Thursday, November 04, 2010

What We Talk About When We Talk About Competitive Imbalance (Part I)

Baseball is like the anti-John Gotti, every charge sticks. Steroids? With baseball it became a congressional shitshow with ballplayers called forward to testify and out themselves in a witch hunt worthy of McCarthy. With football, no one questions how linemen have nearly doubled in size from prior generations while running and moving faster. Star NFL players get busted, serve a 4-game suspension and no one bats an eye.
And then with competitive imbalance, with baseball it's a CRISIS!!

No doubt, the lack of a salary cap allows those clubs with money to spend a decided advantage, a point Cannatar already examined in detail. But is it a crisis? And since when are small markets a protected class? Why is it worth more, or more attractive,if one of the 8 small-market hopeless teams in baseball wins rather than a big market team that wins once every 50 years?

Of course, it's worth pointing out again that baseball has more teams in big markets than the other sports. And let's not lose sight of the forest for the trees. When we talk about low World Series ratings we are not talking about people turned off from the sport because of imbalance. Has a salary cap made the NBA and the NHL explode in popularity or challenge the NFL? No.

And while the NBA has imbalance for different reasons (one star can carry a team to success), it's still worth pointing out just how hopeless it is for so many teams.

In MLB, only two teams have never appeared in a World Series, Seattle and Montreal/Washington.
In the NBA, here is the list of cities which have never appeared in the Finals:
Oklahoma City (won in Seattle)
Los Angeles Clippers
New Orleans
Atlanta (won in St. Louis)
Sacramento (won in Rochester)

To this list we can add teams that have never won, New Jersey, Orlando, Phoenix, Utah, Cleveland, Indiana and Dallas. That's more than half the league.

Put simply, the NBA offers the least hope of a championship to its fans. Sure, maybe it's not from payroll disparity (even though San Antonio is the only small market team to win a ring since the 70s), but the point remains that little hope exists for the majority of NBA teams. But again, which sport has the "CRISIS?"