Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Props to Detroit

I'd like to take a baseball-geek moment to applaud the Detroit Tigers. You'll often hear fans of all sports say that it's "good for that sport" for certain franchises to be competitive. In hockey, you might hear it about the Oilers, Canadiens, and Islanders. In football, the Cowboys, 49ers, and Steelers. In basketball, the Lakers, Celtics, and Knicks. The sentiment normally adheres to teams that have rich histories and strong fan bases. I think the Tigers qualify on both counts.

They started the year 5-0, but then lost 7 of 9, which seemed to portend another tough season while their young players matured. They bounced back, but when they lost 8 of 10 ending in early June, surely a slide was imminent. Nope. Since then, they're 16-3, and 53-25 on the year, staying ahead of the red-hot and defending-champ White Sox.

Three years ago, they won 43 games. All season.

What I love most about their success this year is the holes it shoots in the rampant, ridiculous notion that money determines everything in baseball. The Tigers have some terrific young pitchers, some key veterans, and a feisty, experienced manager. Put those together, and they're having a magical year. Meanwhile, my Yankees, the poster children for theories of money-makes-right, are losing creaky players to injuries almost every day and saddled with an old, overpaid pitching staff. And if the Tigers and White Sox keep up their pace -- mark my words -- the Yanks won't make the playoffs.


Blogger MAW said...

That's right - Detroit love, baby.

(Truthfully, I don't give a great goddamn about sports, but if it brings positive attention to my city than I don't really care rather the reason be baseball, the Super Bowl or simply the grand opening of a a new Ben and Jerry's...just keep the good news coming.)

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I love most about their success this year is the holes it shoots in the rampant, ridiculous notion that money determines everything in baseball.


Ahh, yes. One successful month from a mid-market team totally shoots holes in the idea that the Yankees are given an unfair advantage simply because their budget ($200 million) is roughly twice as big as the next highest budget in baseball, and roughly 3 to 4 times as big as the average budget of other teams.

I don't think anybody says that money determines everything in baseball, but anyone who says or implies that it the Yankees haven't been helped by their gargantuan budget is either lying or deluding themselves. The Yankees haven't been the best baseball team in the world over the past decade because of the incredible baseball acumen of Steinbrenner and Cashman. It's not like they've developed a lot of talent through their farm system. They just buy the top talent from other teams.

The difference between the Tigers' success, and the Yankees'/Red Sox's success, is that the Yank/Sox method allows them to be one of the top 5 teams in baseball for a generation, while everyone else has to spend a decade on the bottom, waiting for the right combination of talent and luck so they can spend a few months at the top.

-- Comish

5:10 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Comish, I did say "everything," so I don't have to defend myself quite so fully here. Of course, spending lots of money can guarantee a certain level of competitiveness every year. But so can smart management -- see the A's.

But as for the homegrown talent thing, you're wrong. When the Yankees won those titles, the undeniable nucleus of the team -- Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada -- was in fact homegrown. Which is part luck, obviously. Then, in order to stay at a similar level of success, they brough in an increasing number of overpaid veterans -- Randy Johnson being the poster boy for this trend, in my opinion -- which has done very little to get them another title. It does a lot to put them in the playoffs every year, but that's an eight-team party. Not super-hard to crash it. I'm just saying.

2:51 PM  

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