The Yankees-Red Sox matchup in the ALCS is a fantastic thing for baseball. It is also very bad for the game.
It is currently the best rivalry in North American team sports. It features great players, including Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez. It showcases two of the most historic venues in baseball in Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park. It also has the best storyline: The Curse of the Bambino.
So how can something this good be so bad? Ask any of the other 12 Amercian League teams whose only purpose in life is to be fodder for these two franchises.
The Yankees and Red Sox spend more money than Mike Tyson in the 1990s, albeit a little more wisely than the former heavyweight champion. Although the luxury tax has allowed other clubs like the Toronto Blue Jays to pay off their debt and remain in existence, there is no possible way that smaller market clubs can have a budget for player salaries comparable to the Yankees and Red Sox.
There are two ways to alleviate this problem and level the playing field. MLB can either enforce a salary cap or expand the number of teams that make the playoffs. This increases the likelihood that a Cinderella team like the 2003 Florida Marlins can win the World Series.
MLB will never get a salary cap unless it is willing to cancel an entire season. It didn't work in 1994, so why would the league expect it to work now? Expanding the playoff format has been discussed, but the idea has been killed by commissioner Bud Selig.
Selig will never admit this, but if the Yankees and Red Sox could play each other in every ALCS from now until eternity, he may actually smile. The Yankees-Red Sox series will no doubt be a ratings coup again for MLB given the size of the markets and rivalry. A Twins-Angels series just doesn't compare.
Expanding the playoffs would increase the likelihood that either the Yankees or Red Sox get eliminated before facing each other. Changing the economic system in the game would put the Yankees and Red Sox on an even playing field with the rest of the league. Why would Selig do anything to jeopardize this rivalry? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
For those who enjoy this rivalry, it is the best time of the season. For fans of the other 12 American League teams, don't expect the situation to change anytime soon.
Bryant: Nobody likes me
Phillip sounds off: Add Phil Jackson to the list of people who don't like Kobe Bryant.
A month after Shaquille O'Neal ripped his former Lakers' teammate in a rap song, Jackson has a tell-all book about the 2003-04 season, claiming that he needed to consult a therapist to deal with what he terms a psychological war with Bryant.
He also touches on the relationship between O'Neal and Bryant; one that Jackson called juvenile.
There comes a point in time where if enough people say someone is a jerk, well, it becomes very difficult to believe otherwise. Just wait until a certain female in Colorado speaks her mind.
It will be interesting to see how the Lakers perform now that it is Bryant's team. Jackson wanted to trade Kobe twice during his tenure in L.A., but was told Lakers' owner Jerry Buss would never allow it to happen. Buss will now have to live with the ramifications of sticking with Bryant, whatever they may be.
Hamming it up: Those who read last week's column may remember that I suggested Paul Hamm should consider giving up his Olympic gold medal to Yang Tae-young, who finished third in the men's all-around gymnastics event because of a judging error.
A reader was quick to point out that the situation isn't as cut-and-dry as this, since Tae-young also benefited from another judging error, and should have had a lower score because a mandatory deduction was missed. Had this happened, this whole dilemma would be moot since Hamm would still be the Olympic champion.
The problem with judged sports like gymnastics and figure skating is that they are so subjective, that there can be many different opinions on how an athlete performs. (This doesn't include scandals as was witnessed at the Salt Lake City Olympics).
If it were blatantly obvious that Tae-young was the better gymnast on that particular day, then it would be a real act of sportsmen if Hamm gave up his medal. But since it is not as simple as that, Hamm has every right to hang on to what he and many others believe is rightfully his.
Mitchell: No wake-up calls
Morning snooze: Toronto Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell announced that his team will not participate in morning shootarounds on game days, giving his players more rest.
No word yet on whether Allen Iverson will demand a trade to Toronto.