March 5, 2002
The Daily Prospectus
The Daily Prospectus: No Hope, No Faith
One of the nice things I'm seeing this spring is the lack of nonsense about how only a small handful of teams have a chance to win the playoffs. Maybe I'm just tuning it out, but it certainly seems like last year the bleating about competitive imbalance peaked, and this year it's been reduced to a quiet murmur.
(Here's a notable, and utterly ridiculous, exception. I highly recommend reading this without a beverage. Thanks to Doug Pappas for the link.)
Anyway, I thought I'd throw out the teams I think have no chance of reaching the postseason. Remember that in any given year, it's perfectly normal for some group of teams to have no "hope and faith" even as spring training begins. Some are going to be at the start of Jonah Keri's "Success Cycle," accumulating talent in an effort to become a winner a year or three down the road. For some reason, this point never gets mentioned in these discussions, but it's always been true. It's unnatural for every team to have a realistic chance in every season.
Additionally, the teams early in the Success Cycle generally have low payrolls, as they build with low-service-time players in an effort to develop a championship core, which skews those famous payroll/performance statistics we see everywhere. Good baseball teams are comprised of good baseball players, and good baseball players cost money. Teams don't necessarily get better because they get more expensive, but they almost always get more expensive as they get better.
OK, I digress. Here are the eight teams I believe have no chance of playing past September this year:
Just once, I want to see someone from MLB acknowledge that it was their revenue-sharing plan, and not rising salaries or lack of a stadium or an exchange rate, that caused the death of the Expos.
Hmmm...that's almost the exact same list as last year. The Padres moved off of it, and the Tigers and Expos have moved on. Some people are going to point to that as a sign that "small markets can't compete," but I see Detroit and Anaheim on there, as well as two other teams with new parks. Most of the teams on this list have been victims of the worst management performances in recent history, and almost all of them wasted $10 million or more just last year on lousy free-agent signings.
I gave serious thought to adding the Dodgers, but left them off because, well, maybe Paul LoDuca is for real, and maybe this is the year Adrian Beltre hits .310 with power. That's enough to give the Dodgers, carrying a whole bunch of center fielders and middle infielders who suck, hope and faith.
That's eight teams with no chance of competing this season, leaving 22 who can at least say to their fans, "we have a shot." No, maybe the Twins won't repeat last year's magic, but they have a great four-deep rotation and a good defense. The Reds are a year away from their new park, yet boast a promising lineup and a pitching coach with a track record of making something out of nothing. Every team in the NL West, including the Rockies and Padres, has a chance to get to 88-90 wins and a division title.
Hope and faith. Catch it!