July 19, 2011

From the HardBall Times

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Stop laughing, they’re both in first place
Posted by Mat Kovach
Today is, by my calender, July 19. Baseball is 90-plus` games into the season. There were certain phrases that, if said aloud at the start of the season, would have required the speaker to have his mental capacity to be questioned. Only after, of course, the listeners had a chance to compose themselves from a fit of laughter after hearing the phrases.

Phrases such as:

Not only have both the Indians and Pirates won at least 50 games, they are both in first place.

Wait. What?

Not only have both the Indians and Pirates won at least 50 games, they are both in first place.

Now, being somebody that offered up the Indians winning the World Series after making the playoffs by winning the AL Central, I am completely surprised.

Who knew the Pirates had this in them?

Yet at the same time, it makes complete sense.

Both Central divisions offer up teams with certain flaws. The main flaw in teams that are spending money to win "now’’ is a lack of talent depth. This weakness manifests itself the most when high-dollar players do not match their expectations.

Teams like the Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Brewers, and Cardinals are now on the higher end of the payroll spectrum. In acquiring their talent and expensive rosters they have left the farm systems' cupboards a bit bare or too far away from contributing now, which is completely silly, since they want to win now. If you want to win now, you should have as much talent as possible available now.

They have rolled the dice to win now and can only do it if they perform well. They all have a few too many bits that are performing well with limited ability to improve.

The Pirates and Indians have spent a few years filling up their cupboards with a large collection of various types of talent. Perhaps both systems do not have a large accumulation of superstars, but they do have a good number of above-average players. They have enough talent to keep throwing things together and seeing what sticks.

Just look, and only with a quick glance since it is quite terrifying, at the Indians outfield. Both Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo are presently out and only sporadically contributed when they did play. Yet somehow, they keep finding somebody to contribute. Surprisingly, the Pirates seem to be on a very similar run.

Now comes the big questions. Does the front office of each team work to barter a few of the bits they have in the cupboard for the exact type of players that have let their divisional opponents down this year? Do they stand pat with an approach* that turned the phrase, “Indians and Pirates in first place” from a punch line to a July 19 reality?

*Irony alert: Neal Huntington, the Pirates GM, came to the Pirates from the Indians. So, it makes sense the teams might act in the same way. But really, I'm flabbergasted that things are working out so swimmingly right now.

Indians fan, member of the Duane Kuiper Fan Club, Spitball Researcher, Contact me on twitter, @siddfinch, via email or avian carrier

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