First Pitch: Finding a Post-Season Team

One of the side effects of the Pirates losing for 20 years in a row is that baseball carries on without them once the regular season is over. For that reason, I usually try to find a post-season team to pull for, as I’m sure any other baseball fan does.

I usually go with the underdogs or the small market teams. That seems to be another common trend. This year, that’s the Oakland Athletics.

For all the talk of the collapse by the Pirates, the A’s did the exact opposite. On June 30th, the A’s were 13 games back in their division, with a 37-42 record. From there, Oakland went 57-26 in the second half, winning the AL West on the final day of the season. They did all of this with one of the smallest payrolls in the league, and right after trading two very talented young pitchers in the off-season. Get Moneyball 2 in the works.

The conflict I always see with the post-season is that small market teams never win. Since 1994, only one team has won the World Series with a payroll in the bottom half of the league. That was Florida in 2003. So the odds are stacked against Oakland. If Oakland did win it all, it would be bittersweet. As a fan of Billy Beane’s work, it would be great to see the Athletics win it all. As someone who pulls for small market teams to overcome the odds, it would be an amazing story if Oakland won. But if that happened, it would forever be what Bud Selig would point to as a reference that MLB is balanced and anyone can win it all. Never mind that Oakland would be the exception to the rule, and teams with large payrolls have a much easier time contending.

The playoffs start today with the one game wild cards, and it will be interesting to see how the new format works out. After that, the division series games will start on Saturday.

Who are you pulling for? Going small market with the A’s? Keeping it in the NL Central with the Reds and Cardinals? Anyone but the Yankees? Time to switch to football and hock….uh, football? Leave your pick in the comments below.

Links and Notes

**The New National TV Deals, The Rise of the Dodgers, And the Effect On the Pirates.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

    Top HALF? First of all, I assume you mean bottom half. But isn’t your main argument that the absolute top teams always win? The Pirates could be competitive with the mid tier, they just won’t do it.
    1995-Braves over Indians Ineither big markets)
    1996-Yankees over Braves(Big boys win!)
    1997-Marlins over Indians (neither big markets)
    1998-Yankees over Padres(Big boys win again!)
    1999-Yankees over Braves(Another Big Boy win!)
    2000-Yankees over Mets(Battle of the Huge!)
    2001-Arizona over Yankees(Big Boy losers!)
    2002-Angels over Giants(Different Big Boy winners!)
    2003-Marlins over Yankees(Big Boy losers!)
    2004-Red Sox over Cardinals(Big Boy win!)
    2005-White Sox over Astros(Big Boy win!)
    2006-Cardinals over Tigers(Neither!)
    2007-Red Sox over Rockies(Big Boy win!)
    2008-Phillies over Tampa(Big Boy win!)
    2009-Yankees over Phillies(Battle of the Bigs!)
    2010-Giants over Rangers(Neither big)
    2011-Cardinals over Rangers(Neither big)

    New York, Boston, LA, Chicago and Philadelphia all have the ability to outspend their brethren. Boston and Philly because there is only 1 team there unlike in the past. New York went from 3-1-2. If you want competitive balance, put another team in NY, and one back in Boston and Philly. When the Pirates, who have a market size the same as the Cardinals and Brewers and Reds, NEVER spend to that level, why do you think that is? Spend money on guys who are worth it, not bums. The constant poor mouthing of baseball doesn’t get you anywhere. Would baseball be far better off with revenue sharing like football? Of course. But the world we live in is what it is. The Pirates need to quit doing foolish things like cutting valuable assets loose because they’ll cost them above minimum salary, and start competing. Surely in a division with only 1 big market like Chicago, the Pirates can compete. Get into the playoffs first, and then it’s a crap shoot.

    • http://twitter.com/Spazaru Murray Passarieu

      The Giants spend way more than the Pirates and the Rangers are officially a big market team now due to their massive cable contract. I think Tim is right on this one.

      • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

        Their cable deal didn’t include population shifts. The proposal that the Pirates can never win, if serious, means they should move somewhere else. The Giants and A’s share the same market, A’s can’t be small and the Giants big. The A’s had a smaller payroll than the Pirates this year. How on earth are they in the mix so often? This is all reason enough why the Pirates need great management and development, not what we currently have. Twins style management would be a huge upgrade. To get top flight management, you are going to have to interview people who aren’t guys like Neil. They need guys who are proven, but haven’t gotten a chance to run it all. The Pirates are a challenge, I’d want someone who has a track record and can deliver.

        • michaelbro8

          I could be wrong, but I don’t think there’s any market without a MLB team that is larger than Pittsburgh

          • http://cityplanning.tumblr.com brendan

            Depends if you’re talking about city population, metropolitan population, or media markets? In those categories PGH ranks 61st, 22nd, and 23rd.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

      From your list there, it still doesn’t seem as though it’s a very competitive league. However, for the Pirates to build a team which possesses any semblance of consistency year to year, I think their focus needs to be through the draft. Players don’t want to come here because they suck, so then you have to over pay for mediocre or average talent, but mostly just settle for arguably crappy players that you hope can give you a good year or two out of no where. However….the more success you have with home grown talent, a) the more money you save on better production, b) you actually have the ability to attract moderately talented free agents and for closer to market value, and possibly most valuable, home grown talent can c) help to guarantee talent in the future that’s more reliable via trades as opposed to the draft. So if for the last 5 years they would have been trying to spend money on legit free agents I think they would have a) overpaid, b) not seen significant improvements in their record, and c) detracted from their goal of improving the team in the long run.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Yes, I meant bottom half.

      Right now to spend in the top half of the league, you need a $90 M payroll or more.

      As for why the Pirates never spend to the level of places like Milwaukee: attendance. Milwaukee never spent to that level until attendance started to rise. They reached .500, attendance went up, and they started to spend.

      The Pirates are starting to see attendance rise. If they follow the same pattern as Milwaukee, payroll should start to rise.

      • michaelbro8

        Agreed; and hopefully the Bucs hold onto their top prospects and remain relevant for quite a while; unlike Milwaukee

      • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

        Right. Payroll topped out this year, at $61 million. Don’t spend it on jobbers, spend on guys who you know, or are worth it, relatively speaking. Spending 5.5 million on Barmes next year isn’t going to cut it. Neither is letting Karstens go because he is arbitration eligible.

        • TonyPenaforHOF

          I agree with you on Barmes but I think we are stuck with him. Not sure on Karstens. Saw his projection around 5 million. 90 innings this year would make me look for better options first.

          • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

            Pitching is too much of a premium, and the Pirates guys at AAA aren’t overwhelming, to say the least. I’d keep Karstens before I hand out a job to Locke, or McPherson. Pirates can’t keep on being predictably cheap.

            • TonyPenaforHOF

              All true. If 1 WAR = 5 Mil he was over 1.5 WAR with only 90 innings it might be the price they have to pay.

  • TonyPenaforHOF

    A’s all the way. Got to root for an organization that talented and effective.

  • http://twitter.com/Spazaru Murray Passarieu

    I’m pulling for the Braves. I know that sounds crazy for a Pirates fan but I’ve always liked them (except in the early 90s of course). It comes from growing up in the 80s watching them on TBS. (Somehow I don’t like the Cubs though and I grew up watching them on WGN). I like Fredi Gonzalez and I like a lot of their players. I just hate the Giants and I’m not Dusty Baker fan either so the Reds are out. Bryce Harper seems like an a-hole, so I don’t like the Nationals either. Go Braves.

