Hey, big spenders: Take a look at LCS
Hey, Bud Selig, this baseball postseason is for you, and for all the hopes and desires you have had since assuming the job of commissioner.
This postseason is about the parity that has been a calling card of your two decades in office.
It is about mid-budget teams having success and big spenders spending unexpected time at home.
And it’s about those Milwaukee Brewers, who came out of your desire to return big-league baseball to your hometown, becoming a poster child for what you would like to think the game can be.
Think about it.
This is the postseason that the fans have claimed to want — complaining so often about being inundated with a national media focus on the Yankees and Red Sox, and more recently Philadelphia: the teams with baseball’s three biggest payrolls in 2011.
By the end of the month baseball could well have its 11th different World Series champion in the last 12 World Series. Boston, which won titles in 2004 and 2007 but didn’t even advance into the postseason this year, is the only team to repeat since 2001.
St. Louis, which won a title in 2006, is the only team among the final four this year to have even won a championship in the last 28 years.
Milwaukee, which hosts the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series on Sunday afternoon, has advanced to the World Series just once since its 1969 creation as the Seattle Pilots — losing to the Cardinals in 1982, when the Brewers still were in the American League.
Detroit, seeking its first World Series championship since 1984, opened the AL Championship Series on Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, against a Rangers team that made its World Series debut a year ago and still is looking for its first title since creation as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961.
Combined, the four remaining postseason participants have made eight World Series appearances since the advent of divisional play in 1969: five by St. Louis and one apiece for the Rangers, Brewers and Tigers.
Think about it.
None of the top 10 payrolls in baseball advanced to the LCS this year.
The Yankees, whose $202.7 million Opening Day payroll towered over everybody else, were eliminated in a Game 5 at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night by a Detroit team that ranked No. 10 in the payroll salaries at $105.7 million, the highest payroll among the four remaining contenders for a world title.
Philadelphia, which ranked third at $173 million, was eliminated Friday night at its home ballpark by the NL wild-card Cardinals, who ranked No. 11 in payroll at $103.4 million.
And Boston, which at $161.8 million ranked No. 3, never even got into the postseason, eliminated in the wild-card battle on the final day of the regular season when Tampa Bay, 29th out of 30 teams in payroll at $41.1 million, earned its third postseason appearance in four years.
Texas had the 13th highest payroll at $92.3 million, and Milwaukee ranked No. 17 at $85.5 million.
Think about it.
Selig can’t admit it, but seeing the Brewers open the NLCS at Miller Park on Sunday afternoon will be a special moment for him.
He may be the man in charge of the game, but it was Selig who, after the Milwaukee Braves left town, put together a group that purchased the one-year-old Seattle Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee in 1970. And it was during his ownership days that he was able to put in place the funding for the construction of Miller Park.
Yes, he had to divest his financial interest in the team, initially turning it over to daughter Wendy, who later sold it to current owner Mark Attanasio. But don’t be naïve about Selig’s commitment to Milwaukee.
He did, after all, only agree to become commissioner when he was given permission to move the commissioner’s office from Manhattan, where Major League Baseball is headquartered, to a Milwaukee high-rise overlooking Lake Michigan.
And what has to provide particular joy for Selig is seeing the Brewers enjoy their success because general manager Doug Melvin has been able to put together an NL Central championship team that is loaded with impact players but not bloated contracts.
Avoiding getting into bidding wars for high-priced free agents, Melvin supplemented a home-grown nucleus built around 2011 All-Stars Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks, plus right-handed starting pitcher Yovanni Gallardo, by packaging top prospects to acquire the men who will start Games 1 and 2 against St. Louis — Zack Greinke from Kansas City and Shaun Marcum from Toronto.
He also picked up shortstop Yuniesky Bentancourt in the Greinke deal, and signed right-handed reliever Takashi Saito to a low-risk contract that has paid big-time dividends.
He found in-season help with the acquisitions of center fielder Nyjer Morgan and long-time closer Francisco Rodriguez, acquired from the Mets and slot into the eighth-inning role in front of closer John Axford.
And he did it all with a payroll 42 percent the size of the Yankees.