If you haven’t listened to this week’s show, please do so. Will Leitch stayed out of the range of bicycles only long enough to join us for 20 minutes, but we covered more material than you’d expect to hear in an hour-long show. Leitch is, apparently, one of the few men in American who talks faster than I do.
We also had our first disgruntled caller of the year, as a Cincinnati Reds fan took exception to the manner in which Jason Anderson and I discounted the Royals’ performance over the weekend by pointing out that it came against the inferior competition of the National League. I completely empathize with someone who wants to stand up for his hometown team, but anyone who wants to argue that the Reds are a better team than the Royals just because they have a better win-loss record is going to have to find a way to deal with those pesky facts.
The fact is that with tonight’s convincing win against the Diamondbacks, the Royals are now 47-32 against NL teams since the start of the 2005 season, a .595 winning percentage, while playing just 244-388 (.386) against AL teams in that span. The odds that a team with a “true” winning percentage of .386 would actually win 47 out of 79 games is .00014, or about one in seven thousand. And while the Royals are probably the most dramatic example of
This of course gets back to the Royals’ decision, over a decade ago, to stay in the American League when they had the opportunity to jump ship. Despite the obvious difference between the leagues today, I think it’s far from clear that the Royals made a mistake in choosing to stay.
For one thing, the
Most estimates about the degree of difference between the leagues come in between eight and ten wins, so let’s split the difference and say it’s nine – an AL team moving to the NL would win roughly ten more games against intraleague competition, but they’d lose about one game in interleague play because they would now be playing the AL in those affairs.
So give the Royals a bump of nine wins each year starting in 2005, and put them in the NL Central instead of the Milwaukee Brewers, and you have…a team that still doesn’t so much as sniff a postseason berth. Last year the Royals would have gone 84-78 instead of 75-87…which would have left them in fourth place in the division, 13 games behind the Cubs and five games out of a wild-card spot. The Royals would still have finished under .500 from 2005 to 2007; the only saving grace is that they might have avoided any 100-loss seasons in that span.
Looking to the future, while it’s possible and maybe even likely that the
There are 11 teams in the two Central divisions, and those 11 teams represent some of the smallest markets in baseball, from
Of those 11 teams, only one can boast of a combination of market size, economic strength, and fan passion strong enough to upset the balance in the division. The teams listed in the last paragraph don’t have the market size; neither do the Cardinals, despite a passionate fan base. The Tigers and Indians play in the heart of the Rust Belt. The Astros have a large population to draw on, but play in a state where the #1 sport is football and the #2 sport is spring football. The White Sox play second fiddle in their own city.
The one team that has the market muscle to simply blow the other teams in their division out of the water is the Chicago Cubs. The fact that the Cubs have not taken advantage of their, well, advantages to this point is much to their discredit – but those who think that the Cubs will continue to underplay their hand do so at their own peril. The Cubs’ biggest handicap to success for the last few decades has been their ownership. We have decades of evidence that strongly suggests that corporations and baseball teams are a bad mix, dating to the days when CBS owned the New York Yankees, and the experience of the Tribune Corporation with the Cubs is no different. The bottom line is that corporations tend to place profits over winning – in fact, they have a fiduciary responsibility to do so. It’s no surprise that the Cubs, despite immense financial resources, have never leveraged those resources into building a juggernaut.
That may change, and soon, because the Tribune Corporation is about to hand off the Cubs to a new owner – the Ricketts family. It’s possible the deal may fall through, but realistically the Cubs will be under new – and probably private – ownership soon. You only need to look at the Boston Red Sox to see what can happen when a rudderless organization that has squandered natural resources for ages is purchased by a small entity of savvy owners looking to win.
So going forward, if you were to ask me which division I want the Royals to be in, the simple answer would be, “whichever division the Cubs are not in.” The