Hmm

There was a time that I would take any move David Dombrowski made and take it as a golden move that would pay dividends in the future.  I was the happiest when we shipped Curtis Granderson to New York of anybody in the Metro Detroit area.  I was even happy when Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller were shipped to Florida for Miguel Cabrera (even in Willis had to come along too).  

But I have to wonder now, with a few different things having happened in the recent weeks, if this is the case anymore.
I first must operate under the assumption that he knows some things I don’t (which is a pretty safe bet).
Like, for one, do we really think the Tigers have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs next year?  
I guess its possible.  After all they do play in a division that has Kansas City and Cleveland playing in it.  Chicago isn’t a power and Minnesota has some question marks of their own.  
So I grant you, it is possible that the motor city kitties could make the playoffs.  But is that all we shoot for?  Making the playoffs?  
I would rather watch another .500 team in 2011 if it meant that we could build a dynasty that would routinely go to the playoffs and win some pennants instead of trying to add free agents to try and make a run in 2011 and only 2011.
I have issue with the two major moves the Tigers have made this off-season.  
Joaquin Benoit is a good reliever, his 2010 stats would indicate that he is a great reliever.  Great might be a bit of an understatement (John Rocker looked great once too), but he does add a plus arm to a bullpen that is exciting at times–and not in a good way.
But for $16.5 million dollars?  For a set-up guy?  Seems a bit ridiculous to me.  
And then there is Victor Martinez.
A solid hitter–even better when compared only to catchers–but lacks defensively and has for most of his career.
And for ten million more than anybody else was offering.
The thing is, I’ve stated my hatred for the Red Sox at length, so there is no need to do it further, but one thing I’ve noticed is that for everything they are they are most definitely not stupid.
They let Pedro go when he was in the twilight of his career and not worth the money he was asking.  Shipped Manny out of town as soon as somebody was willing to take him.  Are shopping Papelbon now that he seems to be slipping.  
Their drafting has been awesome: Pedroia, Ellsbury, Youkilis, Bard, Bucholz, Lester, to name a few.
They even played hardball with Jason Varitek when he grossly overestimated his value–and he was the team captain.
So, with a franchise that is pretty smart (John Lackey and Marco Scutaro signings aside), wouldn’t it stand to reason that there was a reason the Red Sox weren’t going to budge on their offer.
A reason their line in the sand was drawn?
Especially considering their catching situation is abysmal by any standard unit of measurement.
And he’s 31.  If he was a left fielder or first baseman I’d look the other way and say, fine, that’s a decent contract.
But he’s a catcher and at 31 he’s probably more like 41 and won’t go up with his production, only down.
Which brings up another point: we need to get younger as a team, not older.  Signing free agents and over paying for their twilight years doesn’t work–unless your the Yankees who can afford to have $15 dollar bench players–and hamstrings your franchise.
Especially now that the rules in place end with a forfeiture of draft picks for certain types of free agents signed.
The Tigers have almost no legitimate prospects anywhere near making an impact on the major league roster in the minors.
They need draft picks bad.  Signing, as we’ve heard rumored, Jason Werth might be a good idea short term (very short term and probably not at all) but is an awful idea for building a franchise.
Because the Tigers have holes: short, left, right, second, starting pitcher x3, and still in the bullpen.
Werth is older than Martinez and, since becoming a regular, has had one above average season and two average seasons.
He’s never driven in a hundred runs, hit .300, stolen 30 bases, or won a gold glove.
I’d really like to see some statistics on his 2009 36 homer season to be adjusted for home/road splits.  That ballpark might make David Eckstein a 25 homer kind of guy.  
Boras wants $100 million?  I hope the Tigers aren’t seriously considering it and we sign somebody, as second tier guy, and keep our draft pick.
He isn’t worth (no pun intended) it.
But again, unless the Tigers know something I, and most everyone else, don’t, I hope the spending is done or it moves into intelligent places.
–RM
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Jeter

I’m not sure what to make of this, but I hope the average person isn’t going to fall for it.

