Sunday, November 22, 2009

Least Deserving Champions in 60 Years

Real Salt Lake is the first American sports team to win a championship with a losing record in 60 years.

In the history of the major four leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL), and also MLS and the NASL, only two teams have accomplished that. Both were in the NHL:

1949 Toronto Maple Leafs (22-25-13)
1938 Chicago Black Hawks (14-25-9)

Labels: ,

Comments on "Least Deserving Champions in 60 Years"


Anonymous ubelmann said ... (2:40 AM, November 23, 2009) : 

If you add in their MLS Cup performance of two wins and two ties, they aren't below-.500 anymore.

I guess I don't see much of a difference between the one-game-below-.500 Real Salt Lake squad winning MLS Cup this year, and the one-game-over-.500 St. Louis Cardinals winning the World Series in 2006.

The 1987 Twins allowed more runs than they scored for the entire season. One might argue that those Twins were a below average team with good luck and that Salt Lake was an above average team with bad luck. Either way, you're dealing with a finite sample size, and a team's record is not the be-all, end-all measure of how good a team is.

So, I don't really agree that Salt Lake is not particularly deserving.


Blogger elopingcamel said ... (1:23 PM, November 23, 2009) : 

I agree with ubelmann's perhaps unstated sentiments that the title of "Least Deserving" is a subjective one; it is based on whatever criteria you yourself are placing (as far as I am aware, I have never heard some sort of official consensus on what makes a team the most deserving. If it is the better team or the team that has played better over a longer period then perhaps you would also believe that the U.S. Olympic ice hockey team that beat the Soviet Union was less deserving).

It is strange to me that a team with a losing record can win the championship. Yet, I watched every single playoff game that RSL played and they were easily the most deserving team as far as passion went. They played above and beyond their capacity and fought both to hold on to leads and to come back from goal defecits. They played the endurance game, going into overtime twice, and they also played the nerves game, going into penalty kicks twice. During the playoffs, there was no better team than RSL.

They capitalized on an opportunity. That, in my book, makes them very deserving, and it is what makes the playoff format of any league so fun. If you want the "Deserving" team to win it, then you have a single table, EPL-style, Supporter's Shield competition be the end all determining factor for who is the champion.

In MLS' system, RSL is simply a team who found the heart and skill to thrive in the system they were given. Kudos to them for that. There is no shame or sense of "more" or "less" deserving in those circumstances. It is a matter of who will show up when it matters.

Also, I apologize for the length.


Blogger Brian said ... (4:01 PM, November 23, 2009) : 

Listen, as long as they're are playoffs, it's likely the best regular season team is not going to win the championship. The more teams in the playoffs, the more likely a team with a less than stellar regular season is going to win. That's simply the nature of playoff tournaments. I don't think anyone can deny that RSL was the best MLS team in November. And under the current structure, that's all that matters.


Blogger scaryice said ... (6:18 AM, November 24, 2009) : 

udelmann - Don't forget to add in the Open Cup qualifying loss, then they're exactly at .500. And believe me, I was bothered to see the Cardinals win that year as well (although less so because baseball has a history of playoffs).

elopingcamel - Short tournaments like the World Cup or Olympics aren't going to crown the best team most of the time. I don't think that's comparable to a full season in a league.

I do agree with you and Brian that RSL was the best team in the playoffs. I just don't feel that any 8th place team in any soccer league in the world can ever be a deserving champion. The goal of the season-long competition should be to crown the best team, and they already proved during the regular season that it wasn't them.


Anonymous GoRSL said ... (10:33 AM, November 24, 2009) : 

Least deserving ever!! Take that, fancy boys! Your anguish only makes RSL's championship even sweeter.

Why couldn't your more deserving teams beat RSL? Why did RSL manage to make your more deserving teams (who had 1 or 2 more wins than RSL) look like they were populated with 12-year-old girls? Why are you such a wiener about this?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:39 PM, November 24, 2009) : 

MLS has parity. RSL were a middle of the pack team that got good when it counted.

Nothing wrong with that. It's a far better alternative than the one proposed by some starry-eyed types that insist on a single table. MLS teams change constantly thru the first 75% of the season and often make major acquisitions near the end of the regular season.

As the league expands the playoff berths go to more deserving teams. This felt like the first season with a genuine playoff race. Guaranteeing fewer automatic berths to each conference and opening up more "wildcards" has improved MLS.

In my opinion, this year's RSL was FAR more deserving than the 2005 LA Galaxy who had only to stay ahead of woeful expansion Chivas USA and Salt Lake to qualify for the postseason. Then they played well enough to allow Pando Ramirez his only MLS highlight right at the decisive moment of the final.

- garbaggio


post a comment