Parity is part of what makes the National Football League so incredibly popular. Parity is the biggest problem facing Major League Baseball. But I see a glimmer of hope for the game that I used to follow with a passion. Used to because the strike in 1994 and the over-inflated home run totals of the steroid era were a turnoff.
Drug testing has changed the playing field. Because it's harder to cheat, the game is reverting back to its natural form. That game relies on speed, pitching, and defense. I think that's part of the reason why you see teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and Florida Marlins competing with such minuscule payrolls. Slugging outfielders and infielders cost a lot of money. Speedy outfielders and nimble infielders do not.
It gives hope to the hopeless. But I'm not sure a lot of baseball management gets this. For example my favorite team, the Kansas City Royals, thought it was necessary to go out and get slugging first baseman Mike Jacobs from the Marlins. The Royals need to think retro. When this club was at its top its best hitters clubbed between 20 and 30 homers a year, hit a ton of doubles, rarely struck out, and ran the bases. The team could run the bases and other than Frank White, was adequate defensively. They had pitching, tons of it.
The Royals have a lot of good young arms. But they need to focus on getting hitters like Billy Butler who offer occasional power and hit for average rather than sluggers like Jacobs and Jose Guillen. Drug testing has changed the game. In the end it will help level the field between the big market money teams and teams like Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. The difference will be in scouting and front office decisions.
A salary cap would really cure what ails the national pastime, but that's about as likely as me running a sub four minute mile.