Jeter is not a villain in this scenario and no matter what he does or what the Yankees say he will never be the villain in this scenario.
Or shouldn’t be, anyway.  What we’ve all read in the news, albeit never from Jeter’s mouth himself, is that the best offer on the table is 3 years and $15 million per season.  Most players, in this economy especially, would break land speed records running to the table to sign for that kind of money.
But like almost every other thing in our society, this situation doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  
Derek Jeter is not most players.  He is in a class all by himself.  
Not because he belts thirty dingers a year (he’s never hit 25 in one season), drives in a hundred runs a year (he’s done it only once), steals fifty bases a year (he’s topped out at 34 in a season), or wins batting titles (hasn’t ever), or plays other-worldly defense (his gold gloves aside).
He is in a class all by himself because of a few different things:
Intangibles (a word I hate, actually, but applies here).  He just happens to do the right thing and know when to do it as well as how to do it.  I cite his ridiculous cut off and shovel to the plate to get Jeremy Giambi out in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Loyalty.  Remember when A-Rod signed for ten years and $250 million bucks with Texas?  Jeter signed with the Yanks that same off season for far less, and after A-Rod inked his deal.  Other than stats, what did A-Rod have to bring to that table, which, as far as anybody can tell only Texas was involved in, when negotiating.  Power, to be sure, but he didn’t have squat in the way of success.  
Jeter had rings.  Four, to be exact. He could have easily took a breath and said, “Rodriguez gets 25 million per average year of his contract…?  Yeah, I’m gonna need something like 30 million average annual value over the life of my contract.”
And they would have had to pay it.
Finally, he’s in a class by himself because of what he does off the field.
Or, doesn’t, as this case may be.
Steroids?  Nope.
Messy divorce and claims of infidelity?  Not yet.
Gambling?  Nada.
In fact, he’s down right boring off the field.
Which is worth a ton if you’re a sports franchise.  
And now, when its the Yankees turn to return a little loyalty by paying a man for who he is, rather than what exactly it is he does, they balk.
And hide behind a veil of “good business” excuses.
When you can look to Jeter’s right all season long and see a giant example of how the Yankees perform lousy business practices.
Jeter won’t be the villain in this scenario, and until we hear Jeter himself and the words “I want more money and feel $15 million is a slap in my face,” come out of his mouth, I don’t think he can be considered anything more than a man who wants what he deserves.
And remember, none of this is happening in a vacuum.  I myself cringe at the size of these contracts and blanch when guys want more.  But even I understand that within professions professionals of differing statures bring in more money than others.
Not every doctor makes millions a year.  World renowned heart surgeons might.
Because they should, comparatively speaking, because that kind of doctor is in a class by themselves.
As is Jeter, and the Yankees, as well as everybody else, really should know that by now.
–RM

The Fall Classic

So its been over with now for a while, having given hundreds of other people the chance to talk about it and get it out of the way, its my turn.

