I have a new rule: Any time I spend more than a half hour on a comment, I need to bump it up to a full post . . . especially when I haven’t written anything in months.

The Rolen contract thread
somehow devolved into yet another discussion of whether baseball needs a salary cap.

Essentially, the argument a few guys were making went like this: “How many different teams have been in the playoffs in the NFL? How can team A compete with Team B in MLB when Team A payroll is 80 million and team B’s is 200 million. There has to be a floor and a ceiling for their to be true fairness in the system.”

If all you want is “an opportunity to make the playoffs once a decade,” which is what I was hearing, then there’s no need to look at football. Baseball already has THAT. Baseball had 14 different teams in the 10 World Series during the 2000s. Only Boston won more than once. Eight teams won the NL pennant; six won the AL.

But there’s an obvious, but overlooked difference between baseball and football, and I’m not sure that it’s the salary cap. It’s just perception: The NFL lets 12 of 32 teams into the playoffs. Baseball has 8 of 30. Add two wild cards, per season, per league, and you’ll have a damn lot of playoff teams.

Let’s just look at the past two seasons. Twelve of the 30 teams made the playoffs in one of those two seasons. If MLB added two WCs per league, the number would’ve jumped to NINETEEN. Sixty-three percent of the league would’ve appeared in the playoffs in just two years.

If you add 2007, 23 baseball teams would’ve made the NFL-style playoffs. That’s everyone except the absolute weak sisters (BAL, KC, PIT, CIN, WAS), and two teams that everyone acknowledges are generally well-run, but just in a down cycle (ATL and OAK). And ATL would’ve missed the Hypothetical Playoffs by 1 game in 2009; Oakland won their division outright in ‘06.

Guess how many NFL teams made the playoffs over the past three seasons (2006-08)? Yep. Twenty-three. (The losers? Again, no surprises: CLE, BUF, OAK, HOU, STL, DET, SF – and the Bengals and Broncos, who made in in ’05 and will probably be in again this year.)

No salary cap needed. Wild Cards win all the time, in football and baseball. Obviously, five and seven-game series make it harder, but I think the effect is pretty similar. Expand the playoffs, and a few of those 84-85 win teams win pennants, and baseball would have exactly what football has.

That doesn’t interest me one bit. But I’m not arguing for a salary cap, either. Until the Reds operate with some semblance of a competence, I don’t think they (and to their credit, they aren’t) or we are in any position to complain about an unfair system.