Thursday, October 11, 2007

Boz Scaggs

So there I was at the breakfast table, minding my own business and perusing the Washington Post Sports section, when my favorite baseball columnist up and smacked me in the mouth.
The Diamondbacks, Rockies and Indians are three of the cheapest teams ever to reach the playoffs -- and now they're all in the final four. It would be remarkable if one team constructed of homegrown players, and held together by crucial rookies, made it this far. But, except for the $143 million, buy-a-title Red Sox -- who now look so much like the Empire they claim to hate that they should consider switching to pinstripes -- this October is going to be a tale about how less can be more.
I can only surmise from this gratuitous and smug shot from Thomas Boswell that things aren't going all that well on the homefront for the versatile scribe. Bos' wife and in-laws are famously die-hard Red Sox fans, and he's built a well-deserved reputation for displaying a deep understanding of baseball's nuances. In short, he's a guy that knows better than to believe that any team can buy a World Series title. Which leaves us wondering about what his wife did to tick him off so much that he took a shot at her in the morning paper.

We kid, we kid. The Sox are fair game for this particular line of argument, spending more than double this season than any of the other remaining clubs. And while I've declaimed loudly in this space that baseball's finances are fucked up like a football bat, I can't in good conscience argue that the Sox don't have a real monetary advantage over the Indians. Doesn't guarantee a damn thing, though - ask the 2007 Yankees, and keep asking them until you get back to 2000.

The interesting corollary here, though, is the realization for me that the Sox are playing the postseason Goliath role for the first time in my memory, and maybe ever. Actually, no maybe about it. I need to sit down and think about this.


Mike said...

It's too easy a comment to make if you are a thoughtful writer. Sure the Sox have a lot of money (probably a lot of bad money) tied up in the likes of JD Drew, Clement (who is counting $8m towards their payroll totals) and to a lesser extent Lugo. But did that money get them to the playoffs? I'm pretty sure the contribution of Pedroia, Papelbon, Ellsbury, and Delcarmen had much more to do with their success. Those guys we all developed in their farm system and are costing them nothing. Sure the Sox spend a lot of money but they also managed to balance it with their youth which has had much to do with their success.

rob said...

agreed - i happen to believe that the sox would do really well in a salary-capped environment, because i think their front office is as good as any in baseball. the sox' money allows them to absorb mistakes much easier than other teams - gives them a greater margin for error - but it doesn't automatically mean wins. ain't that right, whit?

Whitney said...

Despite their faltering, the Mets were/are in the running only because of their payroll. If the Mets didn't sign Pedro Martinez for big bucks, which in turn brought them Carlos Beltran at top dollar, if they couldn't trade for Delgado and his salary, sign Moises Alou to a lofty deal even for the way he played, have Glavine here (despite his final appearance), have Billy Wagner closing out games for vast sums, overpay Shawn Green for his time, and lock up Reyes and Wright to big, long deals . . . well, they'd be the Royals.

The problem with Boswell's comment is that it subtly targets the team rather than the league. He knows full well (as his past articles show) that greedy MLB owners, players, agents, and union reps are all at fault for permitting the league to carry on in this blatantly tilted playing field.

It's asinine, and it warrants someone continuing to be the little kid spotting the naked emperor from time to time, but blaming the rich market teams for taking advantage of the system is silly.

You can't buy a title, because 3-of-5 and 4-of-7 series are too brief. You can buy playoff contention 9 times out of 10, with the 10th time being the early 90's Mets or the late 90's Orioles. Sooner or later the Yankees will win another title -- the odds say so, because they will not miss the playoffs with a $200M payroll. This year was as close as they'll come to missing the postseason until they correct this very flawed system.