A query on equality

Pardon the silence, folks. Now that we’ve all had enough time to digest David’s excellent work on defensive metrics, I wanted to shift gears a bit and pose a question. This is part of a longer project I’m currently working on, and I would appreciate any thoughts you all might have here.
The question is this: How would you define parity in Major League Baseball?
I’m not looking for any one answer. If you want to give me a general answer, fine. If you want to give me a statistical answer, also fine. I’m just looking right now at what the range of opinion is among baseball fans on a topic that is sure to come up as the Basic Agreement negotiations near. I do appreciate any responses you have for me.


13 Responses to A query on equality

  1. Dan says:

    I think that there is a fair amount of parity in MLB. Let’s look at the most recent World Series Champions:
    White Sox 05
    Red Sox 04
    Marlins 03
    Angels 02
    Diamondbacks 01
    Except for the Yankees of the mid-late ’90s and the Atlanta Braves, there really haven’t been any teams that have just dominated year in and year out. Obviously the parity in Baseball isn’t quite like it is in the NFL, but at the same time in Football there were the Patriots, Broncos, Eagles and Bills in the past 15 years who had great runs of success.
    The Devil Rays, Royals, Rockies, Marlins, Reds, Tigers probably don’t have much of a chance, but I don’t think it is out of the question to include every other team in playoff consideration this season. Sure teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, and Cardinals are almost destined to be there, but I wouldn’t say it’s a given (Toronto has a fair shot to knock either NY or BOS out of the top 2, the Mets have re-tooled in the East and look really strong, the Astros are coming off of a World Series appearance).
    For all the crap that baseball gets about not having a salary cap, the league does pretty darn well. To win a championship, teams get lucky, then hot, then they make it all the way. You can’t buy luck.

  2. John says:

    Parity would be a low correlation in win totals from one year to the next. A high correlation in team wins means that, year in and year out, the same teams are more likely to win.
    Baseball has almost no parity over the past few years in overall wins. (Playoffs, in my mind, don’t count since they are based on small sample sizes.)
    Win Correlations:
    2005 0.62 0.23
    2004 0.41 0.20
    2003 0.77 0.17
    2002 0.69 0.38
    2001 0.50 0.18
    2000 0.47 0.28
    1999 0.58 -0.01
    (excluding MIL in MLB, and excluding HOU & CLE in NFL)
    I would hazard a guess that the MLB correlations would be even higher if we used ranks instead of totals, while the NFL might be even lower.

  3. Rob Bonter says:

    I define parity as a minimal distance from the top teams to the bottom teams in the standings. In the 50’s, the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers used to approach, and sometimes exceed, 100 wins on an annual basis. While the A’s, Browns, Senators, Pirates and Cubs took turns at being an abysmal 50 games or so up the track from the pennant winner in a 154 game season. In 1954 Cleveland won the A.L. pennant with 111 victories, and the Yankees won 103 games. At the other end of the spectrum, the A’s won 51 games and the Orioles won 54.. A 60-game gap from top to bottom, with two teams winning 100+ games and two teams losing 100+ games has to represent the inverse of parity.
    The gap has become narrowed since then, of course, but there is a danger here. The closer a league gets to parity, where virtually all teams are competitive, at least on a cyclical basis, the more the dreaded contagion called MEDIOCRITY rears its ugly head. And mediocrity is what we are getting now. Thanks to over-expansion, not one team has a championship caliber starting rotation, discounting for the qualitative difference between a staff ace and a number five starter. In 2006 we are going to see some teams seriously compete with no more than two above-average starters and a journeyman third starter.
    What I am saying is that the product is so desperately diluted now, parity and mediocrity have become the bane and the enemy of our ever-again seeing a truly dynastic team. And the talent pool is smaller today than it was 20 years ago, as kids today practice for hours on end on their skateboards, instead of refining baseball skills in the schoolyards and on the sandlots of America, many of which have been converted to skateboard parks. We are blessed to have the Latin American countries furnishing us with the bulk of our major league talent, today. Major League baseball would be merely the equivalent
    of the high-minor league caliber baseball of a generation ago, without them.
    Parity is NOT the problem – it is here and it is a cancerous blight on the future of the sport.

  4. Rob Bonter says:

    The final paragraph in comment #3 should begin: The attainment of parity is NOT the problem, etc……..

  5. studes says:

    I think of parity as a concept in which even the weakest market team has a chance, given baseball’s economic structure, of reasonably building a team that can compete (given intelligent management). IOW, give every team’s fan base a reason to hope.
    That doesn’t mean every team must be competitive, even just at some pont over a long period of time, though that is probably the best proof we have that parity exists. But some teams in low-revenue markets will always have bad management and/or luck.
    Total parity isn’t achievable and isn’t in the sport’s best interest, IMO.

  6. John says:

    How has the gap you’ve indicated gotten smaller?
    Last year’s AL Top-Bottom differential was 43 games, 2004 was 43 games, 2003 was 58 games, 2002 was 58 games. The NL has been 33, 54, 37, and 45.
    Your view must be that baseball with dynastic teams is more interesting and makes for a better history of baseball, but most fans would prefer that their teams have a fair shot to compete for the playoffs every few years.

