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Sports Parity


CS85

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Read this interesting Sports Media Watch tweet:

Dating back to 1998, only two World Series have not featured the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals or Giants. That's bad -- but it's still better than the NBA. Every NBA Finals dating back to *1996* has involved the Bulls, Spurs, Lakers or Heat.


And he released a really interesting article about it that added more detail:

For all the talk of parity in Major League Baseball, the sport is no different from the NBA when it comes to winning the title.

At the conclusion of this year’s Red Sox/Cardinals World Series, six Major League Baseball franchises will have won the World Series over the past ten seasons — matching the number of NBA teams that have won the NBA Finals over the same span.

The NFL — another sport praised for parity — has only one more champion over the past ten seasons than MLB or the NBA. Only the National Hockey League can truly claim the mantle of parity, at least when it comes to champions — the league has produced nine winners over the past ten seasons it has played.

A far greater percentage of big market teams have won the title in baseball than in any other sport over the past ten seasons. Five of the six MLB champions have hailed from a top ten TV market — New York (#1), Chicago (#3), Philadelphia (#4), the Bay Area (#6) and Boston (#7).

By contrast, only three of six NBA champions hailed from top ten markets over that span (Los Angeles, Dallas and Boston), and only two Super Bowl champions have played in a top ten market (New York and Boston).

The NHL has also had five big market champions (New York, Los Angeles — once each for the Kings and Ducks — Chicago, and Boston). Of course, as the NHL had more champions overall, the percentage of big market teams was lower.

Of course, MLB looks a lot better when you go back further. Over the past 20 seasons, MLB has had 11 champions, compared to just seven for the NBA, 12 for the NFL, and 13 for the NHL. One interpretation is that Major League Baseball has become more like the NBA over the past decade — with championships concentrated among just a few teams.

Champions of the Four Major Sports Leagues Past ten seasons

Major League Baseball (six champions, five in top ten markets)

  • 2004, 2007, 2013*: Red Sox (#7 TV market)
  • 2005: White Sox (#3 TV market)
  • 2006, 2011, 2013*: Cardinals
  • 2008: Phillies (#4 TV market)
  • 2009: Yankees (#1 TV market)
  • 2010, 2012: Giants (#6 TV market)

* Red Sox or Cardinals will win 2013 World Series.

National Basketball Association (six champions, three in top ten markets)

  • 2004: Pistons
  • 2005, 2007: Spurs
  • 2006, 2012, 2013: Heat
  • 2008: Celtics (#7 TV market)
  • 2009, 2010: Lakers (#2 TV market)
  • 2011: Mavericks (#5 TV market)

National Football League (seven champions, two in top ten markets)

  • 2004, 2005: Patriots (#7 TV market)
  • 2006, 2009: Steelers
  • 2007: Colts
  • 2008, 2012: Giants (#1 TV market)
  • 2010: Saints
  • 2011: Packers
  • 2013: Ravens

National Hockey League* (nine champions, five in top ten markets)

  • 2003: Devils (#1 TV market)
  • 2004: Lightning
  • 2006: Hurricanes
  • 2007: Ducks (#2 TV market)
  • 2008: Red Wings
  • 2009: Penguins
  • 2010, 2013: Blackhawks (#3 TV market)
  • 2011: Bruins (#7 TV market)
  • 2012: Kings (#2 TV market)

* Does not include 2004-05 season, which the owners canceled as part of their lockout of players.

I'm curious about your thoughts on this. Is there a remedy for the NBA or MLB to shake things up? Are their salary systems to blame? Or is it "just how it is."

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The new CBA could level the playing field a bit in baseball, but it will take years to ascertain, and on top of that, the payroll disparity has gotten to the point where there probably does need to be more than just the luxury tax.

You couldn't save the NBA if you tried.

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The MLB is in need of a hard salary cap and floor. Small markets have become more competitive under the current CBA, but it's still clearly not been enough for them to beat out the big-money, big-market teams when it really matters - the hard cap is pretty much the only way to put an end to the idea of "buying titles" for good. Additionally, the salary floor is needed to prevent any more scams like what that crook Loria pulled on Miami.

