The National League has three strong divisional races burning as August fades away. The Mets hold a three-game edge on the Phillies, the Cubs are a game and a half up on the Brewers and two games clear of the Cardinals and four teams are within five and a half games of the West lead. Some might call it parity, others would point to a regression to the mean but I prefer the term mediocrity. Baseball Musings reports today that the Padres lead the league in run differential with a miniscule +65, which would be the lowest total since the dawn of the 162-game schedule. Meanwhile in the American League the Red Sox lead with 181 more runs scored than allowed while the Yankees are +143 and the Angels are +85. The Central contenders Cleveland and Detroit are 65 and 63 runs in the pink, respectively.
Now run differential isn't everything. The Mariners, for example, are just +14 on the season and sit at 73-57 and the Cardinals only scored 19 more runs than they allowed last year before winning the World Series. Still, it's a striking disparity between the two leagues and one that could help explain why the Senior Circuit has won just four of the last 11 titles.
Something similar is shaping up for the NFC in the pending football season. A cursory look at the teams in that conference finds no contenders poised to dominate the league with the efficiency of the Patriots, Colts or Chargers in the AFC. There may be teams like last year's Bears and Saints that pile up a ton of wins without garnering much expectation of a Super Bowl crown. As in baseball that inferiority has proven itself with the team holding the trophy at the end of the year. Eight of the last ten champions have been AFC teams and you'd be hard pressed to find many predicitions that see that coming to an end this time around.
Is there a shared cause to the struggles of the National League and Conference? At first glance there doesn't appear to be one. Powerful American League teams like the Red Sox, Yankees and Tigers have used their financial advantages to sign free agents and collect top prospects in the draft but the Mets have been one of the most active teams in signing free talent over the past few seasons. In football the Saints have one of the league's best offenses and the Bears possess a fearsome defense but no team has come up with the balanced attack the Steelers, Colts and Patriots have ridden to titles of late. Perhaps it has something to do with the National in each name. When nationalization comes industries still produce, although they tend to provide less exceptional service in the name of giving something to everybody. The American way, however, is for a select few to dominate while creating a gap between them and the huddled masses. As in life, as in sports.