressive level of play, are up to the task. They certainly appear to be good enough, and this might be described as their "turn."
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.