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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

January 31, 2012 at 11:20 AM

The myth of NFL’s parity superiority over MLB

equipment.jpg

Today was the day that the Mariners packed up their equipment truck with gear from Safeco Field and headed to Peoria, Ariz., for spring training. Here’s a shot from the clubhouse this morning. Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times.

For some reason, the myth continues to be perpetuated that the NFL has the kind of parity that MLB would die for — and should strive for. Last year at this time, I tried to point out that it simply wasn’t true, that the parity in baseball is every bit the equal, if not superior, to its football brethren, contrary to popular belief.

It’s a message that Jayson Stark of ESPN.com has been trumpeting for years, and took another stab at earlier this month.

Jayson wrote that piece before the Super Bowl teams had been finalized. Well, look who’s going to be playing on Sunday — the Patriots and the Giants. All we hear in baseball is that it’s all about the Yankees and Red Sox, Yankees and Red Sox, Yankees and Red Sox, ad nauseum — the two teams who use their monstrous payrolls to ensure success. The Yankees and Red Sox haven’t met in the American League Championship Series since 2004, but here we have Boston and New York meeting in the Super Bowl for the second time in five years.

For some reason, football fans seem fine with that — and with the fact that the Patriots have now been in the Super Bowl five times since 2001 (I’m counting the 2002 Super Bowl as being part of the 2001 season). The Yankees, who as we all know buy themselves championships in the unfair world of baseball, have been in three World Series since 2001 (and won one of them. The Patriots are going for their fourth title in that span).

In fact, if you look back at the Super Bowl era, it is filled with clusters of the same teams dominating for several years — far more than in baseball. For instance:

–the Steelers were in three Super Bowls between 2005 and 2010 (Again, I’m using the date of the seasons that preceded the Super Bowl). Nine different teams, out of a possible 10, were in the World Series in that span, with only the Phillies repeating (2008 and 2009).

–The Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four years from 1992-95. The Bills were in four straight Super Bowls from 1990-93. The Broncos were in three Super Bowls in four years from 1986-89 (and two more in 1997-98). The 49ers won four Super Bowls in nine years from 1981-1989. The Steelers won four Super Bowls in six years from 1974-79. The Cowboys were in three Super Bowls in four years from 1975-78. The Vikings were in four Super Bowls in eight years from 1969-76. The Dolphins were in three straight Super Bowls from 1971-73.

MLB, of course, has had clusters of teams in the World Series, as well — particularly the Yankees making it six times (and winning four titles) between 1996 and 2003. But the Yankees’ domination was actually much more pronounced in the era before free agency in the 1970s, which is when the presumption began that the Yankees are now buying pennants. The Yankees actually went 13 straight seasons — from 1982 through 1993 — without even making the playoffs (14, if you count 1994, when the postseason was canceled with the Yankees in first place). They’ve made it virtually every season since (the lone exception being 2008), but the NFL has teams that make the playoffs virtually every year, too. And as Stark point out, it’s a lot easier, theoretically, to spread the wealth when you have more teams in the playoffs (which MLB will find next year or the year after, when they add two playoff teams).

Yes, there’s still far too much of a gap between the Yankees’ payroll and those small-market teams at the bottom of the payroll scale. But the notion that the NFL is a paragon of parity, while the same old teams win every year in baseball, is simply not borne out by the facts.

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