The Giants are World Series champs, this is a historical fact now.  I’ve read blogs, polls, random publications online about how good the Giants were.
I gotta say, I don’t know if it was that the Giants were that good or that Texas played that poorly.  
Cliff Lee sorta became human at the worst possible time and actually begs the question about how healthy he really was.  You don’t go from dominant against the best hitting team in the post season to average against one of the worst hitting teams period in a matter of weeks.
I kept wondering why he didn’t throw his curveball as much (or at all, really), and was actually asking the television why he was pitching to Renteria a minute before he clubbed a three run dinger.  
I’ve read a few things that said that the Giants got extremely lucky.  Which they did and any Championship team can have the same be said for them.
The Rangers just flat out didn’t play well and that’s that.
The Rangers achille’s heel has always been pitching and even with the import of Cliff Lee it still was.  The ragtag group of relievers that Ron Washington ran out a few different times whilst leaving his biggest and best gun holstered (Feliz) showed that.  With Tiger cast off Clay Rapada making an appearance I think dwelling on the topic of their bullpen needs no further discussion.
Their baserunning turned out to be a problem as well.  Kinsler, Andrus, Cruz all made blunders on the basepaths throughout the series.  Kinsler actually getting picked off while being the tying run.
There is a difference between aggressive and stupid.  Cruz didn’t actually get picked off but only because an errant through didn’t land where it should was he safe.
The Rangers strongest asset was their offense, but unfortunately the Giants’ strongest asset was their pitching staff.
And they were awesome.
But had Washington done a better job of managing I think the series could have turned out differently.
Afterall with an MVP candidate and Cy Young candidate in your squad and the possibly ROY in the bullpen how do you get thumped by a group of cast offs and misfits?
–RM

I’ve been called a hater…

By somebody I love.  My Aunt.  My favorite aunt at that.  

On several occasions, but the most recent is what’s sticking in my craw like a bad piece of that green stuff thats sprinkled on top of your Italian food at the Olive Garden.
First: Curtis Granderson.
Sit down and shut up, all of you.
Granderson leaving town was probably the best thing to happen to the Motor City kitties since Bobby Higginson started playing golf full time instead of right field.  
Austin Jackson will probably hit about as many homers as Edwin Jackson does in his career, but be that as it may, it doesn’t matter because he is head and shoulders better than Curtis Granderson ever was.
On both sides of the ball–which is something many of us have forgotten in the age of steroids and moon blasts.  Jackson should win the Gold Glove this year (he won’t) and should have a stranglehold on the award for as many years and his legs still carry him around centerfield in Detroit (but he probably won’t do that either).
Phil Coke?  Jury’s still out, really.  
But hear this: the Yankees wanted Granderson, got rid of Melky Cabrera, and still are planning on going after Carl Crawford as soon as midnight strikes Sunday night and the free agent free-for-all begins.  Which means the Yankees let go of a young centerfielder who was underperforming, albeit at a young age, for another underachieving centerfielder who’s a little older.
And it also meant that they had a roster that included a starting outfield of Granderson, Nick Swisher, and Brett Garder, with Randy Winn on the bench and traded for Austin Kearns in mid-season.
And he still didn’t do squat against lefties all season.
So if (when?) they sign Crawford, who’s riding the pine?  If he didn’t have such a huge salary (relatively, the Yankees can afford an 8 million dollar bench player) it would be him and Gardner, who can fly in the outfield, would take over as the everyday centerfielder.
But I don’t run the Yankees.
And don’t want to.
Second: Edgar Renteria
This is the latest instance of my Aunt calling me a hater.  
My grandfather is an ornery old soul and during a discussion prior to the World Series he got a little lively when pointing out how many former Tigers there were in the series this year.  And there was a plenty.
I mentioned that it wasn’t much of a loss with Renteria or Huff (neither of which did much in the Motor City and Renteria hasn’t done much since), which started an argument, of sorts, because gramps knows best (he thinks, anyway).
The rest you already know: Renteria was WS MVP and had a clutch double in game three and a huge homer in the clincher.
Yeah.  Awesome.  Sweet.
Don Clendenon.
Gene Tenace.
Bucky Dent.
Pedro Guererro.
Ray Knight.
Jose Rijo.
Scott Brosius.
David Eckstein.
Heard of any of them?  Ignore Brosius and Eckstein.  Heard of any of the others?
Okay, forget Bucky Dent, everybody knows who Bucky Dent is.
The thing they all have in common is this: they’re all WS MVPs.
The point is: it isn’t always hall of famers who end up being WS MVPs.
Blind squirrels find nuts too.
–RM 

I’m over the Carl Crawford sweepstakes already

Apparently the Yankees already have their new left fielder and already boast a rotation with two Cy Young winners in it.

