Breaking Balls: The beasts of the East rule
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Culturally speaking, there has always been a healthy competition between the Eastern and Western United States. The fast-paced, population-dense East versus the laid-back, sprawling West – each claiming superiority in a wide variety of subjects, lifestyles and snack foods.
Of course, there was once a very unhealthy competition in this country between the North and the South many years ago. But I think we all feel that silliness is behind us now.
The West has Hollywood and the East has Broadway. The East has four seasons – winter, spring, summer and fall. The West only has one – awesomeness. There was even that East Coast vs. West Coast rap feud – is that still a thing? Also, is rap still a thing?
There are also East vs. West issues of an international nature when you’re talking about the U.S. and its relationship with China. Despite its horrific social problems, China continues to grow in wealth and prosperity, and the U.S., which also has some pretty intense social issues, continues its downward spiral and gets further in debt – to China, by the way. If it keeps going like this, we’re going to start referring to Chinese food as just “food.”
It’s not really fair to compare the leaders of our country to theirs because it’s a totally different method of government. Can you imagine how effective and efficient our politicians would be if their lives actually depended on how well they did their jobs? Nowadays, if a politician loses his job, the worst-case scenario is he gets hired as a lobbyist for a six-figure salary to play golf with his replacement. In China, the worst-case scenario does not involve being hired, playing golf or continuing to live.
Anyway, there’s no real way to quantify which side of the country is “better” than the other. For every Westerner who loves his 72-degree weather, there’s an Easterner who loves his subways and doesn’t mind the occasional homeless man fondling himself. And for every Easterner who loves his mind-bogglingly delicious pizza, there’s a Westerner who has very severe gluten and lactose allergies.
In baseball, however, there is one way to quantify which is better and that’s the team standings. And so far this year, it’s been the East Divisions all the way over the West Divisions. There are also the Central Divisions. And the East is crushing those as well. A week ago, every team in both of the East Divisions had a winning record – all 10 teams. In the last few days, two of those 10 have dipped below .500, so the last place teams – the worst teams in the East divisions – just barely have losing records.
And it’s a pretty easy statement to say that six of the best seven best teams in the whole league make their homes in the East Divisions – with Texas being the one non-Eastern team and even they are the Eastern most team in the West.
But, why? Shouldn’t great players want to move out West to enjoy the laid-back media, forgiving fans and beautiful weather? Well, you know what’s better than sunny skies? Money.
Greater populations and larger media markets lead to greater revenue for the East. Greater revenue leads to greater spending. And greater spending in the East leads to even more spending in the East to compete. And the teams that can’t spend find other ways to build financially efficient teams that can go head to head with the big spenders.
In the Central and West Divisions in the American League and National League, there just isn’t that kind of spending. It’s not that they don’t have the money; it’s that they just don’t have to spend because no one else is doing it. And none of those teams are being particularly clever about building financially efficient teams.
Not to get all math-nerd, but the statistical probability is that these East teams will settle out a little and some will fall below .500 and some will continue kicking butt and taking names. This kind of thing just can’t be sustained. A few of these teams in the East are varying parts smoke and mirrors and pixie dust. Kind of like the Dodgers – except the Dodgers are in the weak West, and Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, smoke, mirrors and pixie dust might be enough to win the division.
For all of their “luck,” one thing I will say is that just about any one of these East teams would win any of the Central or West Divisions which are strewn with borderline major league players, out-dated managerial methods and archaic overall team-building ideologies. All of this bodes well for the Chicago Cubs, who recently brought in Theo Epstein from Boston, and for whoever replaces Ned Coletti in Los Angeles when the new owners give him the boot.
Despite this Eastern dominance, the best they can do is have three teams make the playoffs. That means that at least two of these teams can kick butt all year and they are going to watch the postseason at home like you and me. Probably nicer homes. But homes nonetheless.
It’s mid-June-ish and we have a pretty good idea what these teams are all capable of getting done and while nothing is certain in the world of baseball, I am going to let you in on who’s going to make the playoffs and who’s going to disappoint their fans in the order of their current standings.
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