Friday, October 29, 2010
A very special World Series matchup
By Jayson Stark
If you're one of those people out there in the baseball hinterlands, still in mourning that you're stuck watching a World Series without the Yankees or the Red Sox, or the Cubs or the Phillies, I'm warning you right now:
This blog is not for you.
This blog is for those of you who want to appreciate what a special World Series matchup Giants-Rangers really is -- and what it tells us about the current state of baseball. So here goes:
Strike One -- Nine Deep
Whichever team wins this World Series, the following fact won't change:
This is going to be the ninth team to win the World Series in the last 10 years. The ninth.
And the only team to win it twice in that span was a franchise that was kind of due -- the Red Sox, who had to wait 86 years to win the first of those titles. You might have read something about that.
So what's the significance of having nine different champions in 10 seasons? Here's what:
Only one other time in history has baseball topped this run. In the 11 seasons from 1982 through 1992, 10 different teams won the World Series (with only the Twins winning twice). And that's the only time. Ever. Now think of the teams that could conceivably win next year and match that streak -- the Rays, Twins, Braves, Reds, Rockies, Padres and Dodgers for starters. Or the loser of this World Series. Or -- what the heck, might as well throw it out there -- the Cubs. So this is a great time for those of us who like to point out that competitive balance in this sport has almost never been better.
But it's also a great time for those of us who like to make sure everybody is aware of how baseball compares to the other sports on the old competitive-balance front. So let's start here: Want to guess how many times in the Super Bowl era the NFL has ever had nine different champions in 10 years? That would be never, of course. Not once. Nor did it ever happen before the Super Bowl era. And at the moment, even though the NFL has an incumbent champ (New Orleans) that had never won before, that still only makes seven different Super Bowl winners in the last 10 years (with the Steelers winning twice and the Patriots winning three times).
And how does baseball stack up against the NBA? I guarantee you that David Stern wishes you wouldn't ask. The NBA has only had five different champions in the last 10 years (with the Spurs winning twice and the Lakers hogging the parade route four times). And the most different champs the NBA has ever had, over any 10-year stretch in its history, is seven.
So if anyone out there still thinks the answer to all competitive-balance questions is a salary cap, please re-read these last few paragraphs.
Strike Two -- Deep Six
OK, now let's stretch this study out a little further. Over the last six years, 11 different teams have played in the World Series. The only two-timer was the '08-09 Phillies. Now here's how that stacks up:
What was the last time baseball had 11 World Series teams in 12 years? More than two decades ago, from 1983-88. And when was the last time before then? How about never?
So how does that compare with the other sports? Only nine different NFL teams have played in the last six Super Bowls (with the Patriots, Steelers and Colts playing in two apiece). So score another point for baseball.
Meanwhile in the hoop world, just eight different teams have played in the last six NBA finals (with the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs getting there twice each). And the NBA has never had 11 different teams in the finals in any six-season span in the 60-year history of the league.
So hey, we're truly sorry if you're missing the Same Old Teams in this World Series. But if you are, then A) you're missing the point and B) apparently, there is no such thing as the Same Old Teams in the World Series anymore, anyway.
Strike Three -- Battle of the Title-Deprived
Finally, isn't it about time that somebody noticed this is one of the most special World Series ever played?
In one corner, you have a team -- the Giants -- that hasn't won a World Series in 56 years, and has never won one since it moved to San Francisco 52 years ago.
In the other corner, you have a team -- the Rangers -- that has never won a World Series, ever, in 49 seasons in Washington and Texas.
So let's just say we've never, ever had a World Series like this.
The Elias Sports Bureau reminds us that we have had two other World Series in the last decade that matched teams that had gone at least 40 years without a title. There was 2005, when the White Sox (88-year drought) played the Astros (43). And there was 2002, when the Giants (46) matched up with the Angels (41).
But never, in any of the 105 previous World Series, have two teams that have gone title-free for at least 49 years met in the same World Series. So alert the record books.
Now add in the fact that neither team has ever won in its current city, and we have ourselves a World Series plot line any great historian could rally behind.
So maybe if you're a fan of the same old same old, this World Series isn't for you. But sometime in the next week, one of these teams is going to experience a life-altering event -- for everyone involved and for every fan who's along for one tremendous ride.