Carl Crawford has been fitted for his pinstripes and Cliff Lee is just getting loose in the Big Apple before he moves their permanently.
Oh, wait, that hasn’t happened yet, but we are all sure that it will.  
Here’s why I think it shouldn’t.
Not because of any sort of philosophical problem with players going where they choose, but there are better places than New York to go if you want to win.
And I know I’m taking a huge leap of faith here by assuming that’s what is the driving force behind the free agency market…
But realistically look at the Yankees right now:
The average age of their core position players (Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada) is 33, with Cano being the only player under 30.  
Their pitching staff, anchored by CC Sabbathia at age 29 averages 31 years in age with Phil Hughes pulling that way down being 24.
Now fast forward a year, the year theoretically that Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford will be moving into one of the five burroughs, add a year to all of them.  Sabbathia will be thirty and we’ve seen that thirty is still thirty and not the new twenty like i was in the ’90’s.  Pettitte, if he stays, will be 39, Vazquez, if he’s kept will be 35 and probably still as ineffective as he was at 34, Burnett will be 35 and he’s as unpredictable as there is as far as productivity, and Hughes will still be young, but he hasn’t proven he can do it for the whole season.
The Yankees are entrenched at the corners for the next decade with A-Rod and Teixiera which is good for now, but A-Rod has shown that post-steroids he isn’t as young as he thought and Teixeira has dropped in batting average and on-base percentage steadily the last three seasons.
Jeter, while a franchise face, is losing steps at short stop and by all sabermetric accounts (admittedly not my favorite thing) not helping his team win defensively.  Now that his offense seems to be declining at age 36, combined with Posada’s age and deterioration offensively (he was never much of a defensive catcher anyway) and Granderson not being the answer in Center, 75% of the middle of the Yankees defense is a question mark–at best.
So lets assume that the Yankees get rid of Vazquez, like they should and have been rumored to be doing as soon as humanly possible, which would open up a spot for Cliff Lee and let one of the plethora of outfielders on their roster go (Gardner, Granderson, Kearns, whomever) to make room for Crawford.
It doesn’t make the Yankees any more dynamic a team than the one that ran out 162 times in the 2010 season.
They would get younger with Crawford (slightly, he’ll turn 30 in August of next year) and Lee is a clear upgrade over Vazquez, but that’s it.
The left side of the infield will be 35 and 37, their catcher will still be a question mark even if they promote that wunderkid catching prospect they have in the minors and Granderson wasn’t the answer to Centerfield in Detroit and isn’t the answer in the Bronx.
And sure, they would have the two best left-handed pitchers on the planet, but that isn’t enough.
For evidence I cite the 2010 Cardinals (Adam Wainright and Chris Carpenter) and to a lesser extent the 2010 Phillies (Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels), one team that didn’t win their division and the other who is on the ropes right now with the Giantts.
I can see adding both of those players to the Yankees making them better, but whether they win the World Series this season or don’t I can’t see adding both of those guys making them any more likely to repeat or win it next year.
If Crawford wants to win he should sign with San Francisco or, ironically, Texas.
San Francisco has a stellar pitching staff–just ask the Phillies–and have the easiest route to making it to the post season for the next few years.
Texas, if they retain Carl Crawford, would be able to shift Nelson Cruz to right (where his howitzer-type arm would be of serious use), shift David Murphy to another team, and possibly flip Julio Borbon for some prospects.
Their lineup would be something like this (though I don’t pretend to know how Ron Washington thinks):
1.  Elvis Andrus
2.  Michael Young
3.  Carl Crawford
4.  Josh Hamilton
5.  Nelson Cruz
6.  Ian Kinsler
7.  Mitch Moreland
8.  Whoever is Catching
9.  Whoever DH’s
To go along with a very good pitching staff.
That would be a lineup as formidable as the Yankees, AND Crawford wouldn’t have to worry about having to beat the Red Sox or Rays every season to win their division.  The Angels, Mariners and Athletics aren’t really in the position to challenge much.
Lee, if he wants to win, should probably stay in Texas.  
I cite my previous argument even if Crawford doesn’t sign with them.  That’s still a great team.
But again, winning isn’t what drives free agents, money is, and lets face it, the Yankees are the only team than can afford 10 million dollar bench players.
–RM

When it stopped being about the game

About the eighth grade, I think.

