July 11, 2008

Baseball- The WSJ Balks

The Journal has a story called The Decline of the National League that really misses the mark. The writer makes the case that the National League is inferior to the American League and cites a number of stats that support that.

What bothers me about this piece is that it really falls flat. The writer spends a good amount of time explaining why he believes his assertion to be true and then finishes off with an acknowledgment that the game is cyclical.

Coincidentally I had a similar conversation with a rabid Sox fan who tried to convince me that the A.L. was so far superior that the N.L. should just give up. I suppose that this is one time where age serves me well. At 39 I remember well the dominance of the N.L.

Anyway, I'll share a few pieces of the article with you.

"They play the same game. They pick from the same pool of players. For some reason, though, they don't get the same results.

By just about every measure, the 16 teams in Major League Baseball's National League are inferior to the 14 in the American League. The AL has won 11 of the last 16 World Series, including three of the last four. The annual All-Star Game, to be played Tuesday, has practically become a farce: Not counting a 2002 tie, the AL has won 10 straight.

Since baseball began interleague play in 1997 -- where teams from the two leagues play a handful of regular-season games against each other -- the AL is increasingly dominating. This year has been the second-most lopsided ever, with the AL winning 59% as of Thursday afternoon.

The plight of the NL seems rooted in a chain of events that began in 1973 when the AL adopted the designated-hitter rule -- which allows for the pitchers to be replaced in the batting order by a full-time hitter who doesn't play in the field. The disparity was spurred by new ballpark construction; an unprecedented crop of young power hitters who, for various reasons, almost all fell to the AL; a series of disastrous trades and free-agent signings by NL teams; and a tradition of innovation in the AL that began in the mid-1990s with the Oakland A's."

I'll spare you my comments about how why I dislike the D.H. and instead share one more excerpt from the article.
"To be fair, baseball is cyclical. From 1963 to 1982, the NL won 19 of 20 All-Star Games and 12 of 20 World Series titles. John Schuerholz, president of the NL's Atlanta Braves, says there's no "magic dust" that gives the AL greater scouting intelligence. But for now, the record is not pretty. "I admit to that," he says."
Like I said, the article doesn't really go anywhere. You start out with this song and dance about the decline of the N.L. and then finish with a comment about how the same thing happened to the A.L.

Whoops.

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