On the latter point, though, I feel like I find some hypocrisy among the general public, whether casual fans or media members who aren't thoroughly doing their jobs.
I speak, of course, of this parity argument.
How often in the past 15 years have we heard about how the NFL is so far superior to Major League Baseball because of "parity," which inevitably goes back to the lack of a salary cap in MLB? It's frustrating, and though it doesn't happen nearly as often as it used to, it still happens.
This isn't even mentioning how stupid it is to compare a league with roughly 10 times as many games, roughly half as big a roster, a minor-league system and an arbitration system that doesn't allow free agency for six years to the NFL, of course, but let's set those pesky facts aside for the sake of the argument.
In the last 15 years (starting with 2001), let's look at the playoff seasons for each MLB team.
Yeah, that's everyone. Fun. No, it's not ridiculous that 30 different teams would make the playoffs in a 15-year span, but given that only eight teams total made it per season up until the last four seasons -- when it's been 10 teams total -- and we've long heard how bad the lack of a salary cap is for purposes of league-wide parity, it's not insignificant.
Further, take note that since the beginning of 2010, the only teams to have not made the playoffs are White Sox, Mariners, Marlins, Padres and Rockies -- meaning 83 percent of MLB has made the playoffs in the last six seasons. There's also plenty of variety in there in terms of some smaller-market teams (A's, Rays) making the playoffs more often than some larger-market teams (White Sox, Mets).
Well, yeah, Matt ... but MLB takes 10 playoff teams now!
Oh, OK. Let's compare to the other major sports:
MLB: 10 of 30 teams = 33%
NFL: 12 of 32 teams = 37.5%
NHL and NBA: 16 of 30 teams = 53.3%
In the 15 years we were discussing above, there have been 10 different World Series champs and 16 different pennant winners.
Over in the OMG PARITY league -- sorry, I should be cool and say "The National Football League" -- there have been nine different Super Bowl champions and 17 different league champions. If the Patriots don't win the Super Bowl, the NFL would match MLB with 10 different champs in the last 15 years. None of the final four NFL teams can up the number of conference champions, though, lest we forget those pesky Jake Delhomme-engineered Carolina Panthers from a bit over a decade ago. So the numbers are very similar.
Now, let's take a look at the AFC championship quarterbacks in that same time period. That is, here's the number of times each has been in an AFC championship game, with wins in parentheses.
Tom Brady, 10 (6)
Peyton Manning, 5 (3)
Ben Roethlisberger, 4 (3)
Joe Flacco, 2 (1)
Mark Sanchez, 2
Five others appeared once, but only Rich Gannon advanced to the Super Bowl.
That's not much parity, is it? It's pretty much Brady, Peyton and Big Ben with some others sprinkled in.
I didn't include the NFC on this front for two purposes:
1. I'm not arguing MLB has more parity. If I was going to do that, it would take a lot longer, and I'd need to go through a lot more, such as league titles, payroll (to disprove the need for a salary cap by tackling "market size" issues) and a more extensive playoff analysis. But there's no reason to do that, because ...
2. I'm not arguing that the NFL doesn't have parity. The NFC side shows good parity and generally speaking we do see lots of playoff turnover in the NFL.
The NFL has parity.
It's just that we also do in Major League Baseball. There's no need for a salary cap for many reasons. I mentioned the (at least) six years of team control above, but there's also the fact that many huge-dollar free agents actually begin to be a drain on the large-market teams later in their careers, while the smaller-market clubs can rely on influxes of youth.
Put simply: The old "it's just the same teams every year!" argument from baseball-hating NFL honks in years past should be dead and long since buried by now.
In all, though, the two sports shouldn't really be compared much. If you are watching the NFL league championship games on Sunday as I will be, enjoy them. But if you believe you are watching the great last bastion of parity, you're doing it wrong. MLB is right there with it.