Competitive Imbalance & Baltimore Baseball

As a Baltimore Orioles fan for several decades, I have seen it all. First, a team that was in the hunt every year for well over a decade, to one that spent all of its money on free agent veterans well past their primes, to the 5-Year limited competitive window we saw Buck Showalter lead in the mid 2010's. I now see a team that has been built the right way, for the long haul, by Mr. Elias and company. I have been far more excited about the O's over the last year and a half than at any other time this century. Today, we have one of the best teams in baseball and we also have the strongest Farm System. When has that ever been the case for any team? I am so ready for the 2024 Season begin. Things are looking bright! Aren't they?

Then reality sets in, when I see the Dodgers pay outrageous amounts of money to acquire the two best available players in baseball. This further shows the unhealthy imbalance of power in Major League Baseball. Maybe the Mets or Red Sox or Yankees would cough up that kind of dough, but great franchises in Atlanta, St. Louis or even Chicago wouldn't be able to do that, much less my O's. So are we on the precipice of joining the cream of the crop in baseball for the next decade or are we just functioning as a glorified Farm System for the 4 or so "Big Spenders." If it is the latter, do I really want to put all my heart into following this team and continue buying their merchandise, just for the inevitable tear down that leads to seeing Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson playing in Pin Stripes or Dodger Blue?

There in lies the primary reason Major League Baseball is, and has been moving towards for decades, becoming a secondary sport. The most popular sport, by far today, is NFL Football. NFL Football has a salary cap that makes sure that all of its franchise can compete on a level playing field. Thus, teams in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Miami and Kansas City have the same prospects as teams from New York, LA and Chicago. This allows fan bases to grow in all regions of the country. Players can go anywhere and become rich. Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen & Lamar Jackson are promoted everywhere. This is because the NFL gets the fact that they are one single product, best served by growing a fanbase throughout the country as opposed to 32 independent businesses. Unfortunately, the MLB has taken the latter tact which has resulted in pushing those same fans of non-NY/LA markets to look for better things to do. Name one industry where the 25th strongest business can be anywhere as successful as the top five or so. Back in the 1970's, when Baseball was America's Game, teams in Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Baltimore were among the best teams year in and year out.

I am not going to try to kid myself, I am already hooked on this version of the Orioles, buying more hats, shirts and other items with a smiling black and orange bird on them than I have in the last 3 decades combined. Am I setting myself up for a hard fall? I hope somehow Jon Angelos, or a successor, can open his pocket book to the likes of the good middle market franchises like you see in St. Louis and Atlanta. If so, I will relish this era no matter what happens. However, if he is not going to do that and somehow think we can magically compete with teams carrying 10 times the payroll, the O's and Major League Baseball as a whole will lose me and many other fans altogether, likely forever.

Better yet, the MLB leadership (Mr. Manfred) could wake up and figure out how to turn this train around to make the playing field level. If not a salary cap, then greatly increase the luxury tax and get rid of the loopholes that allowed the the Dodgers to defer so much of Ohtani's compensation. The MLB is on a one time winning streak. Last year's rule changes provided a lot of excitement to the game. The next step is to stop alienating most fan bases and return this once great sport to popularity nationwide.

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