Brains or Money?

Is it money or is it brains that wins World Series titles? I say you can’t do it without brains, and money certainly gives teams a better opportunity. But the Giants proved that making shrewd personnel decisions must be a part of the formula. Just throwing money at the biggest star free agents every winter will not guarantee you anything.

The Giants built a terrific pitching staff. And they did it through the draft, primarily. They didn’t miss on draft picks. Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner and catcher Buster Posey were all high draft picks that the Giants signed and developed. All have produced. Unless you’re really smart with free agents AND you have deep pockets, you can’t afford to whiff on high draft picks.

But just because the Rangers and Giants met in the World Series, let’s not pretend that baseball doesn’t have an economic problem. The playing field is not level. Under the current system, the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets and Dodgers will go into spring training every year believing they have the players to contend. Few franchises have that luxury. The Rays built a fine pitching staff with young talent and, like the Giants, hit on several top draft picks. But they can’t afford to keep stars like Carl Crawford and Carolos Peña. So the Rays, who won the AL East this season, will likely take a step back to begin retooling with more affordable players. The Yankees and Red Sox aren’t forced by finances to retool. They can always afford to try to win THIS year.

But watching the White Sox and Astros in the World Series (2005), the Rays in 2008 and the Giants and Rangers over the past week, makes you feel like the conditions are improving. When the Pirates and Royals meet in the Fall Classic in back-to-back seasons, we’ll know we have found equality. But the Rays, Giants and Rangers have taught us that smart personnel moves can trump expensive power plays.

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