Which major Valley team is closest to winning a championship?
The Phoenix sports scene could use another championship ring.
The Diamondbacks are still the only of the four major professional teams in Arizona to win a title, beating the Yankees in the World Series in 2001. Other teams have come close, but still, Arizona’s youngest major professional sports franchise is the only to win a title.
We know — the Phoenix Mercury, Arizona Rattlers and Phoenix Rising FC have all either had great success or a bright future or both. But this question is intended to examine the “big four” teams, whose fan base, economic impact and brand recognition are all the largest among the list of teams in the Valley.
On Wednesday, ArizonaSports.com and its corresponding Twitter account, @AZSports, did coinciding polls to ask users: Which of the four major professional teams in the Valley is closest to a title?
Which of these Valley teams is closest to winning a championship?
— 98.7 Arizona Sports (@AZSports) May 8, 2019
The results were slightly different depending on which platform you were on. On the website, as of Thursday morning, more than 80% of users had said the Coyotes were closest. On Twitter, the ‘Yotes had the lead as well, but only 57% of the vote.
We wanted to dive into this question a little further. Here’s a synopsis for each team to add more context to the discussion, put in order by how each team did in the poll:
Arizona Coyotes (57%)
Twitter users were bullish about the Coyotes’ future, overwhelmingly voting them as the closest team.
There’s a good case to be made for this. Arizona’s NHL franchise hasn’t made the playoffs since 2011-12 when it went to the Western Conference Finals, but this year came the closest it has in a long time to making the postseason.
The Coyotes finished just four points behind Colorado, which occupied the final Wild Card spot. They won 39 games and had 86 points, the most since 2013-14. It was a drastic improvement from the season before, in which the Coyotes finished last in the Pacific Division and were virtually out of the playoff race by November.
That said, progress is often non-linear. Do the Coyotes fix their scoring woes? Do young players take that next step forward? How long do the veterans have left with the young core?
Arizona Diamondbacks (24%)
The D-backs, should they be the next to win the ‘ship, would earn their second title while other teams are still waiting on their first. How unfair.
But the Diamondbacks winning a World Series in the near future isn’t out of the question, since they’re the most recent of the four teams to make the playoffs and are off to a decent start in 2019. The emergence of players like David Peralta, Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte over the last few years has only bolstered their chance of success going forward.
But will losing big pieces like Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock hurt their depth and experience in the long haul? And can the team maintain consistency in what has been a 21-16 start to the season?
Arizona Cardinals (13%)
The Cardinals are the most recent team to be in their league’s title game or series, even though they’ve yet to win a Super Bowl in their team’s long history.
Coming off of an NFL-worst 3-13 season, it’s understandable to think that Arizona’s NFL team is a long way away from a Super Bowl title. But maybe the better descriptor for the Cardinals in all of this is their status as a wild card.
If Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury are the new trendsetters in the NFL for how to run an offense and everything goes well, the Cardinals could be a dominant force. If things don’t go according to plan and Murray doesn’t pan out, it’s back to the drawing board.
Phoenix Suns (6%)
Phoenix hopes the five-year signing of experienced head coach Monty Williams can signal a turnaround for a team looking for stability in a nine-year playoff drought.
We’ll know Tuesday if their luck is turning when the NBA Draft Lottery determines who gets the No. 1 pick and likely Zion Williamson, the most highly-touted prospect in years. Adding him to the core of guard Devin Booker and center Deandre Ayton is a dream for Suns fans.
But with an 86% chance the Suns will not get that pick, odds are the team goes into the offseason following a 19-win season with questions about who to draft, how high they value young players like Josh Jackson and Kelly Oubre Jr., and how to solve the persistent point guard problem.
It’s felt like the Suns have been two years away from being two years away for a long time. This poll does not reveal optimism that Phoenix has moved much closer to its goal.