April 1, 2006


It's Anyone's Ballgame: With Fundamentals -- Not Dollars -- a Bigger Part of the Sport, a Surprise Champion May Be Lurking (Dave Sheinin, 3/29/06, Washington Post)

In hindsight, the White Sox' success should not have been so unexpected simply because they were mediocre the year before. In fact, they were the fourth team in five years to win the World Series after logging 85 or fewer wins the year before -- including two champions (the 2003 Florida Marlins and the 2002 Anaheim Angels) who had losing records the year before.

So, with the dawn of the 2006 season upon us, we say to thee: Have faith, Milwaukee. Hang in there, Arizona. Believe, Baltimore. This really could be your year.

If the period from roughly 1995 to 2001 will be known forever as the Steroid Era, perhaps this one will be known as the Parity Era. The evidence, as it was in the last era, is right in front of our eyes:

Eight different NL pennant winners in the last eight years. Four straight unique AL champs. Six different teams winning the World Series in the last six years. In the last five years, almost half the teams in baseball -- 13 out of 30 -- have played in a league championship series. And by our count, there are perhaps 17 teams good enough to win it all this season. [...]

Both of last year's World Series participants were near the middle of the pack in terms of payroll -- the White Sox in 13th place ($75,178,000), the Astros in 12th ($76,779,000). And both the 2002 Angels ($61.7 million) and the 2003 Marlins ($48.7 million) were poor enough that they actually received money under the revenue-sharing formula that shifts funds from the haves to the have-nots. [...]

Besides modest payrolls and big jumps in the standings from one year to the next, what else ties together our recent World Series champs (excluding, of course, the aberrational 2004 Red Sox)?

For one thing, they all stuck with young pitchers through the inevitable growing pains -- and were rewarded for it in the end.

For Chicago, right-hander Jon Garland went from 12 wins and a 4.89 ERA in 2004 to 18 wins and a 3.50 in 2005, and lefty Mark Buehrle dropped his ERA by more than three-quarters of a run in the same time frame. The 2003 Marlins had similar success with Brad Penny and Josh Beckett, and the 2002 Angels with Jarrod Washburn and Ramon Ortiz.

Given the arms they've stocked up, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see the Marlins contending for a World Series title again just a few years down the road.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 1, 2006 6:35 AM

Being eternally optimistic I say, "go get 'em Tigers! Ggrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Posted by: Dave W at April 1, 2006 10:44 AM


That's presuming MLB doesn't fold the Marlins (along with the Devil Rays) after this season. Which the labor agreement allows them to do.

There's no market in Miami for the Marlins, despite two World Series. And who or what city in the US or Canada is left that can support the team?

Posted by: Brad S at April 1, 2006 12:32 PM

Not to mention the ss whom the Red Sox gift-wrapped for the Marlins. Ramirez put up a strong spring -- .339 average with three homers and six RBIs in 59 at-bats -- to take the starting spot. He'll be batting leadoff as well.

That trade's really really gonna look bad at the All-Star break with Ramirez competing for rookie of the year, Lowell sporting an interstate level ba, and Beckett on the dl.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 1, 2006 1:02 PM

I'm kinda of rooting for the D-rays to make a run this year. I know their starting pitching is highly suspect, but then again no one in the Al East is w/o question marks in that regard.

A good sign for them -- they played well after the all-star break last year.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 1, 2006 1:08 PM

Jim - To get the guy who will shut the Yankees down in the ALCS, it's worth it to eat a $9 mn salary and give up a shortstop who hits .339 in spring training and .255 in the season.

The D-Rays could be just good enough to send the wild card to the AL West.

The Tigers are coming on, they should have a winning record.

Posted by: pj at April 1, 2006 1:47 PM

"To get the guy who will shut the Yankees down in the ALCS"

Who are the Red Sox going to trade him to? And who's going to take pitcher who's never pitched more 180 innings in a season?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 1, 2006 6:40 PM

I wouldn't be surprised if come midseason the team that relies on Chacon, Small, Wang, Wright, and Pavano might be looking to acquire pitching.

Posted by: pj at April 1, 2006 9:08 PM

Well yu can never have too much pitching. But the Yanks have a couple of more Wangs up their sleeve in AAA. We'll be fine.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 1, 2006 9:32 PM