Monday, November 9, 2009

Buying a Championship

Yankee fans have done some complaining lately about the rest of baseball pointing out that they bought a championship. Surprisingly, those fans make a couple valid points. True, they didn’t break any rules. It’s also true that spending money doesn’t guarantee a championship. As for the first point, I’ve been saying they should do something about the salary rule to make it harder to spend. The second point needs a slightly longer response.

Let’s say, for the moment, that the Boston Marathon is about to begin. People are standing on the starting line, waiting for the gun to go off. At this point, a race official comes to the crowd and picks a runner. This runner, it is announced, will start the race 5 miles ahead of everyone else. What is the reaction from the rest of the runners to this announcement? Do any of them simply gloss over it, knowing that the runner still has to win? Would anyone think that it might have been unfair to give one runner a head-start? I’m betting there might be some complaining from the masses. From there, the race starts. Does the head-start help the runner? Maybe. If the organizers gave me a 5-mile head start, I’m pretty sure the elite runners would pass me by mile 6. The advantage would be wasted on me. But, what if the fifth best marathoner in the world was given the advantage? There’s a pretty good chance he’d be able to hold onto that lead. If he did, would you have to at least mention that he got the head start when you’re writing about the win? Now, what if the best marathoner in the world, hands down, was the one selected. Even if he probably would have won anyway, was it fair to get the advantage? Would it cheapen the win? I’d think it would. The rest of the runners would have to say that he won, but he should have won. That’s what MLB has done to baseball. It has selected teams to get advantages.

To carry the analogy further…MLB has allowed the Yankees to have a ten-mile head start. It let the Mets have a six-mile advantage, the Angels and Red Sox probably a five-mile edge. From there, teams were spaced out with different advantages until KC comes along five miles behind the starting line with a rock in their shoe. The Mets did nothing with their advantage this year. Whether it was injuries, or poor management, they we like me. The advantage still didn’t help. The Angles did a bit more with their slot. They almost took down the Yankees, but in the end, they couldn’t close the gap. After running the extra five miles, they were worn down at the finish line. But, imagine what they could have done if it was even from the start.

Yankee fans will also point out that they spent a lot the year before, but lowly Tampa Bay beat them to the finish. And, that’s true. Even with a five-mile disadvantage, there’s a chance that some other runner will run the race of his life, and win the thing. If the weather was perfect, he was healthy, had just the right amount of food the night before, if all the stars aligned, some bottom dweller could sneak to the top. But, when they got to the Chicago Marathon, the chances of making up that deficit again aren’t very good. So, for one race, or one year, things can happen. But, on the whole, the guy with the head-start is going to do very well for himself.

He should at least mention it on the trophy stand.

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