To the sounds of great rejoicing across the nation (except for one-half of New York), the Tigers have slain the foe of all that is good and pure: the New York Yankees. Jeter? See ya! A-Rod? Have another slice of post-season failure! The Big Unit? You mean, The Big Eunuch! Haha, and in a very real sense, ha!
Yeah, I'm gloating. Sue me. ;-) But there's more to this than just the Yankees losing. Detroit's success is definitely encouraging to see, since they have taken just three years to go from a 110-loss season, to the playoffs. A prototype for the Diamondbacks, who lost 111 games in 2004, to follow? If we compare the two teams' progress since then, we'll see there are some eerie similarities:
- 2003 -> 2004: 29 game improvement
- 2004 -> 2005: 1 game drop
2005 -> 2006: 24 game improvement
- 2004 -> 2005: 26 game improvement
- 2005 -> 2006: 1 game drop
- 2006 -> 2007: ????
What else does the Detroit win mean? Well, probably our chances of getting Jeremy Bonderman during the off-season have just evaporated. While he had kinda flown under the radar this season a bit, as far as popular acclaim goes, I think that shutting down the Yankees in a nationally-televised, series-clinching playoff game kinda removes the cloak of anonymity somewhat. ;-) Even if the Tigers trade him, the price has just increased significantly, and he wasn't cheap to begin with. Now, we're probably talking one of the big five (Q, U, D, J and Y) as a starting point. Not bad for a man 'rejected' by Billy Beane - which suggests the Moneyball approach was not infallible...
It also re-emphasizes the importance of having at least two quality pitchers in the playoffs, and that's something Arizona doesn't have. Livan Hernandez, with a career ERA+ of 101 is a good #3, but is not able to play Curt Schilling to Brandon Webb's Randy Johnson [er...if you see what I mean!] Someone like Bonderman needs to be traded for if we're to make a serious run next season, because I don't see anyone coming up from the minors, and the free-agent market has about the same appeal as hiring a nanny in a crack-house.
I notice that compared to the 2004 D'backs, a greater number of the 119-game losing 2003 Tigers are still with the team. Pudge at catcher; Guillen at SS; Monroe in LF; Inge at 3B. Plus Bonderman and Robertson in the rotation, as well as Walker and Ledezma out of the bullpen. The changes in Arizona are much more wholesale; Chad Tracy is the only position player left, who had more than 62 appearances two seasons ago. In the rotation, Webb and EnGon remain here; Casey Daigle is too, albeit now as a reliever. Valverde and Aquino also remain, while Koplove and Choate may or may not be back.
But here's hoping that we can continue to follow in the footsteps of the Tigers, get another top-grade starting pitcher, and progress on to the 2007 playoffs. The good news is, we don't have so much ground to catch up. We're five games better than the Tigers were last season, and though both teams finished fourth in their divisions, we were only twelve games back this year - the 2005 Tigers were 28 behind. While obviously there are clear differences, their success proves there's absolutely no reason why we can not win the division next year; as Detroit progresses this season, maybe, just maybe, Arizona will progress in 2007. So: let's go, Tigers...
The Yankees elimination also means that in the past seven years, seven different teams will have won the World Series - of the six teams that remain, the most recent to be champions were the Oakland A's, in 1989. The Dodgers won in 1988, the Mets in 1986, the Tigers in 1985, the Cardinals in 1982 and the Padres never. That's a good sign of competitive balance, especially when you look at the other pro sports.
In fact, on a quick check, I don't think that has ever happened in the NBA or NFL. In ice-hockey, you've got to go all the way back to 1912-1920 (there was no competition in 1919 because of the flu epidemic) to find seven different teams winning the Stanley Cup in consecutive years. And that's only if you regard the Toronto BlueShirts and the Toronto Arenas as "different", which by most accounts, is questionable.
As noted by VIII, Carlos Tosca is going to Florida, where he'll be the bench coach for the Marlins. This is one of those "small earthquake in Peru; not many hurt" kinda stories, even though Tosca was scheduled to be promoted to bench coach here. It's kinda weird that he preferred to go to Florida for the same position, but it seems he had a relationship with new manager Fredi Gonzalez. That may now open the door for Tucson Sidewinders' manager Chip Hale, originally slated to replace Tosca at third, to occupy the bench coach position instead. Maybe I should apply for the now-vacant job? I can windmill my arms with the best of them... ;-)