  7. DownFromNJ says:

    Parity – Teams rise and fall. The bad teams will eventually get good and the good teams will eventually get bad. The NHL is a perfect example.
    Ottawa was very bad for awhile. Then they drafted Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Danny Alfreddson, traded for Zdeno Chara, etc. They got good. Eventually, they will get bad again.
    There are exceptions of course. The NHL has the well run organizations of New Jersey, Colorado, Dallas, and Detroit and the poorly run organizations like Pittsburgh and Chicago.
    The MLB has very little upward and downward movement in terms of year to year success. Yeah, lots of different teams won World Series, but half the playoff spots are taken up by the same teams year to year. Teams like Colorado, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, etc always lose year to year with no real chance of even being above .500 and taking a shot at a playoff spot.

  8. Rob Bonter says:

    The (impossible) attainment of parity is every MLB team going 81-81, every season. Why do baseball fans still discuss the 1927 Yankees; the A’s of the late 20’s and early 30’s; The Yankees of the late 30’s; the Yankees of the Casey Stengel era, 1949-1960, 10 pennants? Because of their GREATNESS, not because of their mediocrity. Great teams and great players represent the foundation, the heritage and the appeal of the sport, not .500 teams, nor .250 career hitters with no power.
    You do not cite a more extreme example of the inverse of parity than the 1954 example to which I allude. In the old days baseball did not have an amateur draft, and the rich teams simply outbid the impoverished franchises for young talent, and the status quo was slow to change. However, in the old days there was no “free agency” undermining the commitment of players who were “underpaid” or “stuck” with losing franchises, unless they were traded or waived.
    Wealthy, free-spending, big market teams will always enjoy a head start and a competitive advantage. So that what we are talking about here? As Michael Douglas (“Gordon Gekko”) stated in “Wall Street,” “It’s all about bucks, kid, everything else is just conversation.” Like our conversation about “parity.”

  9. SaberTJ says:

    I think the thing thats not considered with parity in MLB is the lack of good decision making by ballclubs. I think more than in the NFL and NBA, bad decisions hurt your team the most (there is no guaranteed contract in the NFL as im sure many of you know).
    The Indians have a very small payroll, and many of them expect them to be playoff bound and on the rise. But if they made the mistake of paying Thome what he was asking for a few years back, think of the trouble theyd be in. I think fans wont ever think MLB has parity because of how much the Yankees can spend, but if the Yankees keep making such dumb decisions maybe we can rub that in their faces.

  10. Robby Bonfire says:

    Great point about the Yankees, except that this off-season, for a change, they have had perhaps the best winter of all MLB teams, not for players they have added, understanding Damon and Farnsworth represent an upgrade, but for what they have subtracted from the 40-man roster: Leiter, T. Martinez, Flaherty, K. Brown, Womack, Sierra, Lawton, and T. Gordon – all geriatrics on the downside, several with physical problems. Plus Bernie Williams has finally been downgraded from #1 to #3 on the CF depth chart. In each case this represents intelligent decision-making. The Yankees will be younger this season than they have been in many years. If RJ, Mussina, and Rivera stay healthy and effective, they could scale the MLB mountain, again.
    RB phillies.mostvaluablenetwork.com

  11. David Hannes says:

    Another measure would be could any team beat another in any given matchup…the fact that Kansas City and Tampa Bay both beat the Yankees last season is evidence that a certain degree of parity exists…at least as far as any fan of any team could potentially see their team defeat any other team on any given day.

  12. lisa gray says:

    sorry i’m a little late
    parity means every team is just as lousy as every other team, that every team will end up at .500 and every single game IS a crapshoot because there are few great players and NO great teams. (you might as well draw straws to pick teams for the playoffs)
    the only way that every team has an equal chance to win is NOT by having the exact same payroll or turning back the hands of time and making the ballplayers grossly underpaid slaves. it is by paying every player the exact same – a sliding scale for each year in the bigs – and by ranking the players in groups of 30 and assigning one player in each group to a team by lottery every year. there will be no draft, just a lottery of minor leaguers every year, too. that way, just about the same caliber of players will be present on every team in the same quantity. (ideally, all players would be identical in every way, so each team would be exactly the same in every way) then we would have a nice parity boring as hell major league, where winning has nothing to do with skill or players, scouting and developing, coaching or managing, it would be just like picking a number from 1 – 30 out of the blue. luck ROOLZ. or winning wouod actually be determined by which team managed to keep the most players healthy.
    but this is life and people like kevin mcclatchy and david glass own major league teams. there always have been and always will be owners just like them.
    and there never has been any parity in ML ball. even when there were only 16 teams back in robby’s “good old days”
    it’s not that i don’t feel for royals fans. or ex-spos fans. or drays fans. or rockies fans.
    but it ain’t just all about the benjamins – you don’t spend wisely, you ain’t gonna win

  13. CoachK says:

    Ultimately I believe parity comes down to teams’ abilities to compete for personnel. I believe this is why baseball thrived so much before free agency and before the draft was changed. Everyone – from Kansas City to New York – had equal access to players.
    Free agency allowed teams who invested intelligently to get a quick turnaround on their investments. However, I believe “fixing” the draft using a “sliding scale” could really help increase parity. This would help the game as a whole by not having 18-22 year olds hold out because of $$$. If they don’t want to play for a team – so be it… but it’s not going to be because of money trying to market themselves for a team who will spill the cash for them.
    Players win games in every sport. Does the team with the best players win the championship every year – most definitely not. However, the DISPARITY in the supply of players for different teams has created an environment that used to breed an atmosphere where any team who made good decisions could win a bunch of games.
    Just as pitching and real estate are all about LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.
    Good teams and good businesses are all about PERSONNEL, PERSONNEL, PERSONNEL.
    Unfortunately, the supply of talent is much greater for some teams than others.

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