Sunday, April 21, 2013

The stable franchises

For completeness, I'll talk the fortunes of the pro franchises that neither expanded note moved in the last 30 years.
New York Yankees
Chicago Bulls
Los Angeles Lakers
New England Patriots
San Francisco 49ers
Dallas Cowboys
Detroit Red Wings
Pittsburgh Steelers
Boston Celtics
New York Giants
San Antonio Spurs
Green Bay Packers
Edmonton Oilers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Montreal Canadiennes
St.  Louis Cardinals
Boston Red Sox
San Francisco Giants
Houston Rockets
Minnesota Twins
Washington Redskins
Oakland A's
Toronto Blue Jays
Atlanta Braves
Chicago Bears
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Phillies
Chicago Blackhawks
Boston Bruins
Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles Angels
New York Mets
Dallas Mavericks
Chicago White Sox
Cincinnati Reds
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kansas City Royals

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ranking the Expansion Teams

Since I became a conscious sports fan in the mid-1980s, each of the four major sports leagues has added at least four expansion teams.  I thought it would be fun to rank how successful they've been in order.

  1. Miami Heat 2 championships, favored to win another.  With the best current basketball player, another top 5 player, and another top 20 player.  Run by one of the top basketball minds ever, with an up-and-coming coach. Established as a desirable free agent destination.  This is the best-case scenario.
  2. Anaheim Ducks -- One Stanley Cup, another run to the finals, currently solid, positioned for success.
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks - One championship, generally in contention since. Firmly established.
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning  -- Yes, a Stanley Cup, and currently 3 top talents, but largely anonymous otherwise.
  5. Carolina Panthers -- One Super Bowl run, now in possession of a top QB talent.
  6. Ottawa Senators -- One run to the Stanley Cup finals, firmly established
  7. San Jose Sharks -- Solid fan base, usually in contention.
  8. Houston Texans -- Seem to be in the middle of a decent run of contention, though it took a while.
  9. Colorado Rockies -- One run to the World Series; generally competitive
  10. Orlando Magic -- Develop franchise center, reach finals, lose center to Lakers, repeat.
  11. Tampa Bay Rays -- Competitive on the field; struggling at the box office.
  12. Miami  Marlins -- 2 championships, not much else in other seasons
  13. Florida Panthers -- One Stanley Cup Finals run, not much else.  Buried in a crowded scene.
  14. Nashville Predators  -- We now enter the "no specific recollection" portion of our list.
  15. Cleveland Browns  -- No QB.
  16. Minnesota Timberwolves -- KG's heyday seems long ago.
  17. Columbus Blue Jackets  -- Who?
  18. Minnesota Wild -- ?
  19. Toronto Raptors -- One playoff run with VC and T-Mac
  20. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Not a good sign when an NFL team regularly covers up seats.
  21. Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies -- Oops
  22. Atlanta Thrashers / Winnipeg Jets -- Oops again.
  23. Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets -- Oops once more, then league takeover
  24. Carolina Bobcats -- Maybe #23 wasn't an oops. Or maybe it was.


One model franchise, a few solid citizens, then it goes downhill pretty fast.  Three teams ended up moving themselves. One was taken over by the league.   The best memories most teams in the second half have offered is a first round upset.

Of course, several established teams -- I'm looking at you, Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Islanders -- haven't given their fans much to cheer about, either. But it does appear these teams are doing worse than a random sampling of 24 teams, even though many of these franchises have been in place for 20 years.

As a contrast, let's take a look at the established franchises that changed locations in that same rough amount of time.

  1. Cleveland Browns -> Baltimore Ravens
  2. Baltimore -> Indianapolis Colts
  3. Colorado Rockies -> New Jersey Devils
  4. Quebec Nordiques -> Colorado Avalanche
  5. Minnesota -> Dallas Stars
  6. Oakland -> LA -> Oakland Raiders
  7. LA -> St. Louis Rams
  8. Houston Oilers -> Tennessee Titans
  9. Seattle SuperSonics -> Oklahoma City Thunder 
  10. Montreal Expos -> Washington Nationals
  11. Hartford Whalers -> Carolina Hurricanes
  12. St. Louis -> Arizona Cardinals
  13. San Diego -> LA Clippers
  14. Kansas City -> Sacramento Kings -> Seattle SuperSonics?
  15. Winnipeg Jets -> Phoenix Coyotes
Now we're talking

For all the talk about "franchise free agency," it's interesting that there's been about half as many franchise relocations as expansions in the past 30 years (though this list does exclude expansion teams that moved).  Even more interesting when you consider that some of these (Devils,Clippers, Kings, the Raiders northward move) were before the first of the expansions.   Expanding the scope includes the success of the Devils and Raiders' LA run, but also brings in the Clippers and Kings.

The first group includes 23 teams, the defending NBA champions, and seven total champions.  The second list includes 13 teams, the current Super Bowl champions, 11 total champions, and a couple teams poised for runs.

The lesson is if you're a city with no team hoping for a champion, better to lure someone else's team than to go for expansion.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Mad Men -- In history not consumed by it

As Mad Men begins its sixth season, moving deeper into the part of the Sixties that made them famous, there has been some excitement about it perhaps confronting the issues of the day, like race.

I hope they ignore this advice, and judging by the first five seasons and Mattew Weiner's sensibilities, they probably will be.

What makes Mad Men interesting is that it offers a window into how certain people confronted the same type of issues that confront us -- how do we approach family life, professional life? How do we deal with upstart competitors?  What shortcuts are we willing to take for business success?  How do we respond when these things begin to shift?

The historical setting offers a couple advantages.  For one, we know how the choices the characters made worked out generally.  For another, it offers some historical context to fill in the background.  Show set in the  near-present like almost every other show generally have their characters operating in a vacuum, since it's difficult to import a current news event that would be plausible.  In Mad Men, the historical events actually happened, and we know this (or can look it up).

What's interesting about the show isn't that the partners have a big Conversation about Race, but the micro-adjustments they make as the landscape changes.  Which mirrors the way macro events tend to impact our lives.  Proponents of same sex marriage like to write that allowing it will have no impact on heterosexual marriages, which is at least superficially true.  While this is likely a historic event, in particular for same sex couples, it does not really impact what my day-to-day concerns are.  One could tell the story of John McG without touching on the same sex marriage debate.

I think the way Mad Men handled the Kennedy assassination -- weaving it into a wedding -- was brilliant in this regard.  Historical events happen, even big ones like the assassination of a president or the 9/11 attacks -- and people still get married, have kids, make mortgage payments, and have to deal with backstabbing co-workers.  They change us, but in subtle ways that are not best captured in a Special 9/11 Episode.

Some critics complain that the only people of color in the show are essentially window dressing to bring out some quality in the main characters.  But, though this also seems true to life.  Mad Men has a rich cast of characters that viewers care about.  I think it would be misstep to introduce another central character in order to explore another aspect of the events of the time.  The show is about what it's about.  If someone wants to make another show about the 1960's from the perspective of a black elevator operator, they are welcome to do so.

So, as I tune in tonight, I'll be interested to see how the characters respond to the turmoil of the late 1960's.  I am not terribly interested in having the show tell me that Racism is Bad, and War Is Wrong, and other Big Messages.