Trades, the expanded Wild Card and parity

Last week’s quick-hit trade deadline moves were surprising in a lot of ways. A week after the fact, I’d like to outline some of the differences between our expectations and the actual moves.

The Wild Card and parity

We’ve been hearing a lot about the expanded Wild Card in the last few years. It’s part of Bud Selig’s vision for the league where everyone’s in the chase, supposedly creating more excitement and better attendance.

Another bigger aspect of his plan that’s supposed to fall in right alongside that is parity. As a true salary cap (or perhaps, true-er cap) is in place with giant luxury tax implications, teams are encouraged to be in the same range of spending as others. Revenue sharing creates even more of a redistributive feel.

As far as these things contribute to an equaling of the playing field like that of the NFL, Selig has done the job. The Yankees’ empire appears to be crumbling, a topic Joe tackled in this morning’s post, and teams like the Marlins and Royals are no longer the worst in their divisions. (The Royals are five games above .500, while the Marlins are six games out in the Wild Card race.)

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The troubles of the All-Star Game

Being named an All-Star is, and should be, a great honor to any player. It’s a recognition that the player is one of the best at his position, and most of those who are selected get a chance to play to some degree. The baseball world appropriately stops to recognize those who make the game exciting that year.

But Major League Baseball has long had trouble figuring out how to make the All-Star Game relevant. The MLB isn’t the only league to face this difficulty. The NFL Pro Bowl is joked about every year. The fantasy format with “Team Rice” and “Team Sanders” was created this season in an effort to shake up the game and bring in more viewers.

The MLB originally took a very different tack — because many fans always felt a number of players not selected should have been included, a “Final Vote” was added for the last man on the roster. (The Final Vote was only needed because of another misguided, though well-meaning, policy the league has in place, which I’ll discuss below.)

After the 2002 All-Star Game, which ended in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings, Bud Selig felt he needed to take action to prevent it from happening again. He made one change, the consequences of which continue today: stating that “this game matters,” Selig pronounced it would be the determinant of which league hosted the World Series.

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