I’m always interested to hear these facts; from Joe Posnanski:

– Over the last 10 years, eight different teams have won the World Series. In all 15 teams made the World Series — that’s half the teams in baseball.

– Over the last 20 years, fourteen different teams have won the World Series. In all 22 teams made the World Series. Now, we’re at more than two-thirds who have reached the Series.

– Over the last 30 years, 20 different teams have won the World Series, and only three four — the Chicago Cubs, the Seattle Mariners. the Texas Rangers and the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals — have failed to reached the Series. That’s extraordinary, if you think about it — almost 90 percent of all teams have reached the World Series the last 30 years. And the four teams that didn’t reach had their good moments too. The Cubs have made the playoffs six times and, well, only their Cubbiness has kept them from reaching the Series. The Mariners won 116 games in 2001, the most for any team ever. The Montreal Expos had some excellent teams and might have won it all in ‘94, year of the strike, when they had the young Pedro, and a lineup that had an in-their-prime Moises Alou, Larry Walker and young Wil Cordero and Cliff Floyd. The Texas Rangers have made the playoffs three times and while there’s some dark cloud simply hovering over that franchise, you never get the feeling that the Rangers are hopeless.

By comparison, pro football teams that have not made the Super Bowl the last 30 years include: The New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings, That’s 10 — almost one-third of all the teams in Pro Football….

But it is also amazing how baseball, the game itself, defies the takeover efforts of corporate raiders. The Yankees won their World Series when the team was, to a large degree, homegrown. They famously have not won a World Series since paying big bucks to sign Mike Mussina and then Jason Giambi and then taking on the A-Rod contract. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay last year reached the World Series with the second smallest payroll in baseball — no Rays player made more than $6 million last year. And here’s a beautiful bit of trivia for you, one you can definitely use at parties: According to the indespensible USA Today Salary Database, only one team in baseball history has won a World Series with a $100 million payroll. That team? Yep, the Boston Red Sox (twice — 2004 and 2007).

I’m not saying that the Yankees will not win in 2009 — that’s an awfully good team now, absolutely the best that money can buy. But just remember that key fact — 20 teams have won World Series the last 30 years. And by comparison:

Only 14 teams have won the Super Bowl over the last 30 years.

Only 14 different men have won Wimbledon over the least 30 years.

Only 13 teams have won the Stanley Cup over the last 30 years.

Only NINE teams have won an NBA title over the last 30 years.

17 Responses

  1. Y-City Jim

    Percentage-wise, how many of those WS teams would be characterized as big-market teams?

    Also how does the one-game playoff system affect the NFL?

    How many dominant players does it take to be a winner in each sport?

  2. Chris

    For all the bitching and moaning, there simply is no competitive balance problem in baseball.

  3. Josh

    The issue of a competitive balance problem is a fallacy. It simply doesn’t exist. Small market teams liks the A’s, Marlins, and most recently, the Rays have dispelled this myth.

    Actually, its my opinion that there is no such thing as a “small market” or “large market” teams. In the Reds’ instance, do you think Castellini or Carl Lindner, couldn’t have spent more than they did? Of course they could. They just didn’t.

    People see teams like the Royals and Pirates and say something must be wrong for them to keep losing. Well, there is. It’s ownership and a front office that makes poor decisions.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ve seen the Yankees outspend everyone and not win a World Series since 2000, which also shows that competent owners and front office make all the difference.

  4. doug

    There is a competitive balance problem. The low payroll teams just can’t compete every year. The big market teams can. Low payrolls teams have to wait for the perfect storm. The big payroll teams don’t have to wait for anything.

  5. Josh

    Doug,

    Go look at the balance sheets of the low payroll teams. I don’t have the stats to make any bold statements, but I’m guessing those low payroll teams are making money, plenty of money to be competitive.

    I don’t buy that the Reds can’t buy guys to be competitive. Castellini sets a budget each year for the GM to stay within. I bet he has enough to increase the spending if he chooses, he just doesn’t. That’s what we, as Reds fans, are dealing with, for better or worse. It helps to have revenues like the Red Sox, but it doesn’t preclude teams like the Twins from spending to keep a player like Johan Santana.

    They can, they choose not to.

  6. Chris

    There’s imbalance, yes. But I don’t see it as a problem.

    Are they Yankees “competing” every year, or are people just paying a lot of attention to them in the off-season and early in the year, becuause they’re the Yankees and becuase they spent dough in the off-season?

    For example, the ’08 Yankees weren’t higher than 3rd place after April 16.

    Sure, some clubs can outspend some of their mistakes, but what’s the alternative? A salary cap? Poz showed that compared to the NFL, NBA, and NHL (all capped), MLB has more balance. What can we do with that information?

  7. Dave E.

    No, no, no. Competitive balance IS a problem. A huge one.

    First, the 20 year time frame Poz uses is a little misleading, because 15 years ago this wasn’t a big problem. Look at it this way; 15 years ago, the Reds had one of the higher payrolls in baseball (in 1995, they actually DID have the highest payroll).

