"So, let's say the Playoff teams end up being the Yanks, Twins, A's and Mariners/Angels/Red Sox. Which of those 4 teams are you betting on?"
The original point to my argument is that the mid to small market teams can compete now in the new system. Out of the six teams you listed there only two are big spenders. The other four are mid or small market teams. Isn't that what baseball was going for? If you throw in the White Sox, who I think will be much better than last year that's half the teams of the American League who believe they have a shot.
You're argument that Steinbrenner will grab all the best free agents doesn't hold up either. If Billy Beane is given an extra $10 million directly from Steinbrenner's tax you don't think he'll reinvest that money? George can spend all he wants, it doesn't guarantee him championships. For example the decade of the 80s. The Yankees only started winning when their farm team produced outstanding players. Let the Yanks buy the Mondesis and Rondell Whites. Let them give away their entire bullpen and replace with Chris Hammond and Antonio Osuna. The YES Network can't guarantee Clemens, Wells, Petitte and Mariano Rivera won't break down again or Alfonso Soriano's shoulder won't give him problems this year.
Also you bashed the White Sox for being a small market team - they get Colon - the premier pitcher of the offseason and you say he's fat...then you bitch about him going to the Yankees.
I'll grant you the Colon point. That's just my inborn pessimism as a White Sox fan clouding all attempts at logic regarding him and his future. Too many memories of David Wells and his flameout in Chicago followed by his resurrection in NYC banging about in my mind.
The point to my argument though is that just because a team makes the playoffs does not mean it's particularly competitive. The Central division is a joke in the AL, and whomever sludges out of it will not have a real chance in the playoffs of going to the world series. Same with those Wild Card teams most likely.
And you're right, no one can guarantee one or more of the old guy pitchers won't break down. But the difference between the Yanks and the A's is if Zito breaks down, the A's are dead. If Clemens breaks down they either plug in one of their other starters, or they trade for a starter whose contract is almost up (possibly Colon if he's doing well this year and the White Sox aren't in contention).
To me the AL is kind of like the AFC was this year. A bunch of teams made the playoffs, but everyone knew going in that it was 95% likely that one of two or three teams was going on, and the other three were sacrificial lambs. The Twins are the Cleveland Browns.
And really, the only reason the White Sox got Colon was because Steinbrenner didn't want him at this time, they wanted to dump El Duque, and he wanted to keep him from Boston, so the Yanks took a horrible deal knowing they can patch up later (though Osuna is a very underrated pitcher).
As for the reinvestment of funds....If Billy is getting $10 from Steinbrenner, how much is George outspending him by then to incur that much luxury tax to spread around? I like the line I read once "the Yankees don't rebuild...they reload."
You mention the 80's regarding the Yankees downtime. I would point out that much of that time also falls into the era of proven and unproven collusion between owners, so George really couldn't just spend everyone into oblivion. Also, cable revenues weren't the monolith they are now.
But if Colon comes to camp looking Shawn Kemp after shutting down an all you can buffet, I will say "I told you so" ;)
I referred to them as a small-market team in a large city or something to that effect. The White Sox fanbase is ridiculously small, and really no one in Chicago except for the 15,000 or so diehard Sox fans ever gives two shits about them. Reinsdorf has so totally killed Chicago as a two-team town and delivered it almost wholly into the hands of the Cubs. So no, technically the Sox are a large-market team, but practically they have more in common with the Twins or Kansas City than the Red Sox or Yankees.
I thought Carl Crawford passed Huff as best Devil Ray ever about a year ago. If the top tier prospects they have can somehow figure out how not to get in trouble, the Devil Rays will actually have an overabundance of talented everyday players.