Thursday, March 3, 2016

How Can We Compare MLB and NBA Teams?

Every year around this time, baseball writers churn out stories about the beauty of Spring Training or the storylines to watch as MLB teams enter camp. Since most of the former type of article could just be recycled each spring, and most of the latter will end up being much ado about nothing, I'm going in a different direction here. Let's compare baseball teams to something totally unrelated to baseball, just as I did last year when I found a Simpsons character that resembles each big-league mascot.

This time around, we're going to swing around the league and compare each MLB team to an NBA team. The idea was spurred by a recent Effectively Wild podcast, when host Ben Lindbergh answered a listener e-mail by saying that the Cardinals are the "Baseball Spurs." A couple years ago, I compared the Spurs to the Yankees, and Bill Simmons often remarks that his Patriots are very Spurs-like. I'll run through Lindbergh's reasons for likening the Spurs to the Cardinals when I get to the Cards' spot on the list.

I figured I might be the right man to blow out the MLB-NBA team comparison since those are my two favorite leagues. The only rule I used was that each MLB team had to be matched with one and only one NBA team. Here we go. As always...

Arizona Diamondbacks
NBA Parallel: Miami Heat

Each team features several established superstars that still probably won't be enough to carry it to a title. (For the Heat, insert definitely where it says probably up there.)

Atlanta Braves

NBA Parallel: Phoenix Suns

Both squads appeared to be set up well for the future just a couple seasons ago. But it's turned ugly fast, like Britney Spears in her twenties. Since 2014, the Braves have lost Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, and Andrelton Simmons, while the Suns have said "buh-bye" to Goran Dragic, the Morrii*, and Isaiah Thomas. Oh, and while Jeff Hornacek was fired, Fredi Gonzalez has merely "lost the clubhouse."

*Patent pending: Zach Lowe

Baltimore Orioles

NBA Parallel: Washington Wizards

Both these Beltway teams are among the most puzzling in their respective leagues. The Wiz have taken a big step back after a nice season last year, despite an impressive core group of young players. Meanwhile, the Orioles recently inherited the Rockies' throne as Grant Brisbee's weirdest team in baseball.

Boston Red Sox

NBA Parallel: Oklahoma City Thunder

Big-name, exciting players give both teams a fighting chance at a championship in the near future. While the Sox will certainly say adios to Big Papi after the season, the Thunder hope they won't be doing the same with Kevin Durant.

Chicago Cubs

NBA Parallel: Cleveland Cavaliers

After years as laughingstocks, both Midwestern teams appeared to be turning it around in the early 2000s. Then, a crushing blow (Bartman for the Cubs; The Decision for the Cavs) made fans think that a championship would probably never happen for the team. Now, they're believing again. What cruel fates await the Cavs this summer and the Cubs next fall? Time will tell...

Chicago White Sox
NBA Parallel: Chicago Bulls


Cincinnati Reds

NBA Parallel: Los Angeles Lakers

Cleveland Indians
NBA Parallel: Orlando Magic

Lots of talented young dudes (Michael Brantley, Corey Kluber, Jason Kipnis, and others for the Tribe; Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton, Mario Hezonja, and others for the Magic) who haven't quite put it together during the same season yet. The interesting question is, Will they ever quite put it together? PECOTA says that the Indians will this season. The Magic, meanwhile, are still waiting for their Francisco Lindor.

Colorado Rockies

NBA Parallel: New Jersey Nets

Aimless, going nowhere, like Tom Hanks in The Terminal.

Detroit Tigers
NBA Parallel: Memphis Grizzlies

Rapidly-aging quasi-contenders.

Houston Astros

NBA Parallel: Portland Trail Blazers

These young teams have cracked open their windows of relevance earlier than most people expected.

Kansas City Royals
NBA Parallel: Toronto Raptors

The Royals and the Raptors each recently outperformed expectations in a city that was starving for a contender.

