For most of the previous decade, the argument surrounding Major League Baseball was that the league had parity because of all of the different World Series winners. From 2000-2008 the league had eight different winners in nine years. That gave the impression that anyone could win, and that baseball was a fair game.
After the Boston Red Sox won the World Series tonight, I looked at the list of the recent World Series winners. What I noticed is that the “anyone can win” argument has been destroyed. The Red Sox have won three of the last ten World Series titles. During that ten year span, the Cardinals have won twice, and the San Francisco Giants have won twice. That’s three teams combining to win seven of the last ten World Series titles. The only other teams to win during that time were the Yankees, Phillies, and White Sox.
Let’s expand the picture and look at all of the winners over the last 19 years (dating back to MLB’s first year after the cancelled 1994 World Series).
New York Yankees – 5 titles
Boston Red Sox – 3
St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Florida Marlins – 2
Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Anaheim Angels, Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies – 1
As I point out every year, the thing about those teams is that all but one of them (the 2003 Marlins) finished in the top half in the league in payroll. The teams that have won the most titles (New York and Boston) are consistently top three teams in terms of money spent.
It would be easy to say that money buys championships, but there’s the logic of how anything can happen in a playoff series. In theory, the most expensive team will have more talent, and make a team the favorite. But underdogs can certainly win a Best of Five or Best of Seven series. Of course, the whole “anyone can win in the playoffs” thing doesn’t explain why there have been three teams winning 70% of the World Series titles over the last ten years. And if you’re a fan of a small market team, it’s crushing to see the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series, while part of you wonders if there’s any hope at all for your team that can’t afford to spend $150-175 M per year in payroll.
In about five days, free agency will begin. In about a month, the off-season will start to heat up. Every team and every fanbase will be thinking about their chances to win the World Series next year, and no one will be thinking about how a select group of big spenders has the inside track, while everyone else is on the outside lane. For now, the Red Sox are celebrating their third World Series title in the last ten years, and they’ve got a strong chance to get another shot next year no matter what happens over the off-season. Meanwhile small market fans will spend all off-season talking about what needs to go right to just make the playoffs, and wondering how many years they can be successful before the need for another rebuild.
Calling this parity is a parody.
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