For some it might even be prior to that, which is a shame.  
I’ve read a lot from ESPN.com, Sports Illustrated, BaseballAmerica, and even random blogs which all conclude this: Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee have better than average chances at ending up in the Bronx next season giving no chance at all to their current teams at retaining their services beyond right now.  
Now I read today in the Denver Post somebody already, already, sizing Troy Tulowitzki up for his pinstripes when he’s available to leave the Rockies.
It’s four years from now!
Granted, the Rockie scenario involved Colorado trading him rather than losing him because they can’t afford him when he’s a free agent, but the point is still this: it is a financial decision to trade him, nothing else.  Tulo will be 30 and in his prime.
Which begs the question: when does it stop being about the game?
And I say again, probably around the eighth grade.  
As a prep star in high school I too fell victim and it began to be less about the game than it should have been.  Fellow teammates also started playing for something other than the game–one of which still (at age 25) posts pictures (and stats) from his senior year of high school baseball with taglines like, “hit .443, 12 homers and still wasn’t all state” on his facebook page.
Never mind that now, with a clear dose of reality and self humility, I can say that none of us, especially the aforementioned teammate, were really all that good.  We played in a small town in a small league with very little in the way of competition.
Which means we should have been the last place to find kids playing for anything but the love of the game.  
My junior year, the year most often cited as the most important year for college recruiting, I was a mess.  Every at-bat I was trying to drive the ball into the next area code, every ground ball I was trying to turn into a highlight reel play, every strike called against me I was taking issue with.
And I hit under .300 for the season and had an all-around lousy year.
Because I was trying to earn a scholarship.
A novel goal one might say, but the point is I was looking to make money–college is expensive and if somebody wanted to pay me to play via a free education you can bet I was going to jump at it.  
At age seventeen I began playing the game to better benefit myself, not just to play the game.  
I have many college friends who were also athletes while they were pursuing the undergraduate studies and many of them used to post witty paragraphs which displayed why they played the game: because they love it.
Forgetting that they were being paid and thats why they were playing, it was a nice sentiment that almost always ended with: “Because all of us will go pro, just not in sports.”
Cute, and a great use of public relations by the NCAA to reinstill confidence in the educational system as something more than the minor leagues for the NFL (which for the most part, I believe, it is or we wouldn’t have games being scheduled around TV time slots).
But it misses the point: College athletes, with the exception of the four year walk-on who doesn’t receive scholarship money, are being paid–WITH THEIR EDUCATION.
In the movie The Program there is a scene where a defensive lineman is though to be using steroids (which is ultimately is) and the coaching staff is discussing what to do about it and the ultimate decision is to do nothing because of the possibility of jeopardizing the athlete’s draft status if a steroid allegation were to leak.
Would the same be true if that athlete is accused by the Police for possession of a controlled substance, which is exactly what the coaching staff would have been doing?
If it were truly about the game, in any sport, dialogue like that would have no bearing and would be un-relatable to us, but point it fact we could relate and still do.
