DETROIT Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said baseball's economic structure could use more improvement but had come a long way since he took over.
With the new season just under way, Selig said there was potential for tight races in all six divisions.
"Is there work to be done? There is," Selig told the Detroit Economic Club. "But we have more teams with what I call 'hope and faith' today than we've had in a long time."
The 30 major-league teams started sharing revenue in 1996 and changed the formula in the labor contract that began after the 2002 season to increase the percentage.
Selig contends that the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars among the 30 teams has created an environment where as many as 20 teams legitimately can compete for playoff spots this year, up from perhaps seven to 10 a decade ago.
Selig cited the Detroit Tigers, host of July's All-Star game, as an example of a team that had bettered itself dramatically in the past couple of years and could contend for its first division title since 1987.
Off to a 2-1 start, Detroit lost an AL-record 119 games two seasons ago with a roster of rushed prospects and lackluster veterans. The Tigers were 72-90 last year, the second-best improvement since expansion began in 1961. The rebound came after the team made several moves, capped by the signing of All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez.
"The Tigers really are one of the dramatic manifestations of our new economic system," Selig said.
Still, economic disparity continues to exist at certain levels of baseball.
The New York Yankees' $199.77 million opening-day payroll is more than the $187 million total of Tampa Bay ($29.9 million), Kansas City ($36.9 million), Pittsburgh ($38.1 million), Milwaukee ($40.2 million) and Cleveland ($41.8 million.)
And three Yankees were among the top five in salary: Alex Rodriguez, at $25.7 million, was No. 1, Derek Jeter was fourth at $19.6 million and Mike Mussina was fifth at $19 million.
Despite a luxury tax teams like the Yankees must pay for exceeding a payroll threshold, Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy has proposed a salary cap, a mechanism already used in the NFL and NBA.
Selig, whose 121/2-year tenure as commissioner has seen the doubling of playoff teams from four to eight and the advent of interleague play in 1997, said he didn't believe a cap was needed.
"The system we have now is working," he said. "We have two more years in this labor agreement, and we'll just watch and see how things go."