Baseball BeatNovember 05, 2004
Banter Up
By Rich Lederer

Alex Belth invited me to join Allen Barra and Glenn Stout in a roundtable discussion focusing on the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Three Wise Men (as I look over my shoulder looking for the third member) can be read in its entirety at Alex's always informative and entertaining site, aptly known as Bronx Banter.

The first installment of Belth's Season-Ending Review featured five baseball bloggers (including All-Baseball's very own Mike Carminati), King Kaufman, and Rob Neyer. It's a two-parter, entitled And Say Children, What Does it all Mean? and Mecca in the Nation.

By the way, if the Yankees sign a couple of prized free agents during the offseason, will it be because New York has a monopoly on the letters B-e-l-t? You know, Alex B-e-l-t-(h), Adrian B-e-l-t-(re), and Carlos B-e-l-t-(ran). Maybe Alex will rename his site, the Bronx Belters.


I've been a Yankees fan for more than a quarter of a century (one of my earliest baseball memories is the '78 playoff game between NY and Boston), but now I am convinced that the Boone homerun, just like the Dent homerun, will usher in an era of relative mediocrity for the Bronx Bombers (although I don't believe that this one will last 18 years). So, rather than dwell on this dreary prospect, I find myself pondering which franchise will be the next to take the grand prize now that the Sox have ended their drought. I was reflecting back on the successful teams from the first few years of following the game: Pittsburgh (last championship- '79, no playoffs since '92), Philadelphia ('80, lost Series in '83 and '93), St. Louis ('82 was only title since '67, 3 Series losses and 3 NLCS losses have followed), Baltimore ('83 was only title since '70, only made playoffs twice since), Detroit ('84 was only title since '68, after that only one division title courtesy of Toronto collapse in last weak of '87 season), Kansas City ('85, only title since team began in '69), Los Angeles (won twice in 80's, finally won a single playoff game this year), Cincinnati (since the Big Red Machine, one title in '90 which came from out of nowhere). These clubs had rich histories and/or sustained periods of being competitive, but have been bad/underacheived for a long time. Market size, payroll, personnel, strength of division, and farm system are all factors that can explain the lack of success, but which franchises have the best chance to reclaim some of their former glory now that the Yankees appear less invincible?

I like what Tampa Bay is doing. Unfortunately, the team just doesn't generate anywhere near the level of revenues of the Yankees, so it's much more problematic to predict that the Devil Rays will be able to compete effectively with the Bronx Bombers anytime soon.

I think Detroit has a shot at regaining some of its old magic. The team undershot its Pythagorean record by seven games. Look for the Tigers to play at least .500 ball this year.

Over in the National League, I wouldn't rule out Philadelphia from winning the pennant in 2005. The Phillies had the highest Beane Count total of any team that failed to make the playoffs. I think the new manager will be a plus and the new ballpark potentially gives them the revenues to sign free agents and/or trade for players with "bad" contracts.

Although I don't care for Dusty Baker, I wouldn't dismiss the Chicago Cubs either. The Cubbies undershot their Pythag record by five games without much help from Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. If Chicago can add Carlos Beltran or another high-end free agent to the mix, I might go as far as to say that the Cubs would have as good a chance as any team in the N.L. to win 100 games next year.

Yes, with that rotation, the Cubs are always going to have a chance. I don't know if they can win a World Series under Dusty Baker, but if they get Beltran, even Dusty may not be able to stop them. An outfield of Floyd-Beltran-Patterson with a non-Neifi shortstop is what I've been dreaming about since...oh, September.

Philly is another team that has been able to effectively blame their manager for their problems in the last two years. They have some holes offensively, and some injuries really hurt what looked like a great pitching staff. But, both Milton and Millwood are free agents, and Ed Wade has to decide whether to cut bait on Myers and Byrd. Few teams could put a more attractive offer for Randy Johnson together than this team.

Detroit, could happen. They would need to convince management to spend about $15M in the offseason, and aggresively pursue some pitching.

Of all the teams Jay mentioned, I would say that Los Angeles is closest to a championship. Let DePo and Logan White work together for five years, and I would almost guarantee Los Angeles has a title in the 2008-2012 region.

...oh, and one more team.

If Arte Moreno chooses to become the next George Steinbrenner, the Angels could run off two or three World Series championships before the decade is out. They are that close.