Baseball is a privilege. Life, however, is taken for granted sometimes. Let us put away our alliances and remember a man with great potential in this sport, Oscar Taveras.
Taveras passed away yesterday in a car crash. He was just 22-years-old. Immediately, people put away their colors and showed some respect. On Twitter, players, fans, teams, executives, agents, and reporters showed their respect by sending a nice message to Taveras' family and showing their support. That wasn't all. Some people changed their profile picture to a picture of Taveras, which as someone described, was "classy." I couldn't agree more.
Yesterday, Game 5 of the 2014 World Series took place. But, all in all, baseball is merely a game. While Oscar Taveras could be considered merely a player, nobody can take away the fact that he was an individual. He was a good sport, a hard worker, and did his job the right way. Those could be traits of anyone, whether they are working on an office or working out on a diamond.
On November 25, 2008, the journey began for the then 16-year-old Taveras. The Cardinals signed him to a $145,000 deal to play professional baseball and assigned him to rookie ball in 2009. He slowly began to develop into a future superstar.
After a superb 2011 season (.386/.444/.584) with Class A, Taveras began to garner notice outside the Cardinals organization. He first appeared on Baseball America's top prospect list prior to the 2012 season, coming in as baseball's 74th-best prospect. He continued his ascent from there. He hit .321 with 23 homers and 94 RBI in 2012 after a promotion to Double-A and won the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year award. He was then ranked as baseball's third-best prospect.
On May 31, 2014, the time came for Taveras. The future, it seemed, was here for the Cardinals. In his first career game, Taveras made his mark in the way only future superstars can. He had a clutch hit. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Taveras, in his second at bat, took Giants pitcher Yusmeiro Petit deep.
Taveras didn't have the greatest of seasons, hitting .239 with three homers and 22 runs batted in, but baseball fans could see that the potential was there. But that's all it ever was. Potential.
Taveras ended his career in a big way too. His second to last at bat, and his last career hit, was also a home run. He hit a pinch-hit home run in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series of Giants pitcher Jean Machi to tie the game at three. Taveras got his fame and got to give a curtain call. But I wish that we could have seen what he would become.
"...and Taveras, the biggest swing of his young big league life happens right here...," Joe Buck called. I--we--can only wish what Joe Buck said to be true.
Once again, I send my condolences to everyone close to Taveras during this tough time. I really wish we could have seen what he would have become. We can only wonder.
The Kansas City Royals are facing off against the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 World Series. Who would have thought that, at the beginning of the year, these two teams would be here. Who would have thought that, at the beginning of this postseason, that these two teams would be here.
Well, they are. And both of of them are taking an incredible ride right into baseball's biggest stage. The Royals have knocked off the Athletics, Angels (who boasted the best record), and Orioles on the way to their eight game playoff winning streak. You read that right. The Royals have yet to lose this postseason.
The Giants' run has been just as good. They had to knock off the Pirates, Nationals, and Cardinals to get here, and while their run hasn't been as flawless as the Royals, they have a pretty formidable 8-2 thus far in the 2014 postseason and now are going to their third Fall Classic in five seasons.
The slates are wiped clean. Now, the first team to win four games will be our champion of baseball. Will it be the red-hot Royals? Or, will it be the World Series regulars Giants?
It's hard to pick against Kansas City right now.
The Royals are having a historic postseason. First, they haven't been in the postseason in 1985, when they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. But they are playing so well that I am going to pick them to defeat the Giants in six games.
Kansas City's pitching has been good all season, but they have been very solid this postseason. While James Shields hasn't been exactly a stud, the rest of their staff -- Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas, and Yordano Ventura -- has been very clutch. Their bullpen allowed just two runs over 16 innings during the ALCS. The Royals pitching has carried them and they are playing as well as anyone.
The make-or-break factor for the Royals is if their offense can live up to the challenge. Everyone has stepped up this postseason. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorezno Cain, Nori Aoki, Jarrod Dyson, Billy Butler, and almost everyone on this offense has made a contribution to the Royals success.