  • catch3117

    Tim… I couldn’t agree more with you on this one. I want to root for the A’s but it validates everything Bud Selig has done that slants the competition against small market teams. I still get angry every time I think about the 2012 draft when the Pirates could have gotten Dahl but chose to challenge the system with Appel. They couldn’t have known how it would play out and it was a risk but in hindsight very frustrating given the weak 2013 class even though they have two picks in the top 14.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

      People keep talking about a weak draft class next year, but with baseball being very much dependent on high school talent, isn’t the reality that even if only a few kids (on average) in each state grow a few inches or put some more weight that could result in better bat speeds, higher velocity, and a better idea of off speed pitches and approaches to the game. I realize it’s the responsibility of many media outlets to contribute their opinions like this, but it’s not like football where basically all of the guys are as good as they’re ever going to be. Even if all of the players in the MLB draft were coming out of college like in football, I’d take projections about players more seriously….but not when most of the players being drafted were branded with the “weak draft class” assumption a year and a half before they graduate high school.

      • Lee Young

        Ian…agree….long way to go until draft day.

        And I take the risk of drafting Appel EVERY time.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

          Yeah, I mean, does it suck the Pirates didn’t sign him, but if they would have he would have been a steal. He may be again this year too, who knows? Either way, I’ll be very curious to see how his negotiation leverage works for him. He’ll be the first high profile college senior to test this new system. I’m just interested to see if he gets screwed like the rest of them.

          • Lee Young

            I’m rooting for the “he gets screwed” part…lol

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

              lol, yeah, I would settle for that one. Honestly, and people can believe whatever they want, that’s part of what’s awesome about America, but I don’t want some Tebow sounding pitcher playing for the Pirates. I mean, come on rich boy going to Standford with the golden arm, how has your faith ever been tested? I just want to hear the cliches; like from Cole and Taillon, or straight Spanish, like from Marte and Heredia, lol.

    • TonyPenaforHOF

      I agree with you on Appel. It was a risk worth taking. With a new system in place and the best talent available on the board it was a risk aligned with the outcomes of the organization. Now if we keep doing it and failing, that would be something different. But all GM’s, including Neal, are in the early stages of their learning curve on the new system so it made sense to try. In a few years we will see who was the best at figuring it out.

  • pirateswillwinin2012

    still pulling for A’s all the way, my 2nd favorite team. Love the uniform and white spikes.

  • Brady

    A Braves-Rangers World Series. Chipper wins it in his final year. Rangers make it to their gazillionth straight world series.

  • Lee Young

    Braves/Cards…can BOTH teams lose??

  • duckwoes

    I will be pulling for a Braves-A’s World Series, though I would like to see the Orioles fare well also. Their fans have suffered nearly as long as we have. But I woud also feel somewhat dubious about the A’s because of Bud Selig then saying,”See, competitive balance.” BS Bud

  • http://twitter.com/VRRCards VRR Cards

    I am rooting for Jim Leyland and the Tigers.

    • TonyPenaforHOF

      Ohh, good point…

  • michaelbro8

    I’m rooting for another bridge series: Giants & A’s, since I live in the Bay Area. But that may cause another major earthquake, so never mind !

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.emrock Jon Emrock

    CARDS! The best baseball town, IMHO. I hated Tony LaRussa so now it’s very easy to root for them as my buccos blew up again.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

      Haha, agreed on the LaRussa comment. I went to a Cards game a few years ago when we were passing through St. Louis. They were playing the Phillies in August I believe, and the atmosphere in that ballpark was amazing. My wife, then girlfriend, was so confused about how the fans were acting…..then I had to explain to her about how St. Louis actually wins, lol. That’s why they were so excited. Up until then, she had only been to Pirates games with me where the most exciting game we had ever been to was when Freddy Sanchez locked up the batting title, but I think she was only like 16 or 17 then, so I hadn’t fully immersed her in the baseball culture. Good ballpark though, no PNC, but if I lived in the area, I could definitely see myself getting into their culture.

  • Brian Krueger

    I am a lifelong Bucs fan but have lived in S. Florida for over 30 years and like the Marlins as my adopted team. Therefore, I am rooting for the Tigers, who have a former Bucs/Marlins manager, former Marlins GM Dave Dombrowski, and former Marlins players, Miguel Cabrera, Omar Infante, Anibal Sanchez, and former Bucco Octavio Dotel. Go Marlins/Bucs North!