Baseball should ignore calls for "competitive balance"

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A must-read article by Joe Sheehan at Sports Illustrated, um, illustrating why arguments comparing the NFL’s competitive balance to baseball’s competitive balance are simply wrongheaded.

The hypothetical which kicks off the article — where baseball’s playoff races would stand right now if, like the NFL, the whole season was 16 games long — perfectly illustrates the insanity of the comparison. If this were football, every team would be in it until the end, because one game means so damn much in football. Baseball has ten times as many games, rendering many of them near-disposable.  The two sports’ respective rules, business models, histories, cultures, atmosphere, vernacular and fan bases all stem from this distinction.

Personally I like baseball better, but that’s just me being provincial. Objectively saying one is better than the other in any given respect is an exercise in prejudices, not reason. I’m told that a few rational people like football too, and good for
them, but it makes no more sense to compare the two than it does to compare salami sandwiches and pumpkin pie. They’re both great in their own way, but they really don’t share the same universe.

Which leads me to the money quote of the article.  It’s borne of the misguided impulse of baseball fans — and believe me, it’s only baseball fans who do this — to reflexively defend their sport to those who say it’s inferior to football.  It’s a call-to-arms of sorts, telling baseball fans to own baseball and its history and to act in the same manner as football fans do (i.e. not giving a diddly durn about how the conditions in one sport impact those in the other):

Instead of cowering when it’s compared to the NFL, MLB and its leaders
should stand up and brag about the differences that make its game great.
It should note the math of the issue, that the NFL’s competitive
balance is the natural consequence of a short regular season and a
larger postseason, and that MLB’s competitive balance, considered in the
context of its own sport, is good.

Henceforth, I’ll engage in any argument that compares baseball’s current competitive landscape to the competitive landscape that existed in baseball’s past or its hypothetical future.  I will ignore, however, those who criticize baseball for not living up to the standards of a sport that, for all of its charms, is utterly alien to baseball and those rules, conditions, culture and history which make it great.

Report: Cardinals to sign Paul Goldschmidt to five-year contract extension

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Extension season continues. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Cardinals and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt are close to an agreement on a five-year extension. The value is believed to be around $130 million, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Goldschmidt was set to become a free agent after the season.

The Cardinals acquired Goldschmidt, 31, from the Diamondbacks in December in exchange for Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, Andy Young, and a 2019 competitive balance round B pick. The slugger is a six-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, and a four-time Silver Slugger Award winner. Goldschmidt owns a career .297/.398/.532 triple-slash line along with 209 home runs, 710 RBI, 709 runs scored, and 124 stolen bases. He is also well-regarded for his defense at first base. As a result, he has accumulated 40.3 Wins Above Replacement over eight seasons, according to Baseball Reference.

With Goldschmidt in place, the Cardinals are set at first base for the foreseeable future. Though Goldschmidt got off to a slow start last season, carrying an OPS barely above .700 into June, he recovered and finished with a .922 OPS. That two-month blip aside, there’s no reason to think Goldschmidt’s production is about to fall off anytime soon.