Once again: baseball has greater parity than the NFL

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There are some beliefs people hold in their heads and hearts that are simply immune to reasoning. You can’t change someone’s religion via logic and reason (and don’t ever try). It seems that most political beliefs these days are articles of faith rather than fact-based positions. So too is the concept that the NFL has greater parity than Major League Baseball.

Really: every other month someone comes up with a new analysis to disprove the notion that the NFL is a somehow fairer enterprise, and within ten minutes I’ll have a comment around these parts from someone talking about how no teams but the Yankees and Red Sox have a chance, about how baseball needs a salary cap and about how football is a fair and just pursuit that is economically, competitively and morally on the side of the angels.  It’s uncanny.

Still, that won’t stop me from linking stuff like this from Tyler Kepner:

In the N.F.L., 24 of 32 teams have made the playoffs over the past five seasons. That’s 75 percent. In baseball, 22 of 30 have made the playoffs in the same time span. That’s 73.3 percent, despite the fact that the N.F.L. awards 12 playoff spots each season, and baseball – for now, anyway – awards only eight.

I wouldn’t trade baseball’s system for the NFL’s for anything. And that would be the case even if football wasn’t poised to rip itself to pieces in a labor war. A labor war that must have been fomented by the sides arguing if the NFL’s system is merely perfect or if it’s “absolutely the best most perfect system ever invented infinity.”

Nationals’ sell-off a vindication for Dusty Baker

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The Nationals threw in the towel on Tuesday, trading second baseman Daniel Murphy to the Cubs and 1B/OF Matt Adams to the Cardinals. The club also placed outfielder and soon-to-be free agent Bryce Harper on revocable waivers but took him back. The Nats’ sell-off is a vindication for former manager Dusty Baker, let go after the Nationals failed to advance past the NLDS for a second straight year.

Baker had roughly the same team current manager Dave Martinez did. It was arguably worse, considering he never wrote Juan Soto‘s name on the lineup card. The 2018 squad, sans Baker, has been marked by mutiny and underachievement. While failing to reach the NLCS in Baker’s two years was disappointing, he took them to Game 5 in the NLDS both years as well as 95 and 97 regular season wins. Right now, Martinez’s squad has a winning percentage more than 100 points lower than Baker’s last year. They’re on pace to go 80-82, which would be their first sub-.500 season since 2011.

Baker has always had an undeserved bad rap. He was, correctly, blamed for the Cubs’ demise, due somewhat to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior falling apart, ostensibly from overuse. However, after his stint in Chicago, Baker took the lowly Reds from the bottom of the NL Central to the top in two years between 2008-10. Then he took the Nationals, which had won a meager 83 games in 2015 and had made the playoffs just twice since moving from Montreal, to two consecutive NLDS Game 5’s.

Not much changed from 2017 to ’18. Martinez inherited Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Michael Taylor, Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Daniel Murphy, Matt Wieters, Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, Shawn Kelley, and Koda Glover, among others. But for one reason or another — injuries, admittedly, make up one reason — almost all of these players are having worse years under Martinez than under Baker. Describing the 2018 team to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Baker said, “They’re together, but they’re separate.”

Is it strictly Baker that would make the difference? No, of course not. But the Nationals organization seems unwilling or unable to address issues that may extend into the front office. The Nats seem happy to go through a new manager every couple of years and hope that fixes all that ails them. Since Frank Robinson’s five years at the helm from 2002-06, Manny Acta managed two and a half years, Jim Riggleman one and a half, Davey Johnson two, Matt Williams two, Baker two. Maybe the problem was never the manager. Perhaps the problem is the Lerner family and Mike Rizzo.