As much as Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig likes to say that there is parity in his sport, there is no such thing, at least not in this decade. You need look no further than the teams that will be competing in this year's playoffs to see that.
This year's playoff field will be composed of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Detroit Tigers (I assume that they will hold off the Minnesota Twins) in the American League and the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies in the National League. All of these teams have made the playoffs during the past four years and all, except for the Dodgers, have played in the World Series this decade. Only the Rockies have never won a title.
These eight teams have won six World Series titles during the past nine years and have made up 11 of the 18 teams that played during those nine World Series. Half of the teams that have made the playoffs during the nine years were one of those eight teams.
There is no better example of dominance than the Yankees. They have made the playoffs eight times this decade, only falling short last year. They have won the AL East seven times and made the World Series three times, winning one of them. Although they have not been back since 2003, they are a constant in the playoffs.
In the National League, the Cardinals are the dominant club. This year will be their seventh appearance in the playoffs since 2000, second-most to the Yankees. St. Louis is the only team from the National League to appear multiple times in the World Series, winning it in 2006.
Boston is the only other team in the MLB to make more than one World Series. It is also the only organization this decade to win more than one World Series title, breaking its 86-year drought in 2004 and winning again in 2007. Based on titles, Boston has been the team of the decade.
The one common thread of these teams that are making the playoffs this year is their high payroll. With the exception of the Cardinals and Rockies, each team had an opening-day payroll of $100 million or more. After signing pitcher John Smoltz and trading for Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa and Julio Lugo, the Cardinals' payroll is now above the $100 million mark.
Recent World Series winners also have been above or right around the $100 million payroll mark.
The 2003 Marlins were the only team to be in the bottom half of league payrolls and still win a title this decade. The 2002 Angels won a title with the smallest payroll this decade -- $61 million, good for 15th out of 30 teams that year.
Although 23 of the 30 MLB teams have seen playoff baseball this decade, there have been many one-hit wonders and teams that appeared only during the beginning half of the decade. The Tampa Bay Rays, Florida Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers have made the playoffs only once. The San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners made their combined five playoff appearances during the first four years of the decade. Only the Giants have been to the Fall Classic, losing to the Angels in 2002.
There is a pair of teams that will miss the playoffs this year that have been some of the more regular contributors to October baseball. The Atlanta Braves won the NL East the first six years of this decade - tied for third-most appearances by a team this decade - but have not lasted to October since 2005. The Oakland Athletics have won either the AL West or Wild Card five times, but not since 2006.
This year's playoff class does have some newer contributors to replace Oakland and Atlanta. Both the Rockies and Tigers will be making only their second playoffs this decade, but both previous showings have been during the past four years. Both teams have made the World Series during their only trip to October baseball this decade. The Rockies won their first seven playoff games in 2007, sweeping the Phillies and the Arizona Diamondbacks. These teams have not played as much playoff baseball as the others this year, but they do have quality runs in October.
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This year's baseball playoffs ought to be a good one. These teams are used to the chilly nights and pressure-packed games. The heavyweights are out and they are ready to rumble.
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at
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