Thursday, May 25, 2017

The curse of the superteam

Or, you know, not.

Listening to a bit of the Mikes on the commute this morning, and here was Doofus Mike (aka, Greenberg) lamenting the dominance of the Golden State Warriors, saying he hates what Kevin Durant did by using his leverage to sign with them because it hurts the competitive balance of the NBA, and blah-blah-blah, yada-yada-yada.

What do I think?

I think he really must have hated what the New York Yankees did to Major League Baseball in the 1950s and early '60s.

Because, honestly, if you're going to hate the Warriors for being so much better than everyone else (and hogging all the superstars), how can you not feel the same way about those Yankees?

In the 16 years between 1949 and 1964, after all, they dominated baseball the way no other team in any other American sport (with the possible exception of the 1950s Montreal Canadiens and 1960s Celtics) has before or since. They won 14 American League pennants in that span. They won nine World Series. They won 96 or more games 14 times.

And yet they went down in history not as the ruin of baseball, but as one of the great dynasties of all time.

They achieved this not because of any particular genius, but because ownership and management had leverage and used it. They used the reserve clause system, which made indentured servants of players, to full advantage, cherry-picking stars or potential stars at will. For many years, they basically used the cash-strapped Kansas City Athletics as a de facto farm team.

And yet no one, or almost no one, wrung their hands and moaned that they were destroying baseball. They were just being good capitalists. Using their status as The Yankees to gain what some might see as an unfair advantage? Hey, that was the American way.

But a player doing that, the way Durant did?

Oh, heavens. Get thee to thy fainting bed.

And yet what Durant did, or what LeBron James did in Miami, is no different than what the Yankees did in the '50s. They had leverage and they used it. They were good capitalists. But somehow, suddenly, that was a bad thing.

The chess pieces, after all, aren't supposed to move themselves. That's just not how it's supposed to work.

But free agency turned over the chess board, so now superteams are bad. And never mind that this runs counter to the long-held notion that superteams are actually good, that they give your sport a public face and a juicy target for everyone else. No one, after all, remembers the kinda good teams. They remember the '50s Yankees.

Or the Warriors. Or the LeBron Heat or LeBron Cavs. Or, for that matter, the Larry Bird/Kevin McHale Celtics -- who, as they rose to dominance, added superstar point guard Dennis Johnson, even though they'd already won a title without him.

Gee. Sounds familiar.

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