Magazine article USA TODAY

Free Enterprise Forever!

Magazine article USA TODAY

Free Enterprise Forever!

Article excerpt

SOMEONE HAS TO FINISH FIRST, just as someone has to finish last. Otherwise, why even keep track of wins and losses? The purported growing gap between the rich and the poor--as if this is a bad thing, even if it were true--is a myth.

The issue that faces baseball is the same one that confronts our country's new president. Do the citizens of the real world (and the baseball world) have the courage and wherewithal to succeed or fail in a capitalistic economy, free from the onerous tentacles of government regulation, or will these individuals eschew the concept of "equality of opportunity" for the unfair and vain attempt at "equality of result"? Be warned, however, that the latter, rather than lifting the supposedly downtrodden, merely succeeds in dragging everyone down into the mire of mediocrity.

Baseball always has been, and always will be, populated by the haves and have-nots. And these two groups are constantly switching roles. In other words, winning and losing is cyclical. So, to those who are screaming that the Kansas Citys, Minnesotas, Pittsburghs, and Montreals can't compete, please pipe down and open a history book.

In 1990, the Atlanta Braves had the worst record in the National League. They've since finished first nine straight times and have been to five World Series during that span. In 1990, the New York Yankees not only had the worst record in the American League, but the franchise's worst mark in 77 years. The Yanks have won the last three World Series and four of the last five. In 1990, for the 31st time in 33 years, the Cleveland Indians finished at least 10 games out of first place. The Tribe made the post-season three times prior to 1995 and five times since, including a pair of trips to the World Series.

Need more? The St. Louis Browns finished first once and second twice in their history (1901-53). From 1920 to 1966, the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox combined to make two post-season appearances. Incidentally, they last won the World Series in 1917 and 1918, respectively. The Chicago Cubs last won the World Series in 1908. They last won the pennant in 1945. They last won a division title in 1989. They last made the playoffs (as a wild-card team) in 1998. It goes on and on.

Between 1915 and 1956, the Braves had more home cities (Boston and Milwaukee) than post-season appearances (1948 World Series). From 1903 to 1975, the Philadelphia Phillies were post-season participants twice (posting a combined 1-8 record in the 1915 and 1950 World Series). They then won three straight division rifles, claimed their first (and still only) World Series crown in 1980, won a pennant in 1983, another in 1993, and have been laughingstocks ever since.

From 1903 to 1931, the Athletics won eight pennants and five World Series. From 1932 to 1970, they were based in three cities (Philadelphia, Kansas City, Oakland) and failed to qualify for the post-season. They then won five straight division crowns (1971-75). The 1972-74 A's are the only club besides the Yankees (who've done it three times) to win three consecutive World Series. The 1988-90 A's captured three A.L. pennants in a row. During the 2000 season, Oakland returned to the playoffs for the first time in 10 years and came within a whisper of beating the Yankees in the Division Series. …

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