With the playoff picture all but locked up (only one win by the Cardinals away from it being a done deal), I noticed something that I find to be intriguing. A lot of football fans hold up parity as one of the reasons that sport is so highly regarded. Every year, you can pretty much count on half of the playoff teams from the year before being replaced with someone else. And, many who are anti-baseball want to say – “it’s just not an even playing field. The Yankees and Red Sox spend way too much money, and are always at the top because of it.” And, while I agree that something needs to be done about some of the overspending being done by the 2 or 3 teams at the very top (which, by the way, would also mean something has to be done about teams like Kansas City who tend to spend as little as possible to build a team), there’s more parity in baseball than you might think.
Of the 10 teams that will make the playoffs this year, only 4 of them were in the playoffs last year (Yankees, Rangers, Tigers and Cardinals). And, of the 8 in the playoffs last year, half were new (Brewers, Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Tigers). This isn’t an aberration either. Since 2000, there have only been three seasons in which less than half the playoff teams were newcomers (3 new teams in ’02 & ’03, and just 2 new teams in ’05). And, on the flip side of that, there have been just as many seasons in which more than half the teams had not been to the postseason the previous year (6 this year, 5 new teams in ’10, and seven new teams in ’07!). And, the only teams not to make the playoffs in that stretch have been the Blue Jays, Royals, and Pirates.
We haven’t had a team win consecutive World Series titles since the Yankees won 4 of 5 from ’96-’00 – and that was really before they started just overpaying every free agent they could. In fact, since 2000, we’ve had 9 different champions (the NFL has only had 8). The bottom line here is that there’s just as much parity in baseball as there is in football – and certainly way more than there is in the NBA (they’ve only had 8 different champions in the last 29 years! – and 4 teams have won 21 of those 29 – Lakers, Celtics, Bulls & Spurs). So, I encourage you to enjoy the new faces in this year’s postseason. And, maybe even try to figure out who next year’s new faces will be.