Cardinals clear rulers of the NL
As you might know, the World Series happens every year. So, in the last 10 years, there have been 10 World Series.
There are 30 MLB teams. If sports were pure chance, then you'd expect that to mean all but 10 franchises would have made a trip to the Series during that time frame. That isn't how sports work — only 11 teams have played. And for that, you can blame the Cardinals.
This year, the Cardinals are making their fourth appearance in the World Series since 2004. They've won twice. That’s dominance — a stranglehold on the National League, a consistent and seemingly unshakeable ability to perform in October.
For a franchise to achieve that level of consistency, it requires quality on every level of the organization: players, managers, executives, all of which have rotated during the time St. Louis has been angling for championships. (Cases in point: Albert Pujols; Tony La Russa; Walt Jocketty.) Restacking the deck isn't easy, even if the Cardinals make it seem automatic.
With their fourth trip in 10 years already a guarantee, and their third title in 10 years a definite possibility, it raises the question: what other franchises compare over the same time span?
The previous 10 is easy: the New York Yankees went to six World Series, including four wins in five years. And by chance or not, it’s the Cardinals' 2013 opponents, the Red Sox, who come closest to matching St. Louis' frequency, with two wins in two appearances.
In the NFL, the league of parity, the league that's supposed to turn over every year, the Patriots have been to the Super Bowl four times and won two, with one more win two years outside the time parameters.
However, the last five years have seen nine different teams occupy the 10 Super Bowl slots, a pretty remarkable amount of variety. In the five years before that, when you take the Patriots out of the equation, no other team made a return trip.
Over the whole frame, the Steelers, Giants and Colts went more than once, with only the Giants winning both trips — and even though they got one of those over New England, it's pretty hard to argue that anyone's owned the last decade of the NFL more than the Patriots have.
Football, of course, is a far different game than baseball, and the Patriots' dominance, anchored by the ongoing presence of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, has been much different than that of the Cardinals.
All of the other teams that made return trips to the Super Bowl also shared one thing in common, which is that they made those trips with the same quarterback at the helm. True franchise quarterbacks are king in the NFL more than any team can be — just ask Peyton Manning.
How about hockey? The Blackhawks are the only squad with multiple titles in the last 10 years, meaning that hockey may be where parity in sports truly resides — the Penguins, Devils, Bruins and Red Wings did have the privilege of runner-up performances to complement their Cups.
Then there's the NBA. The los Angeles Lakers won titles in '09 and '10. The Miami Heat joined them in repeating with titles in '12 and this season. They are the only teams in the last 10 years in the four major sports to repeat as league champions – and the Heat are the favorites to win a third in a row.
But in the sport that involves the fewest players on both a gameplay and week-to-week basis, it makes sense that any player who could prove himself vastly better than his competitors would dominate, and LeBron James has done that. He’s had help — Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley have assembled and fine-tuned a terribly competent and well-rounded team, not to mention Dwyane Wade’s 2006 championship prior to James' arrival.
With three rings in the decade past, and a fourth appearance, the Heat currently hold the title of most dominant franchise in that period of time. But the Cardinals have a chance to match them if they can top the Red Sox.
Even if they don't — St. Louis has nothing to be ashamed of.