Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Baseball, not NFL, still the king of parity
Uh-oh. Here we go again. That NFL propaganda chorus is grinding again, singing its usual tune:
Six of the 12 teams in this season's playoffs are teams that didn't make the playoffs last season. Whoop de doo.
And for the 16th season in a row, at least five teams have made it into the NFL postseason that were not in the playoffs the season before. Hey, isn't that special?
Well, let me just say, for the official record, I'm so proud of the NFL for its parity, its "unpredictability" and just its general awesomeness. But once again, I feel compelled to point out to NFL fans everywhere (and I'm one of them) that their wondrous sport has not cornered the market in any of those departments -- especially competitive balance.
Off in the distance, I can hear people murmuring: "Oh no. He's not going to try to claim that baseball is every bit as competitively balanced as football again. Is he?"
And to that I can only plead: Guilty. Of course I am.
This is what I do. I can't explain why I feel so compelled to do it so relentlessly. I just do. So here we go, one more time:
• It's a big deal that six of the 12 teams that made the NFL playoffs didn't get there last season, huh? Well, good for them, but let's put that in slightly better perspective. You know how many years in a row the NFL has now turned over at least half its playoff field? That would be precisely one. In baseball, on the other hand, it's now happened in six consecutive seasons. Shocking!
• I always hate to mention this sort of thing. But if you passed third-grade math, you know the NFL ensures some of that turnover in its playoff field just by creating 33.3 percent more division winners than baseball (eight versus six) and 50 percent more playoff spots (12 versus eight). So what do you get when you invite more teams to the party? You get a playoff team (those Denver Tebows) that went 8-8 and got outscored for the season by 81 points. That's what. But that's no aberration, friends. This now makes three times in the last four seasons that a team that went .500 or worse has made the NFL playoffs. Uh, guess how many times a .500 team (or worse) has made the baseball postseason -- even if you go back to 1903. That would be zero, of course.
• Which sport has had more parity lately? It isn't even that close. Over the last six seasons, 36 of the NFL's 72 playoff teams repeated. That's 50 percent. But over in baseball, only 19 of 48 repeated. That's 39.6 percent.
• We could go back even father -- to 2004, the year baseball really began to feel the impact of its stepped-up revenue-sharing system. Since then, over a span of eight seasons, only 29 of 64 baseball teams have made it to the postseason in back-to-back seasons. That computes to 45.3 percent. But over in the NFL, the kings of parity have had 46-of-96 repeat. That's 47.9 percent.
• Finally, what's the complaint we always hear about baseball -- that "the same teams make the playoffs every year"? Which sport have those people been watching? Since 2004, only five baseball teams -- the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Phillies and Cardinals -- have reached the postseason five times or more. In the NFL, NINE teams have done that -- the Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Ravens, Chargers, Giants, Packers, Eagles and Seahawks.
So if there's some data, some trend, some actual concrete evidence that the NFL has achieved some sort of vast advantage in competitive balance, where would that be, exactly? The true answer, in my humble estimation, is that it's in perception. Period.
Reality, on the other hand, would beg to differ -- if anyone would just choose to consult it.