By: Kurt Snyder
It seems every year that Baseball’s post season never goes according to plan. In fact, Wild Card teams of late are ending up in the World Series just as much if not more than the division winners. And they are winning titles.
Teams seemingly out of the division race at the trade deadline, always have that extra wild card carrot to shoot for. The notion seems ridiculous for some, but a lot can change for teams after July 31st.
If you look at the Texas Rangers this year, they acquired Cole Hamels at the trade deadline. It was an interesting move and one hard to figure what the Rangers had in mind. Were they bolstering their starting rotation for a run at the playoffs, or was it a move for their future? Obviously, it turned out to be both.
At the trade deadline, Texas was 49-52 and floundering, 7 games out of the division lead. But they were only 4 games out of the Wild Card.
While the Rangers were stagnant and struggling below the .500 mark, the Tigers were right there with them. The Tigers at the trade deadline were 50-52, 11 ½ games behind KC in the division, but still only 3 ½ games out of a Wild Card spot. The Rangers and Tigers were quite literally running neck in neck in the race.
Acquiring Cole Hamels was a very nice move for Texas. They acquired a legitimate ace under team control for another couple of years; a great move for their future. But there was no additional move that really stood out.
The Tigers however, had baggage. They had a star-studded threesome of pending free agents, expensive ones, who were acquired just for this time of year, to compete for a playoff run.
But internally, the Tigers and GM Dave Dombrowski must have been gun-shy about what may happen if they didn’t unload the likes of David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria.
And it really plays with your emotions as we look at how the post season has begun. What might the Tigers have done? The Texas Rangers, after the trade deadline, went 38-22, but they didn’t gain a Wild Card berth, they won their division!
Now Texas did not get a great draw after winning their division. They had to take on a Toronto team that absolutely took off after the deadline, having acquired guys like David Price and Troy Tulowitzki. They entered the playoffs as one of the favorites to win a World Series.
Texas certainly didn’t. They probably got the least of the attention heading into the playoffs, even after taking their division by storm, mostly by beating Houston just about every time they played them down the stretch.
But their success has been overshadowed by great stories and great teams:
*The emergence of the Cubs, with a boat load of young talent and one of the best managers in baseball.
*The Toronto Blue Jays and all their power.
*The Houston Astros and all their power and young talent.
*The New York Mets, a super charged team after acquiring Cespedes from the Tigers.
*The St. Louis Cardinals, the favorites to win it all with the best record in baseball.
*The Dodgers led by their starting pitching duo of Kershaw and Greinke.
*And the Kansas City Royals, the team most likely to emerge from the fray in the American League.
Texas was the least likely to make any real noise, right? Well, look at them now! The Rangers grabbed both road games in Toronto and are now a win away from the ALCS. Just like that, Texas can no longer be ignored.
Doesn’t this happen every year? Aren’t we familiar with this story? Dave Dombrowski certainly is. He knew the history and he certainly understood what can happen when you earn a playoff spot.
But the Tigers and Rangers went in opposite directions at the deadline. The Rangers got hot at the right time, and the Tigers called it a season. David Price? Gone. Yoenis Cespedes? Gone. Joakim Soria? Gone. The season? Certainly gone when you take away all their contributions to winning.
But what if the Tigers did nothing at the deadline? Who knows what might have happened? Did Dombrowski consider letting it ride with his current roster? Was ‘buying’ a necessary move to get them in the playoffs?
All great questions to consider, but I am here to tell you, the Tigers did the right thing. They could have rolled the dice and let it ride to see what might happen. But they had already proven all season that they had deep flaws in their pitching staff that would not have allowed them to compete or earn a spot in the playoffs.
Am I sure of that? No. But, the Tigers chose the longer term and proper approach; finally departing from all the risks associated with the “win now” strategy that has continued to fail them. Instead, they made a very difficult and necessary decision for their future.
They pulled the plug on a season, but may have breathed life into a future of winning championships. They surrendered some great talent but gained a future; something they may not have had much of if they had clung to a dream filled with risk.