The 1991 World Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Minnesota Twins was notable for both teams' journeys from last place to first place as they played one of the best World Series ever, a seven-game classic that extended into extra innings in the final, deciding game.
But like so many other economics changes for the worse that have occurred in the past two decades of American life, you'll never see anything like it again: a team like the Twins from a smaller metropolitan area with a smaller payroll going from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the pyramid.
(Consider the local Oakland Athletics improving by 20 games from 2011 to 2012 as the closest thing possible nowadays.)
Major League Baseball has now become almost as unwatchable as the National Basketball Association: the same big-city teams spending the same insane amounts of money every year and squeezing the little guys out of truly competing for a title.
One of the great American things about the National Football League -- and to a lesser extent, the National Hockey League -- is upward mobility is still possible because of a hard salary cap that prevents big-city teams from ongoing dominance at the expense of the small-city teams.
There's a great example right now in the NFL: the Kansas City Chiefs, who finished with the worst record in the league last year, have turned it around in one offseason and now have a perfect 6-0 record in the 2013 season so far.
The Kansas City Royals could never pull that off: in fact, the Royals just posted their first winning season since 2003 this past year, staying in wild-card contention up until the last week of the season. But the Kansas City baseball fans haven't seen playoff baseball in their town since 1985.
Consider that for a moment.
The Royals won seven American League West division titles from 1976 to 1985, culminating in their lone World Series championship in 1985, a seven-game classic over the cross-state rival St. Louis Cardinals.
Since then, Kansas City has posted just eight winnings season, including just two (2003, 2013) in the last 20 seasons.
How's that for upward mobility for a small-city, small-payroll team?
Yes, MLB really knows a thing or two about competitive balance and how to prevent it.
To wit, the final four teams in the MLB playoffs have an average payroll of $157M. Kansas City's payroll in 2013 was just about half that average ($79M), and it was good enough to give them a whiff of the good October life, but not enough to truly enjoy it.
It makes it even more amazing to consider the success of the Oakland Athletics, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Tampa Bay Rays this year, in terms of actually making the postseason and having a perceived chance to win the World Series.
For the A's and the Rays, they have this routine down somewhat, although neither has been able to raise the championship trophy despite repeated trips to the postseason: Oakland has been to the postseason seven times since 2000, but it has never reached the Series, while Tampa Bay has been in October four times in the last six seasons but has never won the title.
(The Rays are the last small-payroll/small-city club to make the Series, losing to the Philadelphia Philles in 2008. No small-payroll team has won the Series since the then-Florida Marlins in 2003.)
That extra $100M in payroll buys a lot of depth and special-skill sets for every possible moment of every game, in truth, meaning eventually? The little guys are just going to run out of luck when they need it most.
This is why, in the end, MLB just doesn't generate any postseason excitement, as much as TBS, FOX and Commissioner Bud Selig would like to pretend the "Fall Classic" is something special -- because it's not. If you spend enough money wisely, you have a great chance to win.
And who wants to see a bunch of rich kids competing to see who has the biggest wallet?
That's the MLB reality now and a Selig legacy of shame: if you don't spend the money, you really have no chance to win any more, and that's just not what America is about -- never has been, really, demonstrating with finality why "America's pastime" is quite out of touch with its origins in the 21st century.