Thursday, July 27, 2006

you get the ankles and i'll get the wrists

After reading Reid's post about revenue sharing and competitiveness in professional sports, I got to thinking about something that I was already thinking about. Reid mentioned that revenue sharing is good for the overall health of a professional sports league because it enables smaller market teams with shallower pockets to be able to field competitive teams. Although he doesn't specifically mention it, this only works in conjunction with a HARD salary cap, which prevents deep pocket teams from signing superstars at will. He linked to a New York Times article, which, in honesty, I didn't bother to click through.

The NFL, and now the NHL have hard salary caps, meaning that there is a maximum amount a team can spend on player salaries, and that the team may not, for any reason, exceed that cap. The respective League will nullify any player contract that puts the team over the cap. Where I'm a little cloudy, though, is how those things actually work. As of this moment, for example, the New Jersey Devils are (in theory) well above the $44M cap set for the 2006-07 season. They have until opening night to shed their salaries. It's presupposed that they'll trade one or more of their high-dollar players for "future considerations".

Each respective League has different ways of dealing with how multi-year contracts count towards the salary cap, and each League has a very dense tome for a Collective Bargaining Agreement, and fans of each sport will geekily proclaim "Yeah, I've read the CBA", but in actuality, nobody could possibly read and understand these 4- and 500 page documents.

Blah, blah, blah.

To my knowledge, Major League Baseball is uncapped, meaning that teams like the New York Yankees can spend and spend to their heart's content. This, to me, is far more important than the idea of revenue sharing. Sure, they'll be mad at the idea of having to send money to an escrow account that is shared by smaller market teams. I used to have this argument all the time with a former acquaintance. He would say that teams like the Pirates and (back then, when they still existed) the Expos should simply "make better business decisions" and they would be a more competitive team. I would say that it didn't matter what kinds of brilliant decisions they made and what kinds of player development they used if certain teams have unlimited financial resources to sign superstars (and are not held in check) while others don't.

The NBA, to my knowledge, uses a "soft" salary cap, meaning that teams are allowed to exceed the set upper limit under certain circumstances. I don't know what the cap is in that league, and I can't get a straight answer from their NBA CBA FAQ page (sorry for the alphabet soup), but I'm guessing that it's insanely high, to where few teams even sniff the upper limit.

Anyway, I didn't actually come here to write about Collective Bargaining Agreements and Salary Caps and legal mumbo-jumbo. I meant to touch on something else that Reid mentioned in his post.

He says that without revenue sharing, there's a likelihood of certain franchises simply becoming championship factories, while the others become less and less competitive and the fans become bored. There has always been the argument that the NFL and the NBA and Major League Baseball and the NHL have expanded too much, and the talent pool is stretched thin. I don't really buy that. That's not my point either.

My point is one of silly trivia. Prior to the 2005-06 season, the NHL was uncapped, and no revenue sharing was used, and the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings of the world had payrolls of $77M, while most other teams were spending around $20. With deep pockets, they could pack their rosters with superstars, then pack them even more at the March trade deadline with a deep playoff run in mind. Again. Not my point. My point is one of silly, useless trivia.

In the last 17 NHL seasons, dating back to 1989, 17 DIFFERENT teams have lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. A different team each of the last 17 seasons. No team has lost twice.
    1989 Montréal Canadiens
    1990 Boston Bruins
    1991 Minnesota NorthStars¹
    1992 Chicago Blackhawks
    1993 Los Angeles Kings
    1994 Vancouver Canucks
    1995 Detroit Red Wings
    1996 Florida Panthers
    1997 Philadelphia Flyers
    1998 Washington Capitals
    1999 Buffalo Sabres
    2000 Dallas Stars¹
    2001 New Jersey Devils
    2002 Carolina Hurricanes
    2003 Anaheim Mighty Ducks
    2004 Calgary Flames
    2005 no Cup -- lockout
    2006 Edmonton Oilers

Pretty cool, huh? Amazingly, during that 17 season span, 11 different teams have won the cup, and only the Penguins (1991, 1992) and Red Wings (1997, 1998) have won back-to-back in that span. In this time span, four additional teams have won, but not lost (Tampa in 2004; Colorado in 1996 and 2001; Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992; New York Rangers in 1994) . The point is that in the past 17 seasons, 21 out of the League's 30 teams have made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. You don't have to go that much further back in the books to see the Islanders and the Maple Leafs. Only a few teams have never been to the Finals, and for the most part, they're the new-new-new teams like Nashville, Columbus, and Atlanta, or the new-new (and/or relocated franchises) like San Jose and Phoenix. Not only does this demonstrate that even before the new CBA, hockey wasn't nearly as dynastic as people would have thought, but it shows some level of parity in the league. More importantly, it's a good bar trick, and sure to win you a bet or two. There's no way that anyone is still reading this ridiculous post, but if you are, go out drinking tonight, and challenge someone to a round of drinks. Nobody will ever believe you that there's been a streak of 17 consecutive DIFFERENT SCF losers, but you'll win some drinks by knowing this fact.

Too obscure? I know. How bout this one? Similar in nature, but more mainstream.
In the last 13 years, dating back to 1994, there have been 13 different losing Superbowl teams.
    1994 Buffalo Bills
    1995 San Diego Chargers
    1996 Pittsburgh Steelers
    1997 New England Patriots
    1998 Green Bay Packers
    1999 Altanta Falcons
    2000 Tennessee Titans
    2001 New York Giants
    2002 St. Louis Rams
    2003 Oakland Raiders
    2004 Carolina Panthers
    2005 Philadelphia Eagles
    2006 Seattle Seahawks

In that 13 year span, there have been nine different winners, and there have been two who did it in back-to-back fashion. The Denver Broncos (1998, 1999) and the New England Patriots (2004, 2005).

I won't go to the trouble of enumerating them, but in the 18 year span going back to 1989 (for NHL comparison), the NBA has had 12 different teams lose in the finals. The streak of different losers is currently 4. In that time frame, there have only been six different winners. Two of those are also on the "loser" list. 16 different teams have reached the Final.

In baseball, dating back to 1989, 10 different teams have lost in the World Series, and 11 different teams have won. Three teams are on both lists, so there have been 18 different teams that have reached the Final.

Anyway, I'm done with this. Really, I just wanted an excuse to point out that bit about the streak of 17 different Stanley Cup Finals losers. It's freakish.

now playing:

The Boo Radleys Giant Steps

¹ People will surely scream out "Oh, but The Minnesota NorthStars and the Dallas Stars are the same franchise!". They'd be only partially correct. Technically, yes. However, there was a merger of two teams, a dissolution of said merger, a change in ownership, an organization re-structuring, and a geographic move that make it sort of strange to call them the "same" franchise. Either way, 17 different cities have watched their team lose the Cup in 17 consecutive seasons.

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