However, the Giants' experience on the big stage might be too much for the Royals to handle. Their veteran pitching staff includes the likes of Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong, some of the toughest pitching that the Royals will have to face. Peavy is a former World Series Champion and so is Vogelsong and Bumgarner. They know what it's like to be in the Fall Classic.
The Giants offense is great, too. Buster Posey leads a Giants offense that is so clutch, something that is extremely hard to measure. For instance, Travis Ishikawa (!!!) hit a walk-off home run to clinch the Giants' NL pennant. Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval also just turn their games to another level when the calendar flips to October. The Giants' experience could be enough in itself to win the series.
With all that said, I'm just going to enjoy watching this series. I love the heart and hustle that both of these teams supply and know that this is going to be a very fun World Series. Good luck to both the Giants and Royals as they look to write themselves into baseball history.
From 1995 to 2012, the New York Yankees missed the playoffs just once. They made the playoffs in seventeen of those eighteen years and won five World Series championships. The Yankees were, and still are, big spenders, and their money was able to keep them winning.
Since 2012, the Yankees strategy has built them two above-average teams (by record, at least). In 2012, the MLB postseason featured the Rays, Indians, Pirates, Athletics, and Braves, but not the Phillies, Angels, Rangers, and Yankees. Younger talent has become more of a necessity, while free agents are just additions to your nucleus, not the nucleus itself.
What really led me to writing this post was the Dodgers hiring Andrew Friedman to be their President of Baseball Operations, even after a season where they won 94 games and won the National League West division. The Dodgers hiring of Friedman speaks volumes on how they're willing to make a culture change in order to catch up with sabermetrics, something that has become very important.
The Yankees, Phillies, and Rangers have not yet to do something like that. Brian Cashman was extended as Yankees GM, Ruben Amaro Jr. is still running the Phillies further into the ground, and Jon Daniels continues to throw money at free agents that still haven't helped. And yet Billy Beane (Athletics), Chris Antonetti (Indians), and Dayton Moore (Royals) are building winning teams with a minimal payroll.
Has the window closed for big market teams?
I don't know. On one hand, you still have the Dodgers winning plenty of games with the highest payroll in baseball. They didn't go anywhere in the playoffs, but still were able to get there. However, on the contrary, the Red Sox won the World Series in 2013. I don't think it is truly a question of having the money, but what you do with the money that you have.
The Dodgers are big in the international market. They signed Yasiel Puig, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Erisbel Arruebarrena to extravagant deals and still have been able to create homegrown talent in Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, Dee Gordon, and others to help take this team far. But they have been able to keep those guys with their big market (See: Kershaw's seven-year, $215 million extension).
I think the window has closed for teams that have built their team around pricey free agents. The game of baseball has turned into one of trades, prospects, and analytics, not free agents that are either on the downfall of their career or are injury prone (See: 2014 Rangers lineup). Since about 2010, teams have been better at signing guys to longterm deals during the prime of their career, rather as they get closer to reaching free agency. While this can only buy out a few free agent years, it will likely be the years that the team did not buy out when the player begins to decline or become hampered by injuries.
Take a look at Ryan Howard. Based on my calculations, through the arbitration process, Howard would have become a free agent following either the 2011 or 2012 seasons. Instead of extending Howard to a five-year deal in say, 2009, after Howard had already been one of the league's most prolific sluggers for a few seasons, the Phillies decided to wait until after the 2011 season.
Put that into prospective. Had Howard been signed to his five-year, $125 million deal back in 2009, he would likely become a free agent at the end of this season (the Phillies have a sixth year as a team option). That means Philadelphia would "only" have to deal with three terrible seasons from Howard. The Phillies did extend Howard following the 2011 season, so he is under contract through 2016, with an option for 2017. The Phillies could perhaps deal with five terrible seasons from Howard, paying him over $20 million in each and every one of them.
In short, the window hasn't closed for big market teams. But big market teams that still rely on old methods of signing contracts, giving extensions, and the traditional method of scouting will have a very difficult time contending in a major league system that has developed into a very analytical organization. So while the forward thinkers continue to thrive, the traditionalists will continue to fall. It is time for the Phillies, Yankees, and Rangers to finally change their ways.