Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Must reading on competitive balance

A few weeks ago, I posted a column about the needless hand-wringing over the potential lack of a salary cap in the NFL. Obviously, a labor deal extension was negotiated and the salary cap will remain in place through 2011. But I stand by my premise that a salary cap and competitive balance are not mutually inclusive. Good management always trumps financial resources.

In my column, I talked about how Major League Baseball has had as many franchises win championships (five) in the past five years as the NBA has had since 1987. Now, David Schoenfield of ESPN.com has dug even deeper and produced a more compelling argument that baseball, without its salary cap, is at no greater disadvantage for competitive balance than the capped NFL and NBA.

Some franchises, such as the A's, Twins, Steelers and Spurs, have maintained competitve and healthy franchises in recent years without spending liberally. And others, such as the Orioles, Cubs, Knicks, and New York Rangers, have rarely contended despite seemingly limitless cash. And for all their money, the Yankees didn't make the playoffs for 12 straight seasons, from 1982 through 1993 (and no one did in 1994).

It's all a matter of building a solid foundation around player development, making smart choices in your drafts, and signing the right players for your system, not necessarily the most expensive ones.

A well-timed bad year can help, too. Pittsburgh got Ben Roethlisberger after going 6-10 in 2004, and San Antonio won the lottery and landed Tim Duncan in 1997 after a 20-62 campaign the year before. (The Spurs also made Gregg Popovich head coach during that woeful 1996-97 season.)

Ultimately, fans that blame their team's failure on a lack of payroll resources are, at best, oversimplifying. Thanks to David Schoenfield for helping to prove the point.



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