Sunday, October 28, 2007

Copycats for MLB Welcome

What symmetry. Both the NFL season and the major league baseball season ended today. While the remaining 2007 Bear games are worth no further discussion (any notable plays by The Devistator will be available on YouTube), the Red Sox certainly are.

In the NFL, every time a team wins the Super Bowl, the media always anoints a new genius and wonders how quickly the rest of the NFL will emulate the most recent winner.

Why doesn't the same mentality apply to MLB?

Perhaps it will now that Theo Epstein's Moneyball approach has won two World Series where none had been won for over 80 years. Perhaps the Cubs can learn a thing or two. So, what can be learned beyond "OBP is king"? Several things.

1) Spending on extraordinary talent is worth it.

A lot has been made of how inexpensive the payrolls of the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Indians were. Well, they all lost. And when they lost, they lost badly. That the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and Cubs all made the playoffs. They rank first, second, fourth, and eighth in payroll. The Red Sox not only spent, but they spent with a strategy. They got guys with high OBPs, low strike out totals, and relatively young. They pitchers they got were nearly all proven commodities. Free agents on this team included Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew and David Ortiz. Free agents can buy you titles. It's been said that you don't need a $100 million payroll to get to the World Series. That's true in the putrid National League. But it sure looks like you need a $100 million payroll to win the World Series. And having one sure improves your chance at getting in the post season tournament.

2) A farm system doesn't need to generate players for your team to be a successful farm system.

Of the Red Sox starting eight, only Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia broke into the majors with Boston (Curt Schilling was drafted by the Sox but was traded to Baltimore as a minor leaguer). What the Boston farm system has produced is talent to trade for Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, and Coco Crisp. For this to work for a team, what is required is a general manager who can draft enough talent to make high value player trades. For a while, it looked like the Cubs had stockpiled some talent. But much of it died on the vine and was never utilized. Remember Jae-kuk Ryu? Ben Christensen? How about David Kelton, Jason DuBois, Andy Sisco, Chad Blassko, Ricky Nolasco, Sergio Mitre, Bobby Brownlie? All these guys had trade value at one point. The Cubs got very little for them. Who to blame for that? One guy, and one guy only.

The Red Sox have won 2 of the last 4 World Series titles. Time for the Cubs to start copying them. It would help to start by adopting their philosophy.

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