With the baseball season roughly a third of the way through, it’s a good time to stop and appreciate how beautifully unpredictable the sport of baseball is. So many teams are performing better than expected, and worse than expected. The Twins and Brewers are in first, while the Royals and Pirates lie in last. Aaron Hicks and Ryan Zimmerman are having great years, while Rougned Odor and Andrew McCutchen struggle to get going. The league year in and year out features surprise performances (and disappointments) that keep the league entertaining and filled with uncertainty. Uncertainty that makes it nearly impossible to anticipate who the World Series champion will be.
The NBA, meanwhile, is about to enter the third straight final featuring the Cavaliers and Warriors. The last seven finals have featured a LeBron James team and have seen only four different winners. Four different winners doesn’t seem too bad, but when it becomes so easy to predict who is going to be in the finals, it makes the entire season feel boring and pointless. Take this year for example, since preseason, everyone knew it was going to be Warriors vs. Cavaliers. Hardly anyone predicted otherwise. Now I love a good LePerformance from LeKing in Lefinals as much as the next guy, but I do miss the mystery of it all like you get with baseball. I felt like it wasn’t even necessary to watch any of the playoffs (still did) because I knew what the outcomes were going to be. The only real interesting series was the Boston vs. Washington one. I know it’s not possible, but if every series was like that one, then I would find the playoffs to be much more fulfilling. It just sucks for the great players out there whose ceiling is losing either to LeBron or Curry. So many great players miss out on a chance at a ring because of these two great talents and their phenomenal teams. Yet so many people argue that a player isn’t elite if they don’t have any rings, like the way Shaq does towards Barkley. But Barkley had to go up against some insane teams like the Pistons and the Bulls, so can you really blame him for not having any?
Basketball is filled with dynasties and when one dies another one just rises in it’s place. And with the way things are shaping up in recent years, it doesn’t seem like anything is going to really change. The Warriors and Cavaliers just keep building their rosters with no other team really looking to stand in their ways. Even if a team was able to put together a roster to take down the Warriors or Cavs, they would just take the place of the giant they conquered. There seems to be no stopping dynasties and while I don’t mind seeing great teams, I wish there was a bit more competition against them.
Baseball, on the other hand, has been a bit more balanced. Yes, we’ve seen the Giants win three in the past six years, but they had even year voodoo working with them that wasn’t broken until last year (Thanks Cubs). And yes, the Yankees have won 27 in their history, but they’ve been around for over a hundred years, and in recent years, the playing field has been very equal, seeing them win only two since 2000. Different teams have made appearances in the playoffs and the World Series. MLB playoffs in the recent years have proved to be a lot more exciting and unpredictable than the NBA’s. Every team is beatable. There are no juggernauts going into the playoffs that everyone knows is going to go all the way. And like we saw with the Kansas City Royals in 2014, underdog teams are capable of making runs all the way to the championship. But does baseball actually have more parity than the NBA?
First, let’s look at the playoff lineups since the 2010. The NBA has featured 28 different teams (Sorry Sacramento and Minnesota) and the MLB has featured 25. But the MLB hasn’t had their 2017 playoffs yet, while the NBA has. Also, the NBA has 16 teams make the playoffs each year, while the MLB has 10. The NBA finals has featured eight different teams with six different champions, while the World Series has featured nine different teams with five different champions. From the looks of these stats, it appears that they’re relatively even. So why is this a discussion?
It is a discussion because I do not believe that the stats tell the entire story. I’ve never been a big fan of statistics. I do look at them and take them into account, but I do not dive as deeply into them as others. I believe there are certain aspects of life and sports that stats cannot explain. When it comes to the MLB and NBA playoffs, it simply feels like there is more competition in the MLB playoffs. There is more uncertainty due to the nature of baseball. There is room for more upsets because the game always comes down to a one on one situation; the pitcher vs. the batter. If one makes a mistake, the other can prevail. There’s nine players out there as opposed to five in basketball. Due to this, one player in basketball is able to have a larger effect on the game, like LeBron James, who has proven that time and time again. In baseball, one player can only affect the game so much. A baseball team needs to be all-around solid in order to see success, while in many cases, an NBA team can ride on one or two great players. The NBA and MLB are different breeds, so maybe it is only logical that baseball seems to have more parity than basketball.
Overall I think the NBA has a relatively decent amount of parity, but it just appears to not. Perhaps basketball is simply more predictable than baseball because in most situations, the best team will win unlike in baseball, which sees a larger number of upsets. Is this a bad thing? Maybe. Maybe not. I personally enjoy unpredictability in sports, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying this LeDynasty. I suppose basketball is setup to have dynasties, it appears to be only natural. I am worried, however, on the future of the game. In the past, NBA dynasties were birthed, while these days the NBA appears to be headed in a direction where dynasties are created. The Warriors and Cavaliers are fortifying their teams and are going to hold this league hostage for years. It would be nice to enter a season for once without knowing who is going to be in the finals, but I suppose that is not going to happen for a few years at least. At least basketball dynasties aren’t as bad as they are in football (Looking at you Tom Brady) but I do wish basketball was more like baseball and had more mystery and uncertainty, but I am not sure what it would take to stop the formation of super teams. Would eliminating the salary cap do it? Or would that only make matters worse? Who knows. And who knows if any change will come, but for now I’ll just enjoy the LeDynasty and the Warriors battle it out in the coming week.