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(Almost)-September Scoreboard Watching

It has become fun to watch the standings lately. The Yankees have the best record in baseball at 82 wins, and it’s not lost on me that the last time the won the World Series, in 2000, they managed only 87 wins on the season. That was back when the Red Sox front office was still in its era of historical incompetence, Peter Angelos was still undermining all efforts of his own GM(s) in Baltimore, and the Tampa Bay team still had the word “devil” in its name.

For some reason, won-loss records in particular have been catching my eye. It makes it obvious that dear old Tampa, who were AL champs last year and in the World Series (even if it looked like they never really woke up enough to play the actual World Series… I guess it just seemed so much like a dream…), would be in first place if they were in the AL Central right now with their .543 winning percentage. Instead, they are in third place in the AL East, 11.5 games back.

That’s how far Cleveland is behind Detroit in the Central, and they are at 58-72, 14 games below .500.

Heck, even Seattle would be in the running in the Central, where right now only Detrit has a winning record. Minnesota is even at 65 and 65. Seattle is at 68-63, and every team in the AL West is above .500 except Oakland.

What’s curious is that the NL Central is much the same. St. Louis is running away with things right now, but the Cubs, in second place, are ten games back and only barely above .500, at 65-63, and everyone else is below the even mark, whereas on the coasts you have multiple teams duking it out.

Is this just a coincidence, or is it a broad-brush indicator of baseball’s (and America’s) economics? The big money is on the coasts and in the media centers? Of course a scary and discouraging graph I saw at the SABR convention was from a book on baseball economics that showed the way to make the highest net profit as a team owner is to do what Pittsburgh and several other teams do, which is spend close to nothing on the team, put no value on winning at all, and take the big revenue sharing handout you can get from the big spenders like the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, and Cubs.

This is why I don’t complain when the Yankees (or Red Sox) spend like crazy, or charge $2000 for a seat so close to the field you can practically kiss Derek Jeter’s *ss personally. Steinbrenner is just a big fan himself, but one who also recognized the value of his business property and combined that business acumen with a true fanatic’s insatiable lust for winning. When he goes, the Yankees will have lost their top fanatic of all time.

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