Baseball, probably unlike most other sports, has a system in place that all but encourages greed amongst its players.  I’m not a big fan of Donald Fehr, or the baseball union in general, but what they created, the most powerful union outside (and maybe not even outside) of the UAW, could have been avoided all together if the owners tried something that hardly any big corporation ever tried: fair labor practices.
We’ve all heard the Black Sox scandal, maybe even seen the movie, but that could have been avoided if Comiskey had paid his players a livable wage.
But remember, the term “livable wage” is fluid and doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  Until the mid seventies almost all players had second or third jobs outside of baseball.  Baseball was their profession and there is no reason why those men couldn’t have been provided with a wage to live off of.
But today?
Because the owners chose to act like the way they did, treating players (workers) like cattle, controlling rights, withholding benefits and keeping wages down, the MLBPA was born and became a force to be reckoned with.
What they’ve been able to do is absolutely amazing and an example of what is wrong with unions to begin with: they start out because something needs to be done and end up becoming an animal nobody knows how to control.
The fact that we are already hearing rumors and whispering about the fate of a Colorado franchise that has two of the most dynamic position players in the league some four years before the scenario is even born is a clear example of that.
I’ve heard numbers like 100 million as a starting point for the Cliff Lee discussions.  Something similar to Carl Crawford.
I’ve also heard bleeding heart arguments and wishful thinking that one, or both, will say, “Its okay, I don’t need 15 million per year for five years to play in the Bronx, I’ll take 9 million per year for five to stay in Tampa and enjoy success with a great group of talented ball players and win for the next five seasons.”
Won’t happen.  I’d love to see it happen, but it won’t and not because the player is selfish, though he may be, but because the union won’t allow it.
It can’t.
Cliff Lee could very well stick his nose up to the Yankees and make CC Sabbathia look like a greedy, money hungry, jerk and pitch for Texas for the next five years for half of what Sabbathia got from the Yankees if he wanted to, but the Union would never let it happen.  
Because yes, Cliff Lee has the power to do that: pick his contract and dictate his own terms. So does Carl Crawford.  Next year so will Adrian Gonzales and Albert Pujols.  But the other couple thousand guys the union represents can’t.  
Freddy Garcia, Jeremy Bonderman, Mike Cameron, Jermaine Dye, Adam Everett, Dontrelle Willis don’t have the power to do that, and ultimately that’s who the union is (or should) be looking out for.
Lee, Crawford, Jason Werth, will all get theirs (and more) because they are top-tier players they don’t need anybody looking out for them.
Its everybody else that needs to be looked out for.  
Alex Rodriguez was ne
arly the short stop for the Boston Red Sox earlier this decade but the deal was killed by the Union because it required a reconstruction of his contract.  A-Rod wanted out of Texas and away from losing and wanted to win with the Red Sox, a decision as much for A-Rod as for the game itself, but if A-Rod was willing to take less money from his deal to win (what the game is about anyway), why would he union have issue with him doing it?  It is his choice afterall.
Because it would set a precedent that would affect others down the road.
A decision which the union made that would leave no doubt that it stopped being about the game a long time ago.
–RM

