Congratulations are due to the Boston Red Sox for winning their second championship in four years. They were touted as the best team in baseball all year and, for once, the best team in baseball actually finished the season with a win. Despite allowing the Yankees to make thing interesting for them during the last few months of the season, the Sox never relinquished first place. They had the best pitching, best defense, and best hitting and deservedly won the World Series.
And as soon at the last out was recorded, I flipped over to Adult Swim.
In an interesting bit of synergy, sometime during the closing innings of the World Series, Alex Rodriguez’ agent, Scott Boras, decided that it would be the perfect time to let the world know that his client would be opting out of the Largest Contract Ever and effectively ending his career with the Yankees. It was in the winter of 2004, right before the season in which the Red Sox won their first World Series championship in 86 years, that A-Rod was thisclose to moving to Boston. In fact, the team was so sure they had a deal that they even began offering A-Rod jerseys through their official site. Talks ultimately fell through and Rodriguez would end up in the Bronx at third base. The fallout from this was that former Boston favorite son, Nomar Garciaparra felt betrayed by the organization and was ultimately traded to the Cubs (in a deal that also included Matt Murton).
It seems fitting that as the Sox were clinching their second championship, Rodriguez was effectively calling it quits with New York. These two powerhouse teams that eat up 90% of the media’s attention are heading in completely opposite directions and reversing the flow of baseball history. The bloated Yankees finally burst (with A-Rod arguably playing the role of the “wafer-thin” after-dinner mint), while the Red Sox seem to have found the magic formula to end their years of frustration - a Moneyball philosophy stuffed with Yankee-sized dollars. The Sox are poised for years of winning, while the Yankees are slowly but surely taking on water, and the rats are leaving the ship quickly.
What does this mean for the Cubs? With new ownership still many months away, a huge question mark looms over the team - which direction are they headed? There is no question in my mind that the Cubs organization pulls in the kind of cash that could allow their payroll to match Boston’s. The question is will the new owner feel like spending it. The nice thing about not being owned by a large, public corporation is that the team doesn’t have to be viewed under the same profit margin microscope that, say a newspaper or tv station is subjected to. Plus, any new owner of the club certainly knows that by bringing a championship to the north side of Chicago, they would be viewed as conquering heroes. All they would have to do is look at how John Henry is revered in Boston (except for the cramming in as many seats as he could into already tight Fenway Park and having the highest ticket prices in the Majors).
But again, the question is what direction will the new ownership go in? They will undoubtedly want to make a big splash and spend a lot of money right off the bat, but will they do it wisely. The Cubs signed the best player available last off-season to a large and long contract as a knee-jerk reaction to losing out on the best player available the year before (Furcal). Now, this off-season, the best player available in the off-season is also the best player in baseball, but it is also a player that brings a huge amount of baggage and whose contract will most likely tie up a lot of your available cash for possibly the next ten years.
Since we have no idea who the new owners will be, it is impossible to know, but it seems to me like there are three choices if the Cubs are to be a winning team - Bloated, Furgal, or Healthy. Bloated is what the Yankees have been over the last 10 or 15 years, and it has garnered them a lot of championships. Frugal is what the Moneyball Oakland Athletics have been and it has gotten them into the playoffs but not to the World Series. Healthy (as I see it), is what the Red Sox have been - smart and sabermetric but spending the money to get the best available that fits within your team concept - and so far it has won them 2 World Series.
What kind of team concept will the new owners (and probably new GM) have? Will they have any kind of plan other than to spend/make money? Whatever it turns out to be, we will probably be saddled with it for a long time, so I hope it’s good. Regardless, the next 4-6 months certainly won’t be boring.
Oh, and I would absolutely sign A-Rod.
In a New York minute…