Los Angeles Angels 

NBA Parallel: New Orleans Pelicans

Like the Angels with Mike Trout, the Pellies have surrounded a generational talent (Anthony Davis) with a pu pu platter of pooh-pooh.

Los Angeles Dodgers

NBA Parallel: Los Angeles Clippers

Despite ridiculous star power in recent years, the City of Angels is experiencing a little bit of a championship drought. The ownership groups for both the Dodgers and Clippers feature famous names, a Hollywood prerequisite.

Miami Marlins

NBA Parallel: New York Knicks

Neither Giancarlo Stanton nor Kristaps Porzingis can totally mask the underlying problems with his franchise.

Milwaukee Brewers
NBA Parallel: Milwaukee Bucks

Both Beertown teams will finish with poor records this season, but they also appear to be going in the right direction, stashing good young players in anticipation of future contention. Just keep on chugging along, Milwaukee. It's gonna get better soon enough.

Minnesota Twins

NBA Parallel: Minnesota Timberwolves

Another geographically convenient comparison holds up here because both Twin Cities teams boast tremendous young talent (Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns for the Wolves; Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton for the Twinkies) that should chase rings in a few years.

New York Mets
NBA Parallel: Atlanta Hawks

Last season, both teams rode surprising strong play to deep postseason runs.

New York Yankees
NBA Parallel: Dallas Mavericks

These are aging teams that refuse to become irrelevant. How does it feel to be A-Rod, Dirk?

Oakland Athletics
NBA Parallel: Detroit Pistons

The guys in charge of these teams (Billy Beane and Stan Van Gundy) tend to create more news than their players.

Philadelphia Phillies

NBA Parallel: Philadelphia 76ers


Pittsburgh Pirates
NBA Parallel: Boston Celtics

Low seeds with some nice players, both clubs are destined to get bounced in the first round again this season.

San Diego Padres

NBA Parallel: Denver Nuggets

A bunch of interesting pieces that don't fit well together. The Padres and Nugs would both suck at Perfection.

San Francisco Giants
NBA Parallel: Golden State Warriors

Both teams have brought recent titles to the beautiful Bay Area. The Warriors are the favorite to repeat, and you won't find a lot of people betting against the Giants during an even year. When we drafted sports cities where we'd like to live a couple years ago, San Francisco was the top pick. I think it'd be even more of a slam dunk now. 

Seattle Mariners
NBA Parallel: Sacramento Kings

Both teams feature megastars that look out of place in the Pacific Northwest. Felix Hernandez and Boogie Cousins are both still awaiting their first playoff appearances.

St. Louis Cardinals

NBA Parallel: San Antonio Spurs

Lindbergh hit the nail on the head when he called St. Louis the "Spursiest" of current MLB teams. He cited the Cards' recent success, their system to which players conform, their boring competence, and their tendency to "play the right way." I'd add that they both feature role players who spell their seemingly common names incorrectly (Jhonny Peralta for the Cards and Jonathon Simmons for the Spurs).

Tampa Bay Rays
NBA Parallel: Indiana Pacers

Each club is a small-market team that occasionally creeps into contention, but is mostly just there.

Texas Rangers

NBA Parallel:  Utah Jazz

Pretty good teams whose most interesting players (Yu Darvish and Rudy Gobert) are foreign imports.

Toronto Blue Jays

NBA Parallel: Charlotte Hornets

A parrot frequently perches on Edwin Encarnacion's arm, and Jeremy Lin's haircut makes him look like a parrot.


Is this comparison too much of a stretch? It is, right? Let's just move on.

Washington Nationals

NBA Parallel: Houston Rockets

Like the Nationals last season, Houston has struggled this year despite star power and high pre-season expectations. The teams' best players -- Bryce Harper and James Harden -- both command the spotlight, occasionally for negative reasons. Also, for their hair (Harden's of the facial variety and Harper's of the mohawkal variety).

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