Bud Selig has defined competitive balance as giving a team‘s fan base “hope and faith.” Without having the resources to poll fans, H&F is tough to measure.
Here we will determine competitive balance as the number of different teams making the playoffs. Thereby giving their fan bases a reason to have H&F. We will also consider how many clubs got to play for a title and were crowned champions, as that is an indication of a team(s) dominance and will have a negative affect on the other fan bases’ H&F.
The NFL has been held up by many as the model of competitive balance. Hence, we should compare the NFL to MLB.
Since 1996 (MLB’s first full season of eight teams making the postseason), twenty-six of the thirty clubs played meaningful October baseball or 86.7%. The NFL has been better with nearly all of their members making the postseason – thirty-one out of thirty-two or 98.1% ( 31 teams / 31.6 or the weighted average of the number of teams since 1996 – Texas became a franchise in 2002). But when we adjust MLB to include the same number of playoff participants as the NFL, baseball inches closer to football at 93.3%.
The NFL has had ten different teams hoist the Lombardi Trophy or 31.6% from 1996. During those same fifteen seasons, MLB has also had ten teams win the World Series or 33.3% of the thirty clubs. Recently, baseball has done slightly better in the championship criteria. The opposite is the case when looking at the varying teams that were a second best. The NFL had eighteen different teams make the Super Bowl and MLB seventeen. After compiling the aforementioned information, it is clear that both Leagues have had the same number of teams dominate.
The Pats and Yanks are certainly the best of the best. The Krafts have three Super Bowl wins, five losses and played in the second season eleven times in the last fifteen years. Even if the Steelers beat the Packers next week giving them three rings, the Patriots are without a doubt the most dominate franchise with more Super Bowl and playoff appearances. The Yankees performed even better than the Pats. They only missed the postseason once, won seven pennants, and had five parades. The team that calls the Bronx home was the best of both Leagues, but they were not heads-and-shoulders better than the Patriots and recent Yankee actions look like that isn’t going to continue.
Regarding the other top teams, the Colts are similar to the Braves as being regular participants of the playoffs, but only getting to the last round twice and winning it all once. Next week’s Super Bowl teams – the Steelers and Packers – are comparable to the Red Sox and Cardinals. Each franchise has made the playoffs eight or nine times, have a few championship game or series memories and have been immortalized once or twice. The Leagues are very similar in terms of the second group of top teams.
The adjusted number of playoff teams show that the NFL is only a slightly more competitively balanced league than MLB over the last fifteen years. The rest of the data indicates the Leagues are fairly even. The Yankees being the most dominate franchise of either league can cloud the overwhelming evidence that MLB is very close to being just as competitively balanced as the NFL.