The NBA is actually on the right path with the new CBA. The luxury tax actually has teeth now and even big-market teams are deathly afraid of the repeater tax. The full effects of the CBA on parity probably won't be apparent for the next few years. Sure, some owners (like Prokhorov, for example) are still acting like it doesn't matter, but we'll see down the road when the Nets are getting walloped by the repeater tax if he still feels the same way. One thing they should consider doing is eliminating the lottery. It doesn't achieve the desired goal of eliminating tanking and it rarely helps the worst team in the league get better.

The NFL could be a lot worse parity-wise. Yes, a lot of the same teams make the playoffs every year until we're sick of watching them, but dynasties have been rare since the salary cap was introduced, and it's still the easiest sport to go from worst to first in. The NFL has a lot of problems, but parity is not very high on the list.

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Keep the lottery, but give every team an equal shot at each pick, and hold the drawing in public view. The whole ping-pong ball/assigned block of permutations system is byzantine and makes for poor television. The NBA, of all leagues, should be sensitive to what poor television it is.

I'd like to see less parity in the NHL. Whereas basketball is a much more "determined" game and thus needs outside controls to shake it up, hockey is more inherently random and needs outside controls to de-noise it a bit. Widen the cap and floor drastically, not just for the purpose of letting great teams load up and bad teams strip down and tank, but also to inoculate poor markets from having to spend to a floor they can't afford because of high-revenue outliers raising the floor for everyone else (and it's only gonna get worse with all the big Canadian money coming down the pike). I know everyone romanticizes that anything can happen in the playoffs, but realistically speaking, you should never have more than 10 to 12 teams in a 30-team league that could conceivably win the championship.

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Keep the lottery, but give every team an equal shot at each pick, and hold the drawing in public view. The whole ping-pong ball/assigned block of permutations system is byzantine and makes for poor television. The NBA, of all leagues, should be sensitive to what poor television it is.

I'd like to see less parity in the NHL. Whereas basketball is a much more "determined" game and thus needs outside controls to shake it up, hockey is more inherently random and needs outside controls to de-noise it a bit. Widen the cap and floor drastically, not just for the purpose of letting great teams load up and bad teams strip down and tank, but also to inoculate poor markets from having to spend to a floor they can't afford because of high-revenue outliers raising the floor for everyone else (and it's only gonna get worse with all the big Canadian money coming down the pike). I know everyone romanticizes that anything can happen in the playoffs, but realistically speaking, you should never have more than 10 to 12 teams in a 30-team league that could conceivably win the championship.

It's weird to think that you'd actually increase parity by removing teams, but in the bizarre world of the NHL of course that would be a solution.

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The MLB is in need of a hard salary cap and floor.

That was my first thought on "fixing" baseball. Subtracting 4-6 teams from the big four leagues would help too. It levels the playing field quite a bit in the NHL, MLB, and the NBA. And it would increase the quality of play in the NFL to the point where Thursday night games just might be worth watching.

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An example I would like to give is in Formula One.

For years Michael Schumacher dominated the sport. They altered regulations to try and give the other teams a chance to win races as there was a lot of complaining about it being boring have Schumacher start most races in pole position, lead every single lap and win the race. He still dominated. Now a similar thing is happening with Sebastian Vettel.

The result has been that by changing the rules and regulations, teams have had to adapt. All that has happened is that the best teams have adapted the best and still been the most successful. In my opinion, if certain teams are not as good as others then the onus is on them to improve.

By artificially trying to level the playing field all you do is weaken the integrity of the competition and it doesn't always produce the results you are after.

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After 2010, there was virtually no concern regarding baseball lack of parity, since, at that time, there had been a different champion in almost every season since 2001 (exception being the 2007 Red Sox). Then the Cardinals win again, the Giants win again, and one of the Red Sox or Cardinals are guaranteed to win again, and concern bubbles back to the surface.

