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Patrick Hruby

Atlantic Sports Roundtable: Welcome back, MLB!

Oops. Forgot to post this last week. I've been busy reporting some other projects. Anyway, Major League Baseball is back -- and just before Ozzie Guillen pulled the verbal equivalent of Joe Girardi dressing up like Osama Bin Laden for Halloween, the Atlantic Sports Roundtable discussed what we're looking forward to in the 2012 season:

Jake Simpson: ... for me, though, the biggest change is the obvious one: the league adding another playoff team in each league. For a full breakdown of the new system go here, but the Cliff Notes are that the three division winners get a bye, and the TWO wild card teams have a play-in game to determine the fourth Division Series participant in each league. The ramifications to pennant races, September strategy, and fan interest are staggering ...

Patrick Hruby: ...  I'm fascinated by the budding Rangers-Angels rivalry. Mostly because both clubs are nouveau riche, thanks to a pair of gargantuan, multibillion-dollar regional broadcast deals that have lifted them into the money-is-just-paper-you-can-burn payroll orbit traditionally reserved for the Yankees, Red Sox, and whoever is paying Keith Olbermann's yearly salary these days. Baseball's newest, most important game-within-the-game isn't Moneyball-esque data mining for marginal on-field advantages—that's so 2004—but rather maximizing one's local television rights in order to spend like a sober investment banker. Will other teams follow suit? Can other teams follow suit? Or are small market clubs destined to feel ... even smaller?

Hampton Stevens: ... Beyond the Marlins' appalling billion-dollar swindle of taxpayers, we all know about MLB's flawed revenue sharing and the grinding lack of parity it creates. We've all talked about TV contracts and arbitration hearings, just as we've pondered the intricacies of the NBA's salary cap and NFL's franchise tag.The beauty of baseball for me is that none of that stuff matters one whit. It's the game where everything outside the lines can—and should be—most easily ignored. Not only money worries, but anything ancillary to the game itself. Like, say, drug scandals. Or the expanded postseason. Granted, being a Royals' fan has a lot to do with it ...

Read the full article at the Atlantic Online