Baseball’s long winter slumber is finally over. Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to various locales in Florida and Arizona this week.
The long-awaited season opener is just around the corner.
OK, it wasn’t that long of a slumber—it’s only been 106 days since Sergio Romo of the San Francisco Giants struck out Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers in the 10th inning of Game 4 of the World Series at Comerica Park.
So it’s not like it was an actual eternity or anything.
The buzz this offseason has centered on the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Toronto Blue Jays, two teams deemed to be the big winners in the Hot Stove League.
But before we start fitting guys for World Series rings, it might be prudent to remember some very recent cautionary tales.
At this time last year, it was the Los Angeles Angels and Miami Marlins who were being hailed as offseason champs.
The Angels went on a one-day shopping spree of more than $300 million that brought free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to Anaheim. The Marlins brought in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to help them christen their new ballpark.
So how did that work out? The Angels finished a disappointing third-place in the American League West behind the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers.
The Marlins were an unmitigated disaster, losing 93 games under one-and-done manager Ozzie Guillen—good for dead last in the National League East. Then Miami packaged Reyes and Buehrle as part of a trade that shot the Blue Jays to the top of this winter’s charts.
What happened in 2012 was only a replica of 2011.
Remember the World Series that year between the greatest starting rotation ever and the best Boston Red Sox team ever assembled? Yeah, neither do I.
The Philadelphia Phillies—with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels—didn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs.
That was light years better than the Red Sox, who pulled off a historic choke job in September and missed the postseason entirely.
On the other hand, that Boston team was reportedly great for both the fried chicken and beer sectors in the Hub.
Money helps win championships, but it doesn’t guarantee them. How else do you explain the New York Yankees—with baseball’s highest payroll for the last decade—winning just one World Series during that time?
The Dodgers still have concerns, even as they prepare to overtake the Bronx Bombers as baseball’s biggest spenders. Zach Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu give Los Angeles an embarrassment of riches in the starting rotation.
But the lineup still centers around two guys coming off major surgery in Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford and two guys in Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier who, well, have inconsistency down to a science.
Toronto added Buehrle, Josh Johnson and R.A. Dickey to its rotation, but Jose Bautista—the bat that stirs the Blue Jay lineup—played in only six games after the All-Star break and wrist injuries can be tricky, at best.
So, no, let’s not print those postseason tickets just yet. With spring training’s arrival, there’s plenty of time to see how it all plays out.