Monday, December 14, 2009

Competitive Balance Talk: Team of the Decade

The years between 2000 and 2009 were the first ever in baseball where there were eight playoff teams each year and what resulted was perhaps the most competitive decade for baseball. Sure Pirate fans may disagree, but take a look at the following data to display a positive for competitive balance:

New York Yankees: 9 playoff appearances, 2 World Series Titles (4 appearances)
Boston Red Sox: 6 playoff appearances, 2 World Series Titles (2 appearances)
St. Louis Cardinals: 6 playoff appearances, 1 World Series Title (2 appearances)
Los Angeles Angels: 6 playoff appearances, 1 World Series Title (1 appearance)
Philadelphia Phillies: 3 playoff appearances, 1 World Series Title (2 appearances)
Chicago White Sox: 3 playoff appearances, 1 World Series Title (1 appearance)
Arizona Diamondbacks: 3 playoff appearances, 1 World Series Title (1 appearance)
Florida Marlins: 1 playoff appearance, 1 World Series Title (1 appearance)

Colorado Rockies, 2 playoff appearances, 1 World Series Appearance
Tampa Bay Rays, 1 playoff appearance, 1 World Series Appearance
Detroit Tigers, 1 playoff appearance, 1 World Series Appearance
Atlanta Braves, 6 playoff appearances
Minnesota Twins, 5 playoff appearances
Oakland Athletics, 5 playoff appearances
Chicago Cubs, 3 playoff appearances
Houston Astros, 3 playoff appearances
Los Angeles Dodgers, 3 playoff appearances
San Francisco Giants, 3 playoff appearances
Cleveland Indians, 2 playoff appearances
New York Mets, 2 playoff appearances
San Diego Padres, 2 playoff appearances
Seattle Mariners, 2 playoff appearances
Milwaukee Brewers, 1 playoff appearance

So that leaves just seven (7) teams out of the playoffs this decade: Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates.

Basic sport economics states that professional sport leagues are looking to spread championships between large, medium and small market teams. Around 60% of championships should go to large market teams, 30% to medium markets and 10% to small markets. Counting Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia as large markets, St. Louis as a medium market and Arizona and Florida as small markets, the proportion for this decade is split 70/10/20 split. I would still like to see less large market teams winning World Series championships, but seeing 23 different teams in the playoffs this decade gives me hope for the next ten years. Medium market teams struggled this decade which I continue to attribute to revenue sharing, medium market teams operate without significant influence from revenue sharing. They do not have the same additional resources to put into player develoment or free agents like the small market teams have the opportunity to do. A business plan for medium and small market teams that has been successful has been to slash payroll for a couple of years and put that money into player development and then go for the playoffs for a period of 2-3 years before having to start over again. The Marlins, Rays and Padres for instance have successfully done that. I will look forward to the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement to find out what comes from early discussions of an international draft and a salary cap to further affect large market teams strategy.

So back to the team of the decade conversation. It depends on your vantage point. What the Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins have done to build 5 playoff teams with limited resources is admirable. The Red Sox have stepped out of the Yankees shadow this decade, but still they both have two World Series titles and the Red Sox have just one division title to the Yankees seven. I have to give the Yankees the nod as being the team of the decade. Annual competitors and winning a title in both the first and last year of the decade is a testamant to their ability to build and rebuild every year. To the competitive balance argument, the Yankees remain a menace with 1.7 billion dollars spent for on-field talent this decade. It is because of the Yankees and the Marlins that baseball and the MLBPA will discuss a salary cap in 2011.

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