Before the season finally opened up everyone seemed to think the 60 game schedule would swing the door wide open for someone to sneak in to the series. Anything can happen and without the marathon season we all recognize as normal perhaps a team’s depth wouldn’t get tested quite so much.
As the season played out we saw it was anything but. Depth was tested possibly more than ever before and as usual the cream rose to the top. This will be painted as David vs Goliath but in reality, it’s a matchup of the two very best franchises in baseball when it comes to developing talent.
The Dodgers certainly spend more to retain and augment what they develop but it can’t be discounted that both of these clubs have internally developed their core components.
Another thing we’ll hear is how bad it would be for the prospect of MLB ever adopting a salary cap if the lowly Rays were to win. I get that, in fact people still reference the Royals team that won the series in 2015. If the Rays pull this off, the narrative will shift to talking about how very fair and balanced MLB is what with two smaller market clubs having won the series in a span of 5 years.
I see another side of the coin though in this discussion. The teams that do spend the most keep falling short or at the very least have these low spending “farm teams for the league” rosters keeping pace.
The structure of the league allows the rich to spend whatever they like, sure they have to pay a penalty if they go too far but realistically there is nothing to stop them from spending up to whatever they’d like. Those clubs largely support the league with revenue sharing and at some point I have to believe they’re going to get sick of disproportionately contributing to the overall health of the league, yet not benefiting with championships at nearly the same rate.
Don’t get me wrong, if the league did institute a cap, some teams still wouldn’t get the job done. Look at the NFL, the Jets, Washington, Miami, a cap doesn’t guarantee your club will ever reach the promised land, you still have to make the right decisions, but at least the Jets can’t say they have less chance because the Bears payroll is so much higher.
The bottom line is, root for who you like but neither outcome is a sure fire message to the league. The Rays are masters at knowing when to move a player and ensuring they get pieces back who contribute. Not everyone will be a star, not everyone will be a five-tool phenom, in fact most will have warts that their previous home couldn’t see past, but the Rays put people in position to do what they do best.
The Dodgers have a ton of money, and that get’s them bites at the apple teams with less resources wouldn’t have. They can develop a Cody Bellinger and while he’s pounding balls over the wall in his rookie season, the thought of having to figure out when to move him for the best return doesn’t come up. Trust that the Rays are having a much different thought process take place as they watch Arozarena or Meadows.
In many ways, the fan experience is the real difference. It’s how you feel when watching your club climb the mountain and maybe more importantly how likely you see it that they stay there.
The Dodgers have been the pre-season favorite for the best part of five years now, and while you may believe they’ve had one or two shots stolen from them the fact remains they haven’t gotten the job done. The Rays have ultimately fallen short every season prior, and now that they’ve made the series it’s hard to imagine they don’t sense the rarity of the accomplishment.
I’m looking forward to the series and not to see ex-Pirates or players they could have traded for (at least in our own minds), I’m genuinely intrigued by the matchup. I’m also thrilled this season is nearing it’s end, because while I appreciate they played baseball this year, I also can’t wait to get back to normal baseball.
We have an entire crop of draft picks that haven’t played one game professionally as of yet and rosters full of players locked in where they left off. Baseball needs to return to normal order and while I assign no asterisk to the eventual champion this season, I also want to see the depth that baseball usually provides.
2021 will be interesting if only because of it’s normalcy, but the weight of the CBA renegotiations will be present. Every comment from either side will be parsed and the opportunity to level the playing field will either be ignored once again or painfully brought to bear.