    Could Castellini pay more? I doubt it, but he frank matter is that the Steinbrenners can because of the revenue that being in NY generates.

    Yes, the Royals and the Pirates stink. Yes they have been mismanaged. So have the Yankees; it is just that 100+ million a year more than the have-nots buys a lot of mistakes.

    Competitive balance in football is much better. It is front office competence, and that alone, which determines the winners from losers.

    Basketball, imbalance is caused by a few superstars taking over the game. Seriously. One player can make a big difference. See, e.g., Jordan, Michael.

    In baseball, when you have 8 teams in the playoffs, the WORST of those teams still has a 1-12 chance of winning, the best 1 in 5. OF COURSE the best team does not always win. But the Reds, Royals, or even the Tampa Bays are simply not on an even playing field as the Red Sox or Yankees. Don’t pretend it is any other way.

    Oh, and, by the way, when a big market team IS run well, you have the Red Sox, who will continue to win 1 in 5 world series indefinately (see paragraph above for reasons why they will only win 1 in 5. . . )

  8. Bill

    I don’t think how many different teams go to the WS is the issue, it’s how many different teams have made the playoffs. I think that would be a more telling comparison.

    I think the biggest difference between the large payroll teams and the small payroll teams is the margin of error. A large payroll team can sign a player for a substantial amount of money and have another one in reserve in case the first doesn’t work out; but the smaller payroll team is putting it’s “eggs all in one basket” as it were and have no margin for error. A bad decision or injury and the available money is spent.

  9. doug

    Chris,
    While the Yankees weren’t in 3rd place or better from April 16th on, the won a disappointing 89 games in 2008. That total would have won two other divisions in baseball. I also feel they would have won every other division in baseball had they been fortunate enough to play in those divisions. The AL East is an absolute slaughter house. The Rays and Red Sox each won 95+ games. The fourth place team in the division won 86 games and had a pythag record of 93-69. So yeah, the Yankees were absolutely competitive and likely would have won every other division in baseball in 2008.

  10. Josh

    Okay, I can agree that there is an imbalance caused by payroll differences but like Chris said, I don’t think its a problem. Each team’s owner is capable of spending enough to be competitive consistently.

    For example, in 2005 the Royals, the ROYALS, posted profits of around 20 million. On top of that, the owner is a billionaire. BILLIONAIRE. You are telling me they can’t be competitive if they want because they are “small market”?

    An imblance in payroll is present, perhaps even competition (although I don’t think so), but each team’s ownership and front office has the power to change that imbalance if they percieve it as “unfair”.

  11. Chris

    First thing, if the Yankees played in the NL West, they wouldn’t have a $200M payroll. They wouldn’t need it.

    Second, looking at “teams who made the playoffs” doesn’t get us quite there, either, since we’ve gone from 2 post-season teams (1900-1968) to 4 (’69-93), to 8 (’95-present).

    Now, to some of Dave’s points:

    “First, the 20 year time frame Poz uses is a little misleading, because 15 years ago this wasn’t a big problem.”

    – Okay, pick another time period. I guarantee you’ll find better competitive balance in recent-years baseball than in any era or sport other than the 1980s MLB. The problem is that most of us remember that decade, which was unprecedented in its parity, and the 70s, when the Reds were dominant and we loved competitive imbalance.

    “Could Castellini pay more? I doubt it, but he frank matter is that the Steinbrenners can because of the revenue that being in NY generates.”

    – What’s the solution? Capping payrolls just puts all the dough in the Steinbrenners’ pockets. If New Yorkers are willing and able to pay $2,500 a seat or whatever, why shouldn’t they get a good product?

    “Yes, the Royals and the Pirates stink. Yes they have been mismanaged. So have the Yankees; it is just that 100+ million a year more than the have-nots buys a lot of mistakes.”

    – I disagree. I think the Yankees were pretty well managed throughout the 1990s. Not coincidentially, this is when they were winning.

    “Competitive balance in football is much better. It is front office competence, and that alone, which determines the winners from losers.”

    I can tell you, that doesn’t make it any more fun to be a Bengal fan. Which team do you think is more likely to contend in the next decade – Reds or Bengals?

    “Basketball, imbalance is caused by a few superstars taking over the game. Seriously. One player can make a big difference. See, e.g., Jordan, Michael.”

    Why does that always seem to happen in Boston and LA, then? Regardless, why do people complain about MLB balance, but not NBA?

    “But the Reds, Royals, or even the Tampa Bays are simply not on an even playing field as the Red Sox or Yankees. Don’t pretend it is any other way.”

    I didn’t say it was even – read my first post. I said it wasn’t a problem.

    “Oh, and, by the way, when a big market team IS run well, you have the Red Sox, who will continue to win 1 in 5 world series indefinately (see paragraph above for reasons why they will only win 1 in 5. . . )”

    Contrast with the Yankees, who won 33 pennants in 60 years between 1922-81. I’m telling you, baseball is more balanced than it’s ever been, other than the 80s.

