Baseball is bifurcating - Rex Hudler's thesaurus would say that ain't good.
The recent competitive balance lottery gives the Royals an extra pick in next year's draft - which somehow is suppose to make the Royals a competitive team.
To get a sense of how incredible that player will have to be, the following table from fangraphs.com shows the win/loss record for each team since the 2000 season. If you start at the bottom of the list, you'll find the Royals much quicker, but you probably already knew that.
Table 1. Win/Loss Record since 2000, source: FanGraphs.com
Fifteen teams are labeled small market teams in Table 1 based on the population of the metropolitan areas using the information in Table 2. There are other ways to define large market using revenue, attendance, owner wealth and/or personality. Population seems to be consistent with those definitions and is more definitive for the purpose of analysis.
Table 2. Population by Metropolitan Area, source: www.baseball-almanac.com/articles/baseball_markets.shtml
The link between market size and wins is obvious - large market, more wins.
- Eleven of the fourteen teams over .500 are large market teams.
- Twelve of the sixteen teams under .500 are small market teams.
The three small market teams with winning records have benefited from the unbalanced schedule in weak divisions.
Baseball has taken several steps to grant access to the post-season for small market teams when they implemented the three-division format with a wild card team, and the recent addition of a second wild card team. But the numbers show that these changes have not created a 50% level playing field, and in fact, might be inflated due to the National League Central with the Cubs as the only large market team.
World Championships: Small Market 4 of 12 - 33%
Playoff Appearances: Small Market 43 of 96 - 45%
Table 3: Playoff Teams, 2000-2011, source: baseball-reference.com
The Royals will undoubtedly select a good prospect next year, one that we'll over-hype for several years during his minor league development. But this pick won't really change anything - he'll only be in Kansas City for six years.
The data shows that Major League Baseball is bifurcating - splitting into two divisions based on market size. Small market teams simply can not sustain winning over a long period of time.
This split is happening one player at a time. Just as a Double-A team develops a player until the player gets promoted to Triple-A, a small market team develops a player over six years of control until free agency. Free agency is the promotion to a large market team with the big money contract and big city appeal that small market teams can not offer.
The cynical/Royals fan would look at the call-up timing of Hosmer/Moose/Myers and reasonably conclude that the Royals are trying to spread out the free agent years to avoid having three top players leave in the same year.
Small market teams are Quad-A teams, developing players for large market Major League teams, just as the Kansas City Blues was once a Triple-A farm team of the Yankees - past is prologue.
Table 4. Current Standings
At least it doesn't appear that the Royals will finish last in the Quad-A League this year...