The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies. These are teams that only several years ago, were consistent World Series candidates. In the recent 2012 season, three out of these four teams were playoff contenders at some point in the year, but only one of them ultimately made the elimination round. Names like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Clayton Kershaw all come to mind. Between these four squads, some of the best players in the world hit the diamond, and they aren’t likely to transfer teams anytime soon. However, I feel that these four squads’ traditional dominance is coming to an end.
Throughout much of the year, the Yankees seem destined for a strong showing in the playoffs, which was highlighted when they topped the red-hot Orioles in the AL Divisional Series. When Ibanez then hit yet another homer against Detroit back at Yankee Stadium, the Yanks seemed headed to the World Series; the days of 2000 and the Subway Series quickly came to mind. But with the injury to Jeter, the absence of Rivera and crumbling of the Bronx Bombers, I couldn’t help but think that the end of 2012 somehow held implications for the beginning of 2013.
With the selling of players like Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and company, the Red Sox glory days are now in the rearview mirror. As Terry Francona left Beantown, the city took its final breath as a contender. Boston hopped from the driver’s seat to some grungy seat in the back of a Yellow Cab. For Yankees fans, the Red Sox failure spelled happiness; there is nothing better than a strong Yankees season paired with a lacklustre time in Boston, where the Globe writers spend more time covering chicken and beer than they do the pitching success of Jon Lester and his starting rotation. For at least the foreseeable future, Boston has become the Toronto Maple Leafs of the MLB: plenty of money and a rabid fan base, but nothing to show for it.
When we look at the Dodgers, Phillies and Yankees, it’s clear that they’re not in the same shoes as Boston; yet, they might be descending an escalator to the same basement landing. They’re approaching a crowded platform of many other above-average teams, all vying for that elusive wild card spot. Two LRTs are coming, but among the ten in the crowd, only two can board the train. Tampa, Oakland, Baltimore, Toronto, Washington, San Francisco, Arizona, Atlanta and others are all there with the New York-Philly-LA trifecta, and each of them has an equal chance to enter the LRT doors.
The MLB’s revenue sharing program has led to this. The Evil Empire will likely have its dominant moments in 2013; though they lack Jeter and perhaps some excellent closing pitching, their main line-up is still a step above 80% of Major League squads. But we’ve now reached a point where greater parity exists throughout the league. And this is a good thing. It means that no matter who you cheer for, your team has a better opportunity to do something special in 2013 than it did in 2008. Well, unless you’re the Miami Marlins, of course.
Creative Commons photograph courtesy of Scott Ableman on Flickr