I tend to agree with marble on this. You know what I've been bitching about with baseball since the start of last season? The fact that there are no great teams out there. The last truly great baseball team comes from the 2009 season. Since about 2011, there hasn't been a standout team in any capacity (and don't even begin to sell me on the 2011 Phillies - that was a team with an excellent pitching staff that had a declining offense and a W total inflated by the relative crappiness of the NL). And this is without a salary cap, too! The MLB isn't at NHL levels of parity and being a problem with the quality of the sport, but I've quite often said that, from my POV, I would trade having more competition for postseason competition for having less competition but better teams involved.

The NFL levels of parity are quite sad, too. That's another league that has progressed (regressed?) to the point where the playoffs have fallen victim to the "best team at right time" syndrome that I brought up yesterday. For almost 20 years, a #1 overall seed did not lose their first playoff game, and now I think it's happened on a regular basis every postseason since 2007. The best team rarely seems to win the Super Bowl anymore. Sure, it's fun when it means the Patriots are losing in the last minute against the Giants, but if we're talking about the quality of the product, that's not the best outcome.

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Wow did I run into a dead end here. Too early in the morning.

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Not buying what you're selling. There have been plenty of teams having great seasons since 2009. Two of them are in the World Series right now. That they haven't been the Yankees isn't a legitimate criticism.

I can see where the current model of NFL parity -- in which a few teams are elite, a few teams don't belong on this earth, and the rest are all more or less equal -- would bore some people. The fact that there were back-to-back 9-7 Super Bowl winners is kind of annoying, but might just end up being a weird little blip in the long run. But hey, the dream of Pete Rozelle was always that every team would finish 8-8.

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Has nothing to do with the Yankees at all; probably just our own personal definitions of what defines a "great" team. I'd consider the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox teams to be "great" teams much quicker than I would admit the 2013 Red Sox are (partially because they really were great teams).

Being great relative to their competition is one thing. I don't buy that these Red Sox or Cardinals teams are by any means great relative to many past AL and NL pennant winners. That's more-so what I'm concerning myself with here.

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I'll fully admit that my beliefs are likely a tad bit on the radical side here, but that's what happens. I've thought about this topic far too much to just throw out haph-hazard notions.

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Only the National Hockey League can truly claim the mantle of parity, at least when it comes to champions — the league has produced nine winners over the past ten seasons it has played.

I can't help but smile at this one for what should be obvious reasons.

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Until the recent runs by the Phillies, Cardinals, and Giants, there was parity in the National League. From 1996-2008 (13 seasons), there were 10 different champions in the 16-team league: everyone but the Cubs, Brewers, Pirates, Reds, Dodgers, and Expos/Nationals were in the World Series; only the Braves, Cardinals, and Marlins(!) went to two.

The DH gives big-market clubs another chance to flex their financial muscles. Getting rid of it could help level the playing field a little bit. But it will never happen, of course. I know the NL run of '96-'08 shouldn't be taken as evidence that getting rid of the DH is a cure-all, but I also know the Rays owner is strongly against the DH because he feels it gives the big-market teams an extra edge.

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I did all the math behind this before, because Stephen A Smith was saying something about the NBA having the most parity.

Also, I have this saved from 2010, and I've seen one for 2011, but the NFL is generally even.

Parity_zps42259685.jpg

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Really depends on how exactly you define 'parity' in sports. Is it by who's winning the championships, who's getting to the championship game/series, who's making the playoffs, or who's got a winning record?

Me personally, I think leagues define parity by which teams are making the playoffs.

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Really depends on how exactly you define 'parity' in sports. Is it by who's winning the championships, who's getting to the championship game/series, who's making the playoffs, or who's got a winning record?

Me personally, I think leagues define parity by which teams are making the playoffs.

I don't disagree but I believe the playoffs aren't a good aggregate for "parity." Conference Finals are a better tool, IMHO.

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I just don't understand why parity is needed. Particularly so much that efforts are made to encourage it.

That's like saying there shouldn't be a middle class.

Hmm, kind of but not fully. More that I know that there will never be a time when everyone is in the middle class - no matter what actions are taken.

In sports its not as if extremes of being good or bad are at the point where the best team in the NFL is putting 100 points on the worst team and the safety of the players on the worst team is in question.

We are at the point where people are complaining that the same (good) teams are reaching the playoffs and championship games.

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