In the most dramatic way imaginable, the Patriots just won their fifth Super Bowl title since 2001 -- a dynamic and dynastic run of excellence that is manna from heaven for New Englanders and a source of indigestion for just about everybody else. Though we're collectively appreciative of greatness when we see it, we're also collectively sick of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady and their unparalleled assault on a league that supposedly promotes parity.
(Consider that a compliment, guys.)
With the Pats' latest Super Bowl triumph over and thoughts shifting toward Spring Training, we got to thinking about MLB teams that might inspire the same sort of sickness over the course of, say, the next decade.
Frankly, it's hard to imagine anybody going on a Pats-like run in this sport, given the game's increasing reliance on young talent, revenue sharing, the way even traditional big-spenders like the Patriots' Boston-area baseball neighbors have grown increasingly leery of the luxury tax and -- perhaps most importantly -- the sheer unpredictability of October baseball.
But as the San Francisco Giants proved with three World Series titles in six years, you can still be persistent in your pursuit of excellence. Here are a few teams that, because of their financial and player resources, could rate as baseball's most dangerous in the decade ahead.
You have to start here, not just because the Cubs are the defending champs but because of the youth of their core. This was the fifth-youngest position player group (average age: 27.4) in 2016, and the team has contractual control of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez through at least 2021.
The Cubs will have luxury-tax challenges as that core gets more expensive, and Jake Arrieta and John Lackey are pending free agents in a rotation that is much older than the lineup. Furthermore, the farm system has been thinned by promotions, trades and the lack of a first-round pick in 2016. But there's enough here to suggest that while the Cubs might have waited 108 years for their most recent title, they won't have to wait nearly that long for their next one.
Though the Dodgers haven't won it all since 1988, they're obviously built to win, and as of this moment they have FanGraphs' highest wins projection (95) of any team in baseball. That doesn't make them a lock, nor is the future promised to the Dodgers as Clayton Kershaw (who can opt out of his contract after 2018) ages and the luxury tax threshold forces them to make budget cuts or else pay the stiffest penalties the sport has ever seen. But I'm nonetheless including them here because of the strength of a farm system that should allow them to get the payroll under control without sacrificing much, if any, of the competitive effort.
The top of the Dodgers' system has some serious star potential in guys like Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo and Walker Buehler, and that's to go with a big-league club that has controllable star talent in Corey Seager, Julio Urias and Joc Pederson and a forward-thinking front office.
Baseball's most recent apt Pats comparable, with four World Series titles in six appearances between 1998-2003, a fifth tacked on in 2009 and Derek Jeter filling the good-looking, model-dating, ring-collecting, lionized leader role Brady now occupies.
Could they do it again? It would be difficult. But the combination of clearing some onerous contracts off the books and making trades to support what is now unquestionably one of the strongest farm systems in the game (fronted by Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Jorge Mateo and Blake Rutherford, to go with the the likes of Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin) means the Yankees could make another run here very soon. Their pending payroll flexibility will pair perfectly with the talent-laden 2018-19 free-agent class.
Like the Cubs, the Astros demonstrate the value of … well … let's not call it tanking but rather rebooting. They pared down their payroll to the bare minimum, lost more than 100 games in three straight seasons from 2011-13 and are now reaping the benefits, if not yet the rewards.
The 2016 season was a step backward for a club that made serious strides the year before, and there are questions about their pitching going into 2017. But for at least the next four years, they have the ability to roll out a lineup featuring Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Alex Bregman, and their pipeline, even after some low spots in the draft pecking order and go-for-it trades, is still pretty solid. So a lot to like here moving forward.
A wild card here, because the Braves just aren't good yet. They lost 93 games last year, and, while there is a lot to like about a lineup with one superstar in Freddie Freeman (who is 27 and coming off an incendiary 2016) and a budding one in Dansby Swanson, much of their improvement for 2017 could be riding on two starting pitchers (R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon) north of 40.
But frenetic trading and good draft positioning the last two years has left the Braves with an enviable hoard of prospects (particularly on the pitching side), just as they are moving into a new ballpark.. Revenues plus young talent is a compelling equation, as Braves president of baseball operations John Hart demonstrated in building a beast of a ballclub in Cleveland in the mid-90s and could again in Atlanta.
Like the Yankees, they're a sleeping financial giant that could be ready to spend big when Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and others reach the open market after '18. Like the Braves, they've stripped this thing down to the studs in an effort to build a long-term behemoth.
That said, Philly's farm probably doesn't rate as strong as Atlanta's right now in terms of the sheer number of good bets to succeed at the big leagues. But the plan being executed by Matt Klentak and Co. is a solid enough to merit mentioning here, considering we're projecting so far ahead.
Boston Red Sox
They're always in it to win it, have David Price for the foreseeable future and have a bevy of good young talent at the big-league level in Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr.
That said, because we're talking about the next decade here, it's hard to feel as confident about the Red Sox as some others on this list because of the challenges the luxury tax poses to the payroll and the way the farm system has been stripped of some studs by Dave Dombrowski's win-now dealings.
But anyway, Boston's won enough for one century.
Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor, MLB.com columnist and MLB Network contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.