When I first moved to this country in 1996, the Atlanta Braves were at the peak of dominance. Their 1995 World Series win, led by Braves offense Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, Fred McGriff, and Andruw Jones, plus the pitching dominance of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, made them an unstoppable force. As an eight-year-old new to the country, I had never swung a baseball bat or caught a fly ball in a worn leather glove. But understanding “America’s Pastime” became an important part of fitting in.
Baseball is a great game because any team can win on any day. As the adage goes, “Every team wins 60 games, every team loses 60 games, it’s what you do with the other 42 that counts.”
It is competition at its finest.
Jim Wallis and I were talking about baseball recently. He claimed that baseball is great because at the start of every season, 10 to 15 teams genuinely believe in their chances of advancing to the World Series. How does baseball do that? How does the league ensure strong competition and parity?
The answer simply is the draft — it’s a major way equality is achieved in the league. The secret of American sports is one that would serve well in our political discussion. Those with the worst performance in the previous season should receive the first opportunity at the best resources the next season. This is the direct opposite of George W. Bush’s "No Child Left Behind" philosophy. The worst performing schools lost resources and funding — both essential to improving performance in the future. Imagine the worst baseball team getting the last draft pick.
Would that increase parity and competition?
It’s a long season, but one thing is for sure, it’s going to be better and more exciting because of one basic principal: “The last shall be first.”