At Game 1 of the World Series: Prelude – Different Is Good

As I settle into the overflow pressbox here at AT&T Park (no joke, it’s at the top of the 300 level… Look for the green section at the top of the ballpark up the 3rd baseline when the game begins to air) two things  strike me: This World Series is affirmation for Bud Selig, and it’s a different world than the last time the Giants were in the Fall Classic.

Over and over, the idea that the Yankees were beat by the Rangers and to a lesser extent the Giants winning over the Phillies means that – in a nutshell – variety is the spice of life.

Or is it, money doesn’t always trump smarts?

On the latter, consider… The Rangers Opening Day payroll of $55,250,544 – the 27th ranked payroll out of all 30 clubs – is almost $600,000 less than the Opening Day payroll the Rangers had… in 2005. And that’s not accounting inflation. For the Giants, they beat the Phillies, who fielded MLB’s 4th highest Opening Day payroll ($141,928,379), but still ranked 9th out of 30 at $98,641,333. Opening Day payroll for the Giants this season increased 19 percent from last year from $82,616,450. Still, the fact that you have two teams with an Opening Day payroll that was under $100 million is good for the overall. “Hope” is no longer some foreign concept.

This isn’t to say that another Yankees-Phillies World Series wouldn’t have been good, rather that the unexpected nature of the two clubs that made it to baseball’s premier event is a sign that the game, as a whole, will benefit.

I don’t blame FOX, TBS, and ESPN for flooding their MLB schedules with Yankees-Red Sox tilts. They are generated from ratings, meaning fans are the ultimate decider in what you watch.

But, as MLB Network makes its way into more homes, and the idea that yes, you don’t have to have the biggest, baddest level of player payroll to be competitive on a given year, average fans will start to shift from their zombie state into the full palette that is offered by 30 clubs as opposed to just a handful.

As for the Giants, the sea of orange and black that is descending on AT&T Park is focused far differently than in 2002 when Dusty Baker handed the game ball to Russ Ortiz in Game 6, and thus, in a most superstitious way, jinxed the Giants from winning their first World Series since jumping coasts in 1958.

Then, the focus was Barry Bonds. Where it was “chicks dig the long ball”, if you excuse the sexual innuendo, 2010 may go down as “chicks dig the slider.”

Instead of a slugging-based club with an alleged steroid user at the helm, its heroes are a Freak of a pitcher (Lincecum), and a player snatched up on waivers (Cody Ross). The roster at least feels more functional than dysfunctional than that 2002 team and fans seem as jacked – possibly more – than when they were in the Series the last time.

The one thing about this Series is it will be historic. No matter the outcome, you either get a winner for a franchise that had never won a postseason series, let alone a World Series (Rangers), or a storied franchise who has had to point to their days in New York as glory finally getting to say that their relocation partner from the ‘50s in LA isn’t the only one to win a Fall Classic.

So, if you only watch the World Series, and haven’t been bit by baseball’s regular season bug unless it’s been the Red Sox or Yankees, you’re in for a treat. This one feels different, and in that, it’s all good.




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Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for freelance and looks forward to your comments.

14 Responses to “At Game 1 of the World Series: Prelude – Different Is Good”

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  1. Ace says:

    I like you Maury, but this whole idea that Giants fans didn’t love Bonds (or don’t love him now) is ridiculous – and the sanctimonious crap from the media about it doesn’t help. The 2002 team was a damn good team that was well liked – belittling it with the “Feel good” angle is unfair.

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    • B N says:

      I’d agree with that. Wasn’t the notable thing about the whole Bonds issue that he was still treated like a hero in the home park even during his last season there? He was being exposed for juicing, getting booed in basically every other park in baseball, but at home? Cheers! Go Bonds! I couldn’t tell if it was loyal or pathetic at the time, and still can’t.

      I think it’s tough to say that Bonds was less liked than many of these guys. While he had his media issues, people DID dig the splash shots and I think that if the Giants could trade Cody Ross straight up for a 2002 version of Barry Bonds if they could. Homers make people feel good too.

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  2. RéRé says:

    Nice piece, Maury. I’m excited for this series for many of the same reasons. We can only hope those that shrug their shoulders at the first thought of a Giants/Rangers World Series end up turned onto the drama that unfolds, and see a larger world than Yankees/Red Sox in the future.

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  3. Maury Brown says:

    @Ace… Wasn’t meant to come off that fans didn’t like Bonds… It’s just different. From those I talk to here, it’s just a different vibe. Less individual players and more team. That’s all.

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    • Stocktopus says:

      It definitely is a different vibe. And I get both of your points, and really don’t think you two actually disagree.

      I, for example, love Barry Bonds. I sent him a letter when I was a little kid, asking for an autographed ball. He sent me the ball, a game-used wrist band, and an autographed card with a personal message to me. So i’ll never bring myself to dislike the guy. He was my hero. But, at the same time, this is by far my favorite Giants team of all. So many great characters. In 2002, giants wins made me happiest. In 2010, seeing the players celebrate the wins is what makes me happiest. I just love this group of guys.

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  4. Alex says:

    Don’t forget that the Giants’ two highest paid players are not on their postseason roster, and have essentially been replaced by players making the minimum.

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  5. Ken says:

    Maury & Ace,

    There’s definitely a different vibe. This team is a cobbled together bunch of misfits who, by all outside accounts, shouldn’t be here. Many of the position players were unceremoniously released by their former teams and they shouldn’t have made the post-season, shouldn’t have beaten the Phillies. But here they are. Now, they aren’t supposed to beat the Rangers. It is compelling in a way the 2002 Giants, with the best player in the game, weren’t. That’s not to say the 2002 team wasn’t loved by the fans. They just didn’t pull at the heartstrings the way our 2010 team does.

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  6. tbad says:

    No. 2010 is most definitely “Chicks dig the cutter”

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  8. MikeS says:

    Yes, “smart trumps money” but money is still the easiest way to be consistently competitive. Money allows you to cover up mistakes like a Carl Pavano signing that you get nothing out of or get away from a Giambi after he falls off a cliff. Poorer teams get crippled by those mistakes for years. Occasionally a Rangers will do well but usually it’s a good thing to be in the top third of payroll. draw a graph and correlate wins and payroll over several years. R will probably be pretty close to one.

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    • B N says:

      I’ve actually seen those graphs, and while they correlate it’s not nearly as strong as you’d think. Firstly, the Yankees overspend so much they’re basically an outlier. They get horrible return compared to their expenditure (basically spending 200m to get 95 wins, while other teams use 100m to get a similar record). Meanwhile, teams with lower payrolls annually get a solid record.

      For example, see:
      http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/09/26/sports/20090926-score-graphic.html

      The Yankees actually bias the whole regression, they’re so far out (70m more to get about 5 more wins). Meanwhile, the 100m mark has a bunch of teams that vary very little by average payroll but have vastly different results. Well run franchises like the Phillies, Cardinals, Angels, and Braves are getting many more wins for their bucks than teams like the Mariners, Mets, or Cubs (over the last 10 years). So basically, the Cardinals are winning an average of 10 more games than Seattle was- despite having a lower salary. On the other hand, the Marlins have gotten comparable performance vs the Mariners but have put out half the salary.

      Due to the axes used and size of the points, the chart understates how bad the correlation is. There definitely is one, it’s definitely positive, and it’s also definitely darn messy. Certain teams, including the A’s and Twins, have shown that they can consistently outperform the curve. The Rangers could well follow that pattern and maintain good success.

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