Thursday, October 30, 2014

What defines a dynasty?

Baseball season is officially over.

The San Francisco Giants won their 3rd World Series in 5 years Wednesday, besting the Kansas City Royals, 3-2, to take the Series, 4 games to 3. There's no need to reiterate what's already been written and said about the game itself. Rather, we'd like to ask a simple question.

Is it fair to refer to the Giants, under manager Bruce Bochy, as a dynasty, after 3 titles in 5 seasons? Team of the Decade? Too early for that, obviously, since the decade isn't even half over, but a dynasty? Let's consider.

It wasn't that long ago that the last baseball dynasty was, of course, the Yankees, who won 4 titles in 5 years, 3 of them in a row, and reached the Series 6 times in an 8 year span (1996-2003) under eventual Hall of Famer Joe Torre. Under current pilot Joe Girardi, like Bochy a catcher in his playing days, the Yankees have only reached the Series once, winning it all in 2009. Right before the Giants began their run.

In the NBA, you've had Miami reach the Finals 4 straight years, winning 2 titles. Of course, they ended up losing the centerpiece of that run, LeBron James, when he decided to return home to Cleveland after the Heat were dusted by San Antonio in June. No one's anointing the Spurs as a dynasty, despite 5 titles during the Tim Duncan era. The 90's had Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The 00's started with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, and the Los Angeles Lakers, whose history dates back to the golden era of the NBA, along with ancient rival Boston. However, today's NBA isn't the same as it was back in the day. Not when it seems to be the same teams making the playoffs every year over and over again. The league markets individual stars, not teams. That, sadly, is the league's biggest problem. One they're in no hurry to cure.

The closest the NHL has to a dynasty right now are two teams. The Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks aren't exactly like the Montreal Canadiens of legend, or even the NY Islanders and Edmonton Oilers of the 80's. However, they have split the last 4 Stanley Cups. It's just a question of which one will prove more durable over the course of the next, say, 3 years.

In the NFL, the last dynasty is the league's Evil Empire, the New England Patriots, although the lustre has been tarnished of late. Crybaby Tom Brady and the Pats have lost their last two trips to the Super Bowl, but the only real reason that they're a perennial playoff team isn't how good they are, but rather, well, political in nature. In that regard, the NFL is no different than the NBA, giving certain teams and/or star players preferential treatment to ensure that the teams that the league feels their audience needs to see in the playoffs get there. It's almost as if those leagues are begging for Vince McMahon to buy into them. But do we really need him? Nope. The business model needs to change.

In Major League Baseball, you could make a case for the following:

Boston Red Sox: 3 titles in a 10 year span (2004-13) are counter-balanced by a lean period which has seen them in the "second division" 3 of the last 4 years, interrupted only by winning the title last year.

St. Louis Cardinals: 2 titles, and nearly a 3rd, between 2006-13. They lost to Boston last year, after beating Detroit in 2006 and Texas in 2011.

Detroit Tigers: Perennial AL Central champs, but have only reached the Series twice (2006, 2012), losing both times (Cardinals, Giants).

There is some fluidity, in that there are teams on the verge (i.e. Baltimore, both LA teams) of breaking through. What keeps teams like the Mets and Yankees away for now are a combination of age (especially the Yankees), injuries (especially the Mets), and excessive media scrutiny, just because they play in the biggest media center in the country, and in a city so spoiled by winning over the years that some citizens think it's a birthright. That creates undue pressure, especially on the Mets, who, despite 2 titles (1969, 1986) and nearly a 3rd (1973), are always perceived as being the #2 team in town.

The oddsmakers will waste everyone's time with "morning lines" for 2015 well before spring training begins, but fans' attention can be turned fully to football, hockey, and, as of this week, basketball. So we'll close and give our congratulations to the Giants. The next, most difficult task, of course, is repeating. We'll see if they can finally do that.

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