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Dynasties And Mass Mediocrity: The Search For A Happy Medium (i.e., A Satisfied Psychic)

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When someone asks you, "What do you think of parity?" the correct answer is, "I prefer satire." But today, let us eschew puns (and for your own safety, please eschew carefully) so that we can get down to the business at hand, which is soon to be afoot. I'll keep you abreast.

When there is more parity, two patterns emerge. One is that the same team does not always make the playoffs. The other is that more teams cluster around .500 and fewer teams distinguish themselves in either direction.

I can see the resistance to this phenomenon. It almost seems to remove the thrill of "your team" versus "the competition" by reducing it to a virtual coin flip. Every game is "anybody's game" and..."Hey, tails! We won! And Phlegmsville wins the division with a 51-48 record while Snotsbury pulls up the rear with a disappointing 49-50 campaign!" Certainly, no one celebrated the NL West in 2006, as the 4th place team was still making a run at .500--and the division title--in September. Talk about parity and parody rolled into one.

But I love what the Wild Card has done, single-handedly, to the pennant races. The Wild Card has offered a dozen mediocre teams just enough hope to sustain excitement into the Dog Days of Summer, all for the price of one playoff spot. And to me the hope is legitimate, because to actually win the Wild Card, usually your team needs to stand out with a second-half surge that is sufficiently impressive. What I hate is watching the same teams win the same spots over and over. The AL East race has had far too little variation the last 10 years, and until 2006 the NL East was no better. In recent years, I have really enjoyed watching different teams win the World Series every year, all of them not the Yankees.

So if the price to pay for tight races, and different winners, is that more teams seem mediocre, beating each other up until one is left standing an inch higher than the other, is it a worthwhile trade-off? And what should or shouldn't MLB being doing to maintain some parity across its 30 teams vying for a few playoff spots--or at least for the chance to dream a little further into the Summer?