Baseball matches other sports’ competitive balance

28 10 2009

With the Yankees back in the World Series, we can be sure to hear lots of moaning about how they “buy” their championships and how they have destroyed the competitive balance of baseball.

But compare baseball’s championships this decade with the other sports:

Baseball. Eight different teams won championships — Yankees (possibly twice), Diamondbacks, Angels, Marlins, Red Sox (twice), White Sox, Cardinals, Phillies (possibly twice). Six other teams made it to the World Series: Mets, Giants, Astros, Tigers, Rockies, Rays. That’s 14 teams playing for the championship in this decade.

Football. Seven teams have won Super Bowls — Rams, Ravens, Patriots (three times), Buccaneers, Steelers (twice), Colts, Giants. Seven more played for the championship — Titans, Raiders, Panthers, Eagles, Seahawks, Bears, Cardinals. As with baseball, 14 teams played for the championship.

Basketball. Five teams have won championships — Lakers, Spurs, Pistons, Heat, Celtics. Five more teams have played for the championship — 76ers, Nets, Mavericks, Cavaliers, Magic. Ten teams played for the championship.

Hockey (not an exact comparison, because the lockout canceled the 2004-5 season). Seven teams have won the Stanley Cup — Devils (twice), Avalanche, Red Wings (twice), Lightning, Hurricanes, Ducks, Penguins. Four other teams have played for the Cup — Stars, Flames, Oilers, Senators. Eleven teams have played for the championship. An extra year might have evened the first count, but not the second.

No other major team sport has had as many different champions as baseball. And only football has had as many different teams playing for the championship. (And since football has two more teams, a greater percentage of baseball franchises have played for the championship.)

So when you hear the Yankee haters whining about how they have destroyed baseball’s competitive balance, tell them the facts. Yes, some miserable franchises (Royals and Pirates) are bad year after year. But no sport has more teams playing for the big prize.

So the salary caps of football and basketball do not result  in better competitive balance, unless you like to pretend (as Yankee haters usually do).

And keep in mind that this analysis doesn’t include eight more teams that made the playoffs multiple times during the decade: Braves, Twins, A’s, Mariners, Indians, Cubs, Dodgers, Padres. The Brewers also made the playoffs once. And this is in a sport that has only eight playoff teams a year (compared to 12 for the NFL and 16 each for basketball and hockey).

You’re welcome to hate the Yankees. I enjoy that. But when you spout emotional blather that has no basis in reality, I just laugh.

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