Playoffs

In this months ESPN the Magazine there is an article detailing why some teams perform well in the post season and others don’t.  It is a sabermaticians dream, a group of statisticians I don’t quite understand–nor care to.  But what was interesting was Billy Beane’s quote where he says, in a manner of speaking, his way doesn’t work.

And he’s right.
The Athletics haven’t been to the post season since ’06 where Magglio dismissed them with one of the more amazing moments of my sport-viewing life to complete a three game sweep.
But more than that, they never did much in the few years previous when they were regulars coming out of the AL West as champs and there is a reason for it, one that is different from that sabermetric disposition.
The athletics weren’t built for the playoffs, just like the Rays this year weren’t, and the Twins never are.
There are teams that are built for a short series (ala the playoffs) and there are teams built for long series (ala the regular season).
Throw out the Phillies, Yankees, and Red Sox and look at a few of the other winners of this decade.  And I say throw out those three because they’ve got a trump card that removes them from the pool of the rest of the league.
Because you need pitching, that’s a given (something the Athletics had for all those years), but you need to hit, almost more than you need pitching (because you can’t win without scoring).  
In ’06 the Athletics won 93 games and swept the Twins in the divisional round only to get swept by the Tigers in the Championship series.  They had Barry Zito and Dan Haren anchoring the top of their rotation, which is good, even if Haren was only 25, but then had Esteban Loaiza in their rotation–which I can’t see as ever being good, and their offense was led by Nick Swisher.
Swisher is a solid every-day major leaguer and is productive, his 35 dingers speak for themselves, but as for leading an offense…I don’t know if he’s the guy I want.  In fact, I know he’s not the got I want leading my offense.  He hit less than .260, and didn’t drive in 100 runs (though more his surrounding cast’s fault I’m sure) and doesn’t run all that much to make up for the lack of average.
And after that they had a lineup that “featured” Mark Ellis, Mark Kotsay (way past his prime), Dan Johnson, Bobby Keilty (more famous for looking like the bad guy from The Incredibles), and a rejuvenated Frank Thomas (who did have a good year, I’ll admit).  The other stalwards of that offense hit a collective .236 (Eric Chavez and Bobby Crosby).
The problem was that they had decent, if not over achieving pitching, but lacked any sort of consistent offensive attack.  Thomas all but disappeared against the Tigers (and their over achieving pitching) and everybody else just played like they had all season, and it wasn’t enough.
The Twins and Rays this season did the same.  The Twins had Mauer, who wasn’t 100%, Young who played all right, but lacked any real offensive threat.  And they had no pitching that scared anybody–even if Pavano sported that awesome ‘stache.
The Rays had their problem highlighted for them and all the world to see, and hopefully it means that they’ll let Carlos Pena go.  They weren’t a great hitting team and struck out a ton. Longoria wasn’t 100%, but that wouldn’t have mattered even if he was.
The other winners of the decade not playing in the Bronx, Boston, or Philly: Diamondbacks (’01), Angels (’02), Marlins (’03), White Sox (’05), and the Cardinals (’06).
The Diamondbacks had that vaunted one-two punch in their rotation and a consistent (if not chemically aided) offense.
The Angels had two boppers in their lineup (Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus) and a handful of guys who would set the table and run the bases well.  Their staff wasn’t overwhelming, but consistent and John Lackey had his coming out party that was shadowed by K-Rod.
The Marlins pretty much applied the same approach as the Angels with two boppers (Derrek Lee and Mike Lowell) and had a consistent rotation and had a few guys celebrate their coming out parties (Josh Beckett and Miguel Cabrera).
A theme should be emerging as the Sox in 2006 had the same set up: Konerko and Dye were boppers and their rotation was headed by Mark Buerhle and was consistent throughout.  Though there weren’t much in the way of unsung guys coming out, Jenks did emerge as a shut-down closer.
The Cardinals in 2006 were a little different and relied on clutch hitting and over achieving pitching after Chris Carpenter, had Rolen and Pujols bopping and Adam Wainright developed into a dominant pitcher.
The reason I leave the Red Sox, Yanks, and Phillies off this list is because: they have money and lots of it and when they win it isn’t because of any formula that they follow its because they can afford the best lineups in baseball.  
This year the Phillies are running out Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels.
The Yanks are sending CC Sabbathia, Andy Pettitte, and AJ Burnett.
To say nothing about their lineups when the Yanks lose their first baseman and everybody wonders what in the world they’re gonna do.  Well does installing a five time all star to first base sound okay?
Only the Yankees can do that.
The perfect situation is what the Yankees can do: roll out perennial all stars three time in their rotation and send a lineup one thru nine who could hit one thru three on any other lineup.
But because most teams can’t do that the formula for success is this:
One ace is preferable, but consistency is more valuable (or the Mets would have beat the Cards in ’06).
Boppers are nice, but again, consistency is more valuable than all star talent.
The irony is that the Yanks boast all stars four times over in their rotation and are being held as the front runners to land Cliff Lee this off season.
Even if they get him it won’t change the fact that Cano is the only guy hitting.
–RM