King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Selig takes credit for brighter sunshine we've been having as baseball signs new labor deal. Plus: Cards and Tigers: Zoom! Under three hours!

By Salon Staff

Published October 24, 2006 11:30AM (EDT)

Good news that baseball owners and players have reportedly struck a deal on a five-year extension to the collective bargaining agreement without even the whiff of a work stoppage. The game is rolling in so much money these days that it's not even trying to cry poverty anymore.

"Everybody's pretty happy with the industry," Cardinals reliever Jason Isringhausen told the Associated Press. "Everybody's making out pretty well."

New media is the main reason baseball's awash in greenbacks these days, going from a $3.6 billion business in 2001 to $5.2 billion in 2005, according to the AP. MLB has capitalized on the Internet brilliantly.

Commissioner Bud Selig says baseball's enjoying a boom because the revenue-sharing in the 1997 and 2002 contracts created a more even playing field.

"I had dreams of things getting better but, no, in many ways this has exceeded my fondest expectations," he said last week. "This sport has more parity than ever. We have more parity than any other sport."

Gah! When is this guy going to stop blowing smoke about parity?

Even at the turn of the century, when Selig was moaning loudest about a lack of competitive balance, baseball had just as much parity as the other major sports, and in some ways it had more.

And now, magically, because of the tireless efforts of one Allan H. Selig, baseball has "more parity than any other sport"? Really.

In the last five years, which cover the most recent agreement, 17 teams have made the playoffs. Guess how many made the playoffs in the previous five-year period, from 1997 to 2001, the time when Selig ramped up his complaints about parity, tried to get a salary cap passed, floated the idea that baseball couldn't support 30 teams, that some of them would have to go.

No, go on, guess. Come on. Are you going to guess 17? Do you know me that well?

It's 17.

In the last five years, six teams -- the Yankees, Twins, A's, Red Sox, Braves and Cardinals -- have made the playoffs at least three times. In the previous five, guess how many made the playoffs at least three times.

Go on. Do you feel like saying five? Because it's five. The Yankees, Indians, Mariners, Braves and Astros. The only National League team that made the playoffs in 2002-06 that didn't in 1997-2001 was the poor, downtrodden, small-market Los Angeles Dodgers. All that happened in the A.L. was that the Angels and Twins replaced the Indians and Mariners as regulars, and the Tigers replaced the Orioles' and Rangers' three appearances with one.

Nine teams were shut out in both periods, the Royals, Blue Jays, Devil Rays, Rockies, Pirates, Reds, Brewers, Phillies and Expos/Nationals. I'm sure they're all thrilled to hear about this new competitive balance.

This meme that baseball has achieved more parity in the last few years comes from the anomaly that different teams have won the World Series every year this century. That can happen in a crapshoot, as can the four out of five won by the Yankees in the late '90s that allowed Selig to sell his competitive-balance snake oil.

It was bull then and it's bull now. Baseball has pretty good competitive balance. It could be a lot better, and it would be if baseball ever got serious about revenue sharing, making it a way to account for the differences in market size, rather than a way to reward teams with lousy management.

Good for the owners and players for getting together early and sparing the rest of us having to watch them mud wrestle over how to divide $5 billion among a few hundred people. Just cut the crap about competitive balance.

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World Series goes to the no-huddle [PERMALINK]

I watched a World Series game on Sunday night and on Monday morning my daughter woke up at 6 and wanted to play and I didn't even strangle her. Not for more than a few seconds.

What could explain this good cheer? Why, it must have been the solid night's sleep I got because, for the second night in a row, the baseball game ended before midnight EDT. I wrote a column and got to bed when it was still dark, CDT. It was crazy.

Sunday's Game 2 clocked in at a whiz-bang, don't blink or you'll miss it two hours, 55 minutes. Saturday's Game 1 flew home in 2:54. Talk all you want about Smudgy McSpitball and His Thumb of Many Colors Orchestra, the real story of the weekend for me was the first back-to-back sub-three-hour World Series tilts since Games 1 and 2 in 2001.

Last year the first two games took 3:13 and 3:11 to play. Game 3 was a 14-inning stemwinder that took 5:41. If the Cardinals and Tigers can play Tuesday's game in the same snappy fashion they played the first two, I'll have saved up more than three hours. I may take a trip. I've taken up rubber stamping with the 35 minutes I've already saved.

The last time there were three games shorter than three hours in one World Series was in 1996. But of course, it wasn't always this way. Baseball games used to take less than two hours.

The modern World Series started in 1903, and the first three-hour game didn't happen until Game 3 in 1914, the 63rd World Series game ever played. And that was a 12-inning affair. The next three-hour game didn't happen until 1924, also a 12-inning game.

The first nine-inning Series game to last three hours was Game 3 of the 1947 Series, believe it or not. They played 252 World Series game before one lasted three hours without going into extra innings.

There were four three-hour, nine-inning games in this year's NLCS.

Previous column: Rogers and Smudge tie the World Series

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