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Killing The Middle Class
2004-09-14 04:02
by Will Carroll

Bet you thought this was going to be politics or economics.

Looking at the standings and the state of the AL in light of the Yankees recent collapses and the holes poked squarely through the vaunted mystique, there's an interesting pattern. Let's break teams down in broad categories: are they spenders or cheap? Are they performance or scout focused? Then, with both, let's add a "middle ground" category.

Yanks: Spend, Performance
Red Sox: Spend, Performance
Twins: Cheap, Scout
A's: Cheap, Performance
Angels: Spend, Scout
Rangers: Middle, Scout

Only one "middle" on either side of the equation. That seems odd. Is it an AL phenomenon?

Braves: Middle, Scout
Phillies: Spend, Scout
Marlins: Cheap, Scout
Cards: Spend, Middle
Cubs: Spend, Scout
Dodgers: Spend, Middle
Giants: Middle, Middle
Padres: Cheap, Middle

There's certainly a lot more room for the middle class in the NL. Two organizations get "middle" ratings despite evidence that the organization is shifting to a more performance standing. Why does the NL have "middle" teams among the playoff contenders?

It's merely a guess, but the "Moneyball Revolution" hasn't really hit the NL yet. The Dodgers and Cardinals are certainly leaning that way, but neither has had time to fully implement yet. In the AL, the cash of the Yanks and Red Sox forced a reaction to the opposite direction, tearing those trying to straddle a fault apart.

The Dodgers could force the shift, if DePodesta follows more of the A's model than the Red Sox. The Sox model seems to make more sense, at least in the short term. The Sox, like the Dodgers, have a number of contracts from a previous regime and previous era that only unwind beginning next season. Given hard shifts to either side - say the Cubs deciding to spend some Tribune cash or a massive shift in Arizona - it would, I think, leave those middling teams flailing.

Brian Sabean, of course, is the outlier. He's been successful hacking his own path through the baseball jungles. It's tough to judge him outside the Bonds era; Bonds covers a lot of problems.

One of the more interesting story lines to me is the possibility of several GM jobs being open after the season. How those jobs are filled will show the state of the art's penetration into the industry. I think it's deeper than many think.

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