- Last Updated: 1:36 AM, October 25, 2012
- Posted: 12:56 AM, October 24, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO — We’re here at AT&T Park, ready to kick off the eighth World Series in nine years without a New York presence tonight. And clearly, by seeing how the Tigers and Giants reached baseball’s Promised Land, there are lessons for the Yankees (and Mets, eventually) to learn.
You want to make the Fall Classic? You need to sign a pitcher to a seven-year, $126 million contract and watch him fall on his face for most of the first six years so that he’s viewed as one of the worst free-agent signings in baseball history — only to bail you out in a must-win semifinal game.
Want a parade? The secret is to acquire a designated hitter-outfielder who 1) can’t hit very well; 2) fields even worse; and 3) gets arrested in Manhattan for allegedly assaulting two people while (allegedly, again) shouting anti-Semitic slurs. While allegedly drunk. And then suddenly turns it on in the semifinals.
Now I can understand why Yankees fans are so angry with the team’s front office. Where was baseball’s richest team when World Series Game 1 Giants starter Barry Zito and ALCS MVP Delmon Young were available?
No if these two flawed finalists have displayed anything, in what should be a Tigers blowout, it’s that there’s no magic formula to getting here. Besides, you know, playing well and winning games.
To borrow from the well-respected baseball guru Derek Jeter, the best team doesn’t necessarily win it all. It’s the team that plays the best.
“We’re here,” Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder said yesterday, before his team worked out. “I don’t know what we did. We just got here.”
In Major League Baseball, the Tigers and Giants ranked 11th and 12th, respectively, in runs scored. San Francisco and Detroit ranked eighth and 11th, respectively, in runs allowed. They were good but not great teams in the regular season that capitalized on easy schedules and, in the Tigers’ case, took their sweet time getting their act together. Detroit gave up sole possession of the AL Central penthouse on July 24 and didn’t regain it until Sept. 26.
No, neither team hit many home runs, to address a favorite talking point from angry Yankees fans. The Giants ranked dead last in the majors, with 103, while the Tigers ranked 16th with 163. Nevertheless, the Tigers out-homered their opponents, 8-6, in the first two rounds of the playoffs, while in the National League, the Giants have gone deep 10 times to their opponents’ eight. So it’s not like Detroit and San Francisco have gotten by just on savvy and small ball.
You know what else differentiates the Tigers and Giants from the Yankees? Both put up terrible enough seasons in the last decade — Detroit in 2003, San Francisco in 2007 — that rewarded them with high draft picks. Now Game 1 starter Justin Verlander, drafted second overall in 2004, and Giants catcher Buster Posey, drafted fifth overall in 2008, are franchise players in their primes. Great job by the two organizations to scout, sign and develop these guys, but do I see any takers for a Yankees last-place finish?
These two clubs deserve a world of credit. They played well enough in the regular season to qualify for the tournament, and they have excelled in prime time.
“Guys are just stepping up really, really well in the pressure situations,” Giants ace Matt Cain said. “And they’re having a lot of fun with it.”
The Tigers’ greatest baseball operations strength is the boldness of owner Mike Ilitch and general manager Dave Dombrowski. They have Fielder and Miguel Cabrera because they were willing to invest huge dollars for Fielder in free agency and significant prospects for Cabrera in a 2007 trade with the Marlins.
The Giants? Their best attribute is probably their ability to consistently build a team around their pitcher-friendly ballpark, with former Yankees pitcher Dick Tidrow, the team’s vice president of player personnel, a wiz at discovering and molding young pitchers.
Sarcasm aside, something can be learned from clubs that go all the way. Not everything, though.
The Yankees’ model of power, patience and pitching has worked before, even with many of the players who are currently reviled in New York. We’ll see different styles this coming week, yet we shouldn’t view them as cure-alls.
Besides, if you really want Young and Zito on the Yankees next year, both will be quite obtainable this winter. First, let’s see which of them and their teams have any more autumn magic in them.