Big weekend for baseball coming: two teams can wrap up division titles; leads could change in the Al Central and NL West; wild-card races should get tighter; Santana goes for No. 19; the Rocket's back on the mound for the Astros. Good stuff.
But some other potential clinchings paint a dismal picture for the Pastime: by the end of the weekend two more teams we'll call the Hardly Perennials could clinch another losing record for the season. The Brewers and Rockies will join their HP brethren the Pirates, Royals, Orioles, Devil Rays and Nationals with a few more losses each. This is not the end of a disappointing season for this gang of seven, it's the end of an inevitable season. And if MLB doesn't figure out something to do about it soon, there's going to be big problems. If there's no chance the team can be a winner why should the fans go? The Citizens of FanNation deserve better.
We looked at the last 10 seasons to see what you have had to put up with. Ten seasons gives a team an opportunity to come back from injuries, free agent defections and a general down cycle. It also gives a team the chance to develop young players and work them through the rough times (witness the '06 Tigers). But ponder the reality of the last 10 seasons for our seven sad sacks: the Pirates have no winning seasons in the 10 (14 straight in fact); the Royals have 1 in 10; the Orioles have 1 in 10 (the one was '97, when they somehow finished first); the Devil Rays have none in 9, only missing the 10th because they didn't exist (the D'Rays have never won more than 70 games in a season); the Nationals are 3 for 10 in two countries; the Brewers are 1 for 10 in two leagues; and the Rockies are 2 of 10 as they've not only gotten bad but boring.
It's not money that stops these teams from winning once in a while. The Twins spend little and have 6 straight seasons over .500 (and some incredibly exciting players); the Marlins spend NOTHING and they're going for 5 of 10 with two World Series banners flying in their empty ballpark; the Athletics are 8 of 10 with a cheap cast that changes year after year. The difference is that these teams have an idea, a clue, a plan, a concept, a belief that they can find a way. They don't sign overpriced defects, they are patient with development and they give players some reason to want to play for them. Who would want to do anything with the Pirates except get out of town? The Royals? They're competitive when their pitcher and catcher trade punches in the dugout, nowhere else.
If MLB can't find a way out for the Hardly Perennials it's got big trouble. Money's not the answer; the profit-sharing system and other financially based pumps haven't helped a bit.
Bud Selig's "idea" of contracting teams almost cost the sport one of its most interesting clubs in the Twins. So let's not expect any brilliance from there. We think it's up to you fans. Tell the Nation what they should do. You have to have a better idea.