Parity

I was going to write a column today about the apparent parity that so many people are talking about in the current Major League Baseball season, and I may have somewhat agreed with these vocal few…until I took a good look at the standings as of Monday morning, May 18th,2014. Here are some not-so-scientific or Sabermetric observations…First off is that parity is NOT alive and well, as some might have you believe. In the AL East, the distance from first place to last place is a meager 5 games. The N.L. East is 3.5 games. So far, that sounds like reasonably competitive divisions. Okay, here comes the counterpoint. In the A.L. Central, first-to-last is 10.5 games, and in the A.L. West, it is a staggering 12.0 games! It does not get any better in the National League. The N.L. Central differential is 11.0 games and the N.L. West is 10.5 games. The Major League average for all 6 divisions combined is 8.75 games. The season is only 6 weeks old, and we already have teams that are more than 10 games out of first place. Does that sound like parity? Now I will give you that some of these divisions are being held back by the likes of the Houston Astros (16-28, 12GB), and the Chicago Cubs (15-27, 11GB), but jeez! Every team in the league has played between 41-45 games. After such a short distance, no team should already be out by 12 games. That is not parity. That is still demonstrative of some teams being pretty good, most being at or around average, and some teams really sucking the big one, and perhaps considering getting out the golf clubs that they so recently put away.
Before we get completely away from baseball today, I have another observation or two. First, regarding the American League East… This is generally considered to be the best (read: most competitive) division in all of baseball, and it usually is, but I want to read into that a little deeper. The Damn Yankees are in first place with a 23-20 record, followed closely by Baltimore (22-20, .5GB), Toronto (23-22, 1.0GB), Red Sox Nation (20-23, 3.0GB), and lastly Tampa Bay (19-26, 5GB). On the surface, you might say, ‘Wow, that’s a tight division! See, there is parity, you big dummy!’. Ok, but let’s dig some. The division is tight, but let’s look at why this is so. As of this morning, nobody in the American League East has won a game since at least Saturday. EVERYBODY lost on Sunday, and the Red Sox have lost 4 straight. Nobody, except the Toronto Blue Jays, has a positive run differential (runs scored versus runs allowed). The first-place Damn Yankees have a differential of -8, and the Tampa Bay Rays have a differential of -22! Heck, the dismal Chicago Cubs only have a run differential of -3! Of course, we can go completely in the other direction and say the Arizona Diamondbacks have a run differential of (gulp!)-60! We will get to the D-Backs in a minute…My point in all of this is that parity is not what it appears to be. In the AL Central, there is some parity, for now, and that only exists from 2nd to 5th place (3.5 games). The distance from the first place Detroit Tigers (27-12) to the second place Kansas City Royals (22-21) is seven games! No other division can make a claim like that at this point, and a distance like that between 1st to 2nd places is not parity.
Please don’t misunderstand what I mean by all of this. I am not one of those who whine about ‘fair competitive balance’ as an absolute. I think that the good teams should win and that the bad teams should lose. I know that this will bring up the ‘have’s versus the have nots’ discussion, but that may be a conversation for another day when I have had much more coffee, as opposed to today, when I clearly have not…
Ok, on to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-backs… Thosee guys in the desert with the awful record (18-28, 10.5GB, -60 run differential). The team with the’ Duncan Yo-Yo’- like yearly won-loss record, although in both 2012 and 2013, they finished each season with a perfectly bland and mediocre 81-81 W-L record. They are currently managed by Kirk Gibson, and the General Manager is Kevin Towers. They are owned by Ken Kendrick and Jerry Royer, and I only bring up the ownership because apparently they think that a change is needed. And quite the splash was made in the Arizona desert! The D-backs hired former St.Louis Cardinals skipper and baseball genius Tony LaRussa to be the new Head of Baseball Operations, after he most recently worked for Major League Baseball as a special assistant to Commissioner Bud Selig. Tony LaRussa retired from managing after the 2011 season, and it was evident that he wanted to get back into the fray. Tony LaRussa has been a success everywhere he has gone. He is a winner, and he knows how to get a team to perform at its best. He is a shrewd evaluator of talent, and he will be an asset to the D-backs. What I read into this is that the owners of the team are growing weary of mediocre, and that the horrid start to this season has signaled to them that a change is needed. I believe that Gibson and/or Towers may be on the way out of Arizona, perhaps not immediately, but I am sure by the end of the season…
Does anybody really care about award shows anymore? I have never really cared to watch, even though my dad (God rest him), because he was in the industry, watched the Academy Awards every year. It seems that the various award shows were different back then. Now, in my opinion, they are nothing but over-hyped, over-blown, ‘I love me! Look at me! Look at how great I am!’ ego-fests. It is amazing to me how so many of these so-called entertainers will do just about anything to keep the spotlight on themselves for as long as possible, and the more raunchy and over the top they can go, the better. You all can probably name them and their antics better than I can, so I won’t bother. It just makes me sick, and therefore I do not watch.
We are fast approaching Memorial Day 2014, and I cannot believe how fast this year has flown by. It seems like only yesterday that we were discussing polar vorticies, and now I am running around in shorts with my wife shopping around for a new grill to go along with the smoker that we bought last year for our back patio. On the Monday that is Memorial Day, I plan on smoking and grilling all kinds of meats and vegetables, and generally making a chubbier penguin out of myself than I already am. But more importantly, I will be filled with reverence for those who have fallen so that I might have the right to sit on my back patio with my gorgeous wife and enjoy the freedoms and blessings that we have today. I will remember that there were those that didn’t make it home. I like to think that Memorial Day is something more than just remembering the fallen soldiers, but also about remembering the fallen Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters (all of which I have had the honor of being at one time or another…), and the military Nursing Corps, because they have lost lives as well. All have written a blank check to the United States of America for their lives, and sadly, sometimes those checks come due and are cashed. May God bless them all, and may He continue to allow us to be the greatest country on earth. We may have our differences. Democrats versus Republicans, Bears versus Packers, ketchup versus mustard, dog versus cat, Yankees versus Red Sox, and on and on and on. But at the end of the day, we are all Americans. Sometimes we lose sight of that. On this Memorial Day, let’s not do that. Let’s remember what is truly important.
And in closing, I am remembering to wish all of you a fun and abundant and safe and blessed Memorial Day!…Bruce M. Lager, Blagers Blog.

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