When you think back to where we were in the '90s, how small-market clubs never won and the few playoff games they won were like 4 percent or 5 percent, there was all this despair about disparity. On Jan. 19 of 2000, the owners gave me unprecedented power to solve the competitive balance problem. The vote was 30-0. There was genuine, deep and abiding concern. There's no question that it existed. Competitive balance was a real problem. The sport felt it in every way. So Tampa Bay winning was a manifestation of all the changes. (MLB.com interview)These changes, namely revenue-sharing (which was in place for a few years by 2000 and peaked around then at less than half of what George Mitchell recommended was necessary for competitive balance before settling at its current level) and luxury taxes, were designed (allegedly) to increase competitive balance indirectly by closing the payroll gap, not just by giving wins to the small market teams. Mr. Selig does not seem to care that the Rays' success has nothing to do with these measures (they did have the second lowest payroll in baseball, after all, and were competing with teams in their division with 5 times their payroll). Of course, the truth is that the Rays could compete as a small market because of the salary controls in the CBA over the first 6 years of a player's career, a measure that existed long before Selig took over, but Bud doesn't think baseball fans are smart enough to realize this.
I am not sure what Mr. Selig considers a small market, but his statement on the 90s makes absolutely no sense. Teams from Atlanta, Cleveland, Toronto, and Oakland had dominating runs, and they did so with competitive payrolls. Kansas City, Oakland, and Toronto all led MLB in payroll at some point in the 90s, and other small market teams were consistently in the top 5-10. Even the Marlins were in the top 5 in payroll when they won the Series in '97. It would seem that what Mr. Selig is talking about as small market is really low-payroll, which is counter-intuitive to his arguments on competitive balance. The whole point is to give the small market teams a chance to compete financially with the bigger teams so that they can compete more consistently on the field, so what kind of sense does it make to not count these teams as small market when they do spend competitively and only point to their success when they don't spend? That's like saying we're only going to count teams' successes when our measures don't actually work.
It's ironic that Selig cites the Rays as the poster team of the results of his revenue sharing measures, because, until this season, they really were. They consistently refused to even attempt to field a competitive team or try to spend money to bring in talent, choosing instead to turn their profits by collecting revenue sharing payments. They couldn't win games, they couldn't fill the lower deck of their stadium, and they couldn't care less. They were, more or less, everything that was wrong with the competitive balance in the game.
Essentially, what Bud is saying is that fans are too stupid to tell the difference between payroll and wins, and that he can use them interchangeably for whatever suits his position whether it makes sense or not and no one will notice. Or maybe Bud himself is too stupid to tell the difference. I don't know. Either way, I'm not going to fall for it.