Last week’s — and now this week’s — focus on the steroid problem in baseball centered on the contention that a “level playing field” is in the best interests of the game; no player should have an unfair advantage over another.
It was an odd focus since baseball is not structured on the concept of a level playing field. If it were, the same philosophy would be applied to franchises as well as individuals. But, of course, some teams have a competitive advantage over another by virtue of their location and their payrolls. Or do you actually believe Adam Everett somehow puts the Twins in a position to contend for anything?
The Hardball Times today takes a look at this question of competitive imbalance, calling it “the quintessential American irony.”
There is a definite irony that one of the central tenets of American sports is wealth and talent redistribution yet the country is perhaps the most capitalist on earth. Shoot across the pond to Europe, or any other part of the world, and competitive balance is anathema; in fact, standard procedure, if anything, is to encourage more competitive imbalance! Herein lies a second irony: more redistributive societies do not apply the same rules to sports.
That raises the question of who is right? Does increasing competitive balance help sports to attract more talent and money? Or is the contrarian premise that more imbalance is desirable actually correct?