Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cliff Lee to the Phillies? Does baseball need a cap?

Now before I go any further, let me reiterate a simple fact that people who know me know to be true. I am a Yankees fan, but I am probably the least front-running, most realistic Yankees fan you will find. I have been in favor of a salary cap in baseball for years now; I personally hate how the Yankees consistently buy all the best players. It's embarrassing for the game and for fans.

I have always been a believer in building through the farm system with good scouting and home-grown stars, while using free agency to add valuable role players at positions of need. Take the Yankees of the mid-1990s, who were full of home-grown players like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams.

The players they signed in free agency weren't the A-Rod's of the world. They were solid professionals like Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius and Tino Martinez. And all of these guys performed in the playoffs when the lights shined the brightest. Was it the lack of pressure having a huge contract and being a highly-publicized star in New York? Or is it that you don't need to be a superstar to perform consistently when your team needs you? Either way, this is how I would build my baseball team (and probably why I'm not a GM).

The moment New York started buying players is when they stopped winning titles every season or two. There's a little thing called chemistry in sports, just ask the Miami Heat. Baseball has needed a salary cap for years now and while it likely won't happen anytime soon, please don't say I'm a whiny Yankees fan who's just pissed the Red Sox got Carl Crawford, the Phillies got Cliff Lee and the Yankees got nobody...oh nevermind, they got RUSSELL MARTIN!

Baseball needs a cap because now there is about an 80 percent chance the Phillies and Red Sox will be playing in the World Series. I say only 80 percent because things don't always happen like they should on paper, but looking at both teams it's hard to see how they don't meet.

The Phillies now have four number-one starters. Lee will combine with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels to form possibly the best foursome of starting pitchers EVER ASSEMBLED. The Red Sox have added the big power bat they needed to replace the diminishing production of David Ortiz along with arguably the game's best outfielder to a position (left field) that they got nothing out of last season.

My bold player prediction for this season is that Adrian Gonzalez leads the league in home runs. Moving from a pitcher's park in San Diego to a bandbox in Boston has to add 10-15 bombs to his bat, at the least. And Boston's pitching, while nowhere near Philadelphia's, is pretty good with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and a likely rebound from Josh Beckett. I hate Dice-K, but he's an okay fourth starter.

Despite not making the playoffs last season, the Red Sox look fine. The Twins are too small market to improve much from year-to-year, the Rangers and Yankees both missed out on Lee, a player they each desperately needed, and Crawford's swap from Tampa Bay to Boston leaves the Rays in disarray.

As for the NL, the Giants may still be able to compete with the Phillies but that's about it. And only because they have a great young pitching staff with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Jonathan Sanchez that can at least attempt to rival Philadelphia's. Forget that their lineup is probably too weak for another World Series run.

So in the end, the Red Sox and Phillies end up the big winners from baseball's winter meetings and free agency. Usually it's the Yankees, and usually they end up losing at some point. Maybe the year New York misses out on all the big free agents will be the year they win it all again? Maybe, but I'm not hanging my hat on it.

No comments:

Post a Comment