Yesterday, David Schoenfield wrote a baseball “Power Rankings” piece in an effort highlight who he thought were the best teams in baseball right now. Normally, this type of “one man’s opinion on who the best team is on paper in December” article is about as useful as junk mail, but in this case it actually illustrated another important point quite well – Even if it wasn’t Schoenfield’s primary intention.
You can scroll right past the part where he crowns the Nationals and Reds preseason darlings (even if those are not bad picks) and head to the last two paragraphs, because the most interesting thing about any baseball top ten team list right now isn’t as much about who’s in, but who’s out. In Schoenfield’s case, the Angels, Giants, Blue Jays, Orioles, Brewers and Diamondbacks are all left in the cold. What’s striking about this is that those are six teams who all have a fighting chance at winning their division – And since any team that wins its division has a chance to take the whole thing, it’s reasonable to conclude that more than 50% of the teams across baseball right now can dream of a World Series in 2013 right now without a visit to fantasy land.
Somehow, despite teams like the Dodgers and Yankees spending a gazillion dollars this season, there’s as many teams as ever who have every right to believe that they can win the World Series next fall. Baseball has achieved parity!
I bring this up because usually when there’s a discussion about a sport and its overwhelming parity, I’m grabbing a towel trying to dry off after getting hit by the media slobbering all over the NFL for it’s amazing achievements when it comes to this subject. All of the articles like this, constant mention during game play, and cute graphics wouldn’t bother me at all if the NFL really did have a monopoly on parity across the sports landscape, but the simple fact is that it does not.
Think about this for a moment, if the New York Giants find a way to pull out the NFL East title this season, you are likely talking about seven of the eight division winners from last season repeating – And the one that’s not had its coach and a few key defensive players suspended for the year in a potential head hunting scandal.
The AFC in particular has seen an incredible inability to deliver on the parity promise this season. With 13% of the season still to play, not only are all four division titles in the AFC locked up, but they have been locked up by the same teams who won them last year.
Another good example of the double standard we often see when it comes to parity surrounding baseball and football would be last January when the NFL actually did turn over six of its playoff teams (50%) from 2010. The four letter network almost couldn’t control itself while recognizing the NFL for this almost “unheard of” feat as one analyst put it. Well, it would only be unheard of if you weren’t paying attention to baseball which has now had a minimum of 50% of its playoff teams differ from the previous year’s group for SEVEN CONSECUTIVE SEASONS!!!
The best the NFL could really do if there was a true debate about the major sport with the most parity right now in this country would be to say that it’s close. In the last 12 years, no team has won the World Series more than twice, and no team has been to the World Series more than three times. The NFL can boast that it’s produced four different champions in the last four seasons, but even that seems to be at least partly by chance as many of the same teams tend to keep showing up in February.
In fact, in the last nine years, only three quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger) have represented the AFC in the Super bowl, and there’s a good chance that this year is going to make it ten.
I enjoy the NFL, I really do; and there’s many things that that league deserves immense credit for, but when it comes pure parity and creating new playoff teams year after year, baseball reigns supreme in that department.
The Blue Jays continue their busy offseason as they are on the verge of acquiring R.A. Dickey pending a contract extension that must be worked out by 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Another free agent starter has found a new home. Mike Pelfrey signs a one year deal with the Twins.
The Yankees and Angels are discussing Vernon Wells.