    If someone wants to really solve this problem, they’ll put two extra teams in NYC, and another one in Boston, so that potential revenues are chopped up into slices that are a little more similar, across the league.

    http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/economicsunbound/archives/2005/10/new_baseball_te.html

  12. Dan

    In my opinion, the only thing that is patently unfair and unbalanced in baseball is the fact that the divisions are not all the same size.

    Simply by the way MLB has decided to structure the leagues, the AL West teams go into every season w/ a 25% chance of winning their division and the NL Central teams (including our beloved Reds) go into every season w/ a 16.7% chance of winning the division.

    That is completely unfair! No other major professional sport has this!

    And it pisses me off to no end that NO ONE EVER discusses this!

    Doesn’t this seem just terribly unfair? It’s a built-in advantage to Seattle, Texas, Oakland, and Anaheim that has nothing at all to do with how well they run their teams.

    MLB could have six 5-team divisions. You’d just need to have at least one interleague game every day. To which I say… fine!

    Anyone else feel this way? It really galls me how this fact gets NO attention whatsoever.

  13. justcorbly

    Josh:

    We fans assume the primary motivation of a baseball owner is winning. Perhaps it is sometimes. but the primary motivation of most business people is to make a profit.

    Getting into the playoffs and making a profit are not necesarily synonymous.

    The owner of the Royals may be a billionaire, but before he is convinced to spend some of his wealth to make the Royals a winner, he needs to be convinced that his spending will reap a financial reward. E.g., if he buys a free agent for $50 million, is he going to make more than $50 million as a result?

    If winning doesn’t pad the account, why should an owner care?

  14. Josh

    I agree wholeheartedly. It’s not MLB’s issue that there is an inbalance in spending because all of the owners are capable of doing so. I only make this argument because I don’t think the inbalance is a problem. A problem would be if the ownership group for the Pirates couldn’t pay the same, but they can.

  15. KY Chip

    Dan — I agree with you and I’ve been shouting it from the rooftops to anyone who would listen since the Brewers made the switch to the NL.

    The NBA has two 15-team conferences and manages to make its schedule work just fine. I find it difficult to believe that the powers that be in MLB couldn’t figure out how to construct a similar schedule.

    Ironic that the “commissioner” who allowed this to happen — and who has kept it that way since — was the owner of the team moving leagues…

  16. Dave E.

    Ky Chip, Dan and I have been screaming about this for a long time; it is amazing to me, as well. I almost mentioned it up in my previous post, but I simply didn’t want to get too off track.

    Chris, thanks for your post; a couple of counter points.

    I agree, the 1980s were unbelievably awesome in their competitiveness. Wasn’t it great? To say that today is not bad, historically, I think is to miss the point a little. Baseball was badly imbalanced for decades. The Yankees won. Why? They had the most money, even then. They signed everybody to huge bonuses. That stopped working when the amateur draft kicked in but BEFORE free agency kicked in. Then, we had wins dictated, not by revenue, but by scouting and development. If your team had a bad GM, then you had a bad team, but at least you could get a new GM. Now, if your team has a “poor” owner, you can’t “fire” the owner. You, and your fan base, is stuck.

    As to the second point? Well, sure, a salary cap could mean that Steinbrenner makes more money, as he has the most revenue. Who cares? I don’t root for the Reds’ owner to make the most money, I root for the Reds TEAM to win the most games. If you disagree, you would be posting on a Forbes magazine blog and not RLN.

    I don’t think an owner is obligated to waste his family fortune to lose significant money on his team.

    As to the Yankees’ management, I suppose that was my point, the Yankees in the 2000s have been poorly managed, throwing money at Pavano, Giambi, Randy Johnson and God-only-remembers who. These mistakes would cripple a non-Yankees team (like Milton/Reds) but are nothing for the Yanks. Combine unlimited resources and adequate management and you have the Yanks of the late 1990s and the Red Sox of the 2000s.

    As a fellow Bengals fan, I hear you on the NFL. But I believe the Bengals are closer to playing a playoff game than the Reds. In fact, as bad as Bengals management has been, they have been in the playoffs a lot more recently. Oh, and the Az. Cardinals are hosting a playoff game this year, as are last year last place Ravens and Dolphins.

    The Lakers and the Celtics WERE dominate, but are no longer. Their dominance PRE-DATED the salary cap! The Celtics last title was the first in the cap era after years of dominance. The Cap has worked to give lots of teams a chance. The Lakers have been great primarily because they were able to draw Shaq there with the lure of the marketing forces of LA.

    Solutions? It is certainly possible that forcing extra teams into big markets would even things out, but that will never happen, for dozens of reasons, including the anti-trust exemption. A salary cap is possible but very unlikely.

    I complain about imbalance, because it IS unfair. I will always be a Reds fan. Yes, if well run, the Reds CAN win. But if the Yankees are well run, they WILL win.

  17. Brian B.

    Competitive imbalance? Well, that’s life.