And so the 2010 baseball season has ended, with a World Series champion few saw coming. (I will point out this humble scribe picked the Giants to win the NL West back on Opening Day and picked the Giants to beat the Rangers in seven games. I probably also need to point out this same humble scribe picked the Phillies to beat those same Giants in the NLCS. Eh, nobody's perfect.)
So how did San Francisco do it? Well, they managed to draft and develop four top-notch starting pitchers: Tim Lincecum (first round, 2006), Matt Cain (first round, 2002), Jonathan Sanchez (27th round, 2004), Madison Bumgarner (first round, 2007). They managed to draft and develop a top-notch catcher: Buster Posey (first round, 2008). They managed to unearth a diamond in the rough and develop him into one of the game's best closers: Brian Wilson (24th round, 2003).
And then they managed to make some incredibly shrewd acquisitions in the last two years as they sensed their time coming: Edgar Renteria (December 2008 free agent), Andres Torres (January 2009 free agent), Freddy Sanchez (July 2009 trade), Aubrey Huff (January 2010 free agent), Pat Burrell (May 2010 free agent), Javier Lopez (July 2010 trade), Cody Ross (August 2010 waiver claim).
They fielded one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and a lineup lacking anyone who hit 30 homers or drove in 90 runs. They boasted a rock-solid defense that committed only 73 errors during the regular season.
And they had a manager who figured out how to use every one of those parts to his team's advantage, mixing and matching lineups and getting contributions out of just about everyone on the roster.
That's how you win a World Series.
Couple other thoughts on this first true day of the offseason...
-- Bud Selig says he wants to add to two more teams to the postseason and thinks the change could be made by 2012. Am I the only one out there who thinks this is a really bad idea? Baseball doesn't need more postseason. It needs less.
The current three-round format already drags on too long. It feels like it's been three months since Roy Halladay threw his no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS. It's November 2 and the baseball season just finally ended. Yes, they're moving the schedule up a few days next year so the World Series will always end by Halloween, but that's still too late. The Fall Classic should take place around October 15-25. It shouldn't continue past that.
Plus, am I the only one who thinks the World Series has lost quite a bit of oomph since the postseason was expanded in 1995? There have now been 16 postseasons since the Division Series was added. During that time, the World Series has lasted an average of only 5.3 games, with only three of the 16 series reaching a seventh game. In the 16 postseasons prior to 1995, the World Series lasted an average of 5.9 games, with six reaching a seventh game.
Maybe the problem is that everyone gets too exhausted from a month-long postseason and runs out of gas by the time the World Series finally arrives. That applies both to players in the games and fans who watch. You've got to be a serious die-hard to tune in every night for a month, which perhaps explains in part baseball's diminished TV ratings.
Finally, am I the only one who thinks a fair number of teams make the postseason already? If they had expanded to 10 participants this year, the 90-win Padres and the 89-win Red Sox would have made it as the second wild cards. Have you heard much clamoring from those teams and their fans about getting hosed out of the postseason? Did either of those teams really deserve to make it? Wasn't the final day of the regular season (with the Giants, Padres and Braves all scrambling to seize the last two spots) great theater? Under the new format, all three would have already clinched by then.
What if the format also applied last year? You know who would have made the playoffs? The 88-win Giants and the 87-win Rangers. Were those teams ready for primetime a year ago? No, they needed some significant tweaking to make themselves World Series participants this year.
Who would have made it in 2008? The 89-win Yankees and the 89-win Mets. Anyone out there crying neither of those teams made it? How about 2007? The 89-win Padres (denying us one of the great one-game playoffs in baseball history) and either the 88-win Tigers or Mariners.
Look, the wild card has been a good thing for baseball. It's opened the door for many more teams and cities to be involved in pennant races. But a second wild card wouldn't open the door to anyone else. All it would do is kill the few pennant races we still have.
Stick with eight teams, Bud. Then figure out a way to condense the current postseason into fewer days so the World Series and Halloween never again intersect.
-- Last but not least ... the five-day period in which teams have exclusive rights to negotiate with their pending free agents has begun. When the clock strikes midnight Sunday morning, all those free agents (including Adam Dunn) are free to talk to any team they want.