I feel like a broken record, but I again have to talk about small-market teams like the Padres playing in a league with absolutely no competitive balance in terms of payroll. I’ve said it before, I don’t care what a team’s payroll is. Any team can compete at anytime given the right people in certain positions. Yet, over and over I see articles written decrying Major League Baseball’s lack of a salary cap, its lack of payroll equality, and the increasingly steep hill small-market teams have to climb to overcome these odds. In fact, last night Tim Sullivan of The San Diego Union Tribune wrote a an article discussing how big money teams are hurting small-market teams.
While Mr. Sullivan was completely accurate in everything he said in his article, the arguments become tiresome. Teams with less money can’t compete. We need to change the system. We need a salary cap. We need equality. These battle cries are fine under certain circumstances. In life, every single one of those battle cries (save for the salary cap) is applicable. The difference in life though is in how people on the lower tiers of society handle their situations.
By no means does every lower-class person or middle-class person strive to be successful, overcome challenges, and push toward greatness no matter their situation, but I do believe a large majority of people exhibit these traits. The single mother, working two jobs and raising three kids, doesn’t stand by wishing her life will change. She doesn’t idly wish the system will rescue her from the continuous uphill battle she must wage. Instead, she works. She fights, she adapts, and she overcomes. She may never have what richer people of a higher class may have, but she can be happy. She can raise her children and give them a life better than she once had.
She can do this because she finds a way. Where people above her situation may scoff at her methods for improving her quality of life (working multiple jobs, taking public transportation, eating home-cooked meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner), she succeeds by sticking to her methods and worrying not about what those with more are doing. She is successful not only in her eyes and her children’s eyes, she is successful to those removed from the knowledge of where she came from. Those who look at her and see a nice home, who see nice children, who see smiling faces, may not know how hard she had to work to get there. But she does. And that is success.
Baseball is a game, but it follows a similar mold as life unlike any other sport. Small-market teams like the Padres, the Rays, The Royals, and the Pirates have a distinct disadvantage. However, the way these teams handle their disadvantage makes all the difference. Unfortunately, it seems too often I hear fans, owners, and the media complaining about a certain team’s situation rather than celebrating the successes of those who overcame. Rather than mimicking the moves of those who succeeded before them, rather than searching out new ways to rise above a situation in which they have no control, these teams seem content in complaining.
Teams that don’t have the money to spend on big-name free agents need to work harder. They need to be creative. They need to do the things others are unwilling to do. This is how they can generate success from a system that forces inequality. They shouldn’t sit back and hope the system will change. They should fight to make their way to the top of the system. All the while, they can push for change. As they push aside the binds that are holding them back, they can make arguments for change that will better the game as a whole. If that change comes, life gets better for these teams. But until then, it’s up to them to get better any way they can.
The woman working two jobs every day doesn’t have the luxury of sitting back and collecting a paycheck while hoping someone else will fix things for her. And neither do small-market teams. The missing piece in baseball is the pride. Small-market teams need to take pride in their situation. They need to take pride in their accomplishments, their successes, and their ability to stand tall among those who don’t have to work as hard. Once every small-market team exhibits this pride, competitive balance can be restore to baseball.