Maybe Evil Empires Like the Yankees Are Actually Good for Sports

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Like a movie, every league needs a good villain.

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Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic), Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), and Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic) talk about the essential role superteams play in sports.


Hey, guys,

The Evil Empire of U.S. sports has always resided in New York, where the profligate Yankees have outspent the opposition for decades. But this summer proves that a Wicked Witch of the West is rising—the L.A. Dodgers, and to a lesser extent the NBA's L.A. Lakers.

The Dodgers were acquired earlier this year by mogul investors Stan Kasten, Magic Johnson (yes, that Magic), and private fund firm Guggenheim Partners among others for an eye-popping $2 billion. With deep-pocketed private fund backers and one of the country's largest markets AND a multi-billion dollar TV deal with Fox in the works, the Dodgers were expected to spend big at the trade deadline, which they did by acquiring elite Miami Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez. But no one expected what came last week: a megadeal with Boston where the Dodgers acquired star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, malcontent pitcher Josh Beckett, and injured former star Carl Crawford for a package of minor leaguers and big-league nobodies. That's more than $260 million in player salaries overall picked up by the Dodgers in a single day.

Kasten made the Dodgers' financial position very clear in a chat with reporters Sunday after the trade went down. Asked by the Los Angeles Times about a spending limit for the team, Kasten said: "I haven't found it yet. I'll let you know when we get there." OK, then.

Meanwhile, the Lakers have built their latest superteam despite operating in the salary-capped NBA by offering what they always offer: tradition, pride, and living in Los Angeles. The argument worked on a who's who of famous centers over the decades: Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O'Neal all came to L.A. via trade or free agency and stayed for years. Now Dwight Howard, the NBA's best center, has joined the Lakers along with point guard wizard Steve Nash, who chose L.A. over the bright lights of the Big Apple.

What do you make of all of this, Patrick? Is it good for the MLB and NBA to have superteams in big markets like L.A., New York, Chicago, Boston and Miami? Or does the rich-getting-richer theme bug you?

–Jake

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Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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