Come fall, the juggernauts and superstars hardly matter.
Load the dugout, stack the roster, spend the money. Do it all, and it probably won’t matter once the leaves change from green to gold. Major League Baseball is not a championship haven for the so-called “Super Team.”
While the lack of a salary cap might allow more MLB teams to make and cover up missteps or sign free agents on the wrong side of 30, it means nothing when it comes to the game’s parity or World Series rings. Despite not having a cap and having the fewest amount of playoff participants of the four major North American sports leagues—apologies, Major League Soccer—baseball provides gargantuan parity and a crapshoot of a postseason tournament.
This year, we have a new contender for MLB “Super Team.” The Washington Nationals, with their signing of Max Scherzer, have the potential to field an all-time great rotation and a lineup with microscopic holes. But as past Octobers have told, the best on-paper teams, which sometimes coincide with the most expensive, are not all that familiar with World Series titles.
The median payroll of the 10 (likely) MLB playoff teams is $121 million. The median payroll of the 6 last place teams is $124 million #MLB
— Michael Lopez (@StatsbyLopez) September 24, 2014
In the NBA, a super duo or terrific trio is like a microwave meal in basketball. Just nuke it properly and chances are you’ll smell a championship sometime soon.
Baseball is not the NBA. On the diamond, building a great rotation or a lineup bulging with All-Stars can get you to the big stage, but it rarely wins it all.
The ridiculous grind of a six-month, 162-game regular season tends to weed out the weak. Stacked clubs typically find themselves in the playoffs, but winning a World Series is more about getting hot and rolling than matching up resumes and pay stubs.
“I think ideally you like to see the teams that have the best record end up there,” San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy told reporters (via The Associated Press) during the 2012 World Series, when his team won six consecutive elimination games to reach the Fall Classic. “But as we have mentioned many times, once you get to the playoffs it does become a little bit of a crap shoot, who’s playing the best at that time.
“You understand that. That’s why Wild Card teams have done well. A lot of them are fighting to get there, but they’re also playing well at the right time.”
There are countless examples of loaded teams failing to win it all or even reach the World Series in recent seasons. Just in the last two, we have seen the high-payroll, star-studded Los Angeles Dodgers fall twice to the St. Louis Cardinals despite stellar rotations and deep lineups. Realizing a need for a different model, the Dodgers’ new front office revamped its roster this winter, trading out Matt Kemp, a star among stars in a city full of them. While Kemp could have helped the team, he is not necessary to win a ring.
In 2013, the Detroit Tigers featured one of the greatest starting rotations in the live ball era along with a lineup that had Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter, among others. That team lost in the American League Championship Series.
In 2011, it was the Philadelphia Phillies. They had their vaunted “Four Aces” rotation and a lineup that featured offensive forces at five positions and a former MVP, Jimmy Rollins, at another. That team won 102 games from April through September, but in October it went 2-3 and, like the 2014 Dodgers, did not make it out of the National League Division Series.
The Braves won 14 consecutive division titles from 1991 to 2005 but won only one World Series. The Florida Marlins have never won a division title, yet the only two times the franchise made the playoffs, it won the World Series each time as the NL Wild Card team.
Anyone can comb through season after season and find teams loaded with pitching and offense on paper that never won it all or never even got to October. On the other side of the coin, there are plenty of examples in the wild card era of teams getting hot and reaching heights nobody expected them to reach. The 2014 Kansas City Royals, 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, 2007 Colorado Rockies and the 83-win 2006 St. Louis Cardinals are all examples from just the nine years.
— Anthony Castrovince (@castrovince) December 28, 2014
Since the playoffs expanded in 1995, only four teams with the best overall regular-season record have won the World Series. And all four are split between the Yankees (1998 and 2009) and Red Sox (2007 and 2013).
Baseball is full of luck and randomness. Even Harvard says so. According to the university’s Sports Analysts Collective, NBA champions fall most in line with regular-season success, and it likens MLB’s playoff history with having every team draw straws to pick a winner.
Part of the logic seems to be that while the long regular season gives quite a clear indication of the best teams, the five- and seven-game series during the postseason are far too short in comparison to say one team is clearly better than the other. The San Francisco Giants have won three of the last five World Series, yet going into each of those Octobers, the Giants were not thought to be the best top-to-bottom team in the tournament.
This year, the Nationals are believed to be MLB’s best. They can hit and hit for power. They play good enough defense and should have a …read more
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