ST. LOUIS — Major League Baseball's version of the Final Four is set to get underway with the emerging winner of the National and American League best-of-seven Championship Series colliding head on to determine who's crowned king of the Fall Classic. What do the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox have in common?
All four teams have recognizable, bona fide major league talent up and down their lineups, in their starting rotation or coming out of the bullpen. All four teams have aggressive presidents of baseball operations (PBO) and general managers (GM) who, with the blessing of the owner, are responsible for assembling their team's rosters that represent an embarrassment of riches, a veritable Who's Who of All-Stars.
Together, the four make up four of MLB's top 5 clubs and it's no coincidence they're battling for the chance to win this year's World Series.
Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns and vice president/assistant GM Matthew Arnold added outfielders Christian Yelich (the NL's top MVP candidate) and Lorenzo Cain to third baseman Travis Shaw and first baseman Eric Thames at the beginning of the season then added Mike Moustakas, second baseman Jonathan Schoop and veteran Curtis Granderson for the stretch run to the post-season that began with their displacing the Cubs, a 95-win team, as NL Central champs in a winner-take-all tilt for the title.
Dodgers president of baseball operations and general manager Farhan Zaidi can boast of having the likes of third baseman Justin Turner, outfielder Cody Bellinger and superstar shortstop Manny Machado in their lineup while trotting crafty Clayton Kershaw and budding young phenom Buehler Walker to the mound, giving the Men in Blue the most formidable 1-2 punch of starting pitching. Closer Kenley Jansen has shut-down ability.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and general manager Mike Hazen's club won 108 games, the most in the majors after securing the services of slugging outfielder JD Martinez whose presence helped augment the talents of outfielder Mookie Betts and shortstop Xander Bogaerts. The starting rotation trio of Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello is as good as it gets when they're on. The game is basically a lock when closer extraordinaire Craig Kimbrel trots in from beyond the outfield wall with a chance to save a win.
Astros president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow and assistant GM Mike Elias are the defending World Champs and enter the Final Four full of confidence. Why shouldn't they with right fielder George Springer setting the table atop the batting order that includes Jose' Altuve' and All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman? Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel and Gerrit Cole are capable of confounding the best-of-the-best hitting lineups, making them favorites to repeat.
I pointed out just a few commonalities - aggressive front offices, multiple All-Stars, excellent starting pitching, great bullpen - that's in stark contrast to the Cardinals' tandem of president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and general manager Michael Girsch. Those franchises' embarrassment of riches should embarrass the Cardinals whose relative inactivity before the season, at the trade deadline and during the stretch run underscored no sense of urgency whatsoever to make a monumental post-season push. No addition of another middle-of-the-lineup bat to help make up for an injured Marcell Ozuna, to literally take some of the weight off of his shoulder(s).
The front office refused to cut ties and part ways with Brett Cecil, Dominique Leone, and Luke Gregerson, wasting time, money and an opportunity to improve the bullpen and the team's dwindling chances to hold on to a wild-card berth. Instead, Cardinal Nation is hit with this headline: "Wainwright resigns for one year to remain a Cardinal". You've got to be kidding me! Here we go again. The beginning to the end of 2019. Instead of parting ways with the oft-injured Wainwright as well as Michael Wacha who block more deserving, young pitchers, St. Louis has set the tone for yet another series of offseason swings-and-misses instead. Failure to make the playoffs looms for a fourth consecutive year because Mo' and Girsch, those in charge of shaping the Redbird roster, give in to "has beens" instead of turning it over, churning it over to the talent that is major league ready and supplement that decision by signing a superstar, free agent talent bearing the name Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.
If I'm a fan, I don't care about the success of the front office the past decade - I care much more about the failures of the last three years, starting with the most recent because it's no coincidence that the downward trend continues. Keeping Wainwright and Wacha around only serves to underscore that, is laughable and a reason the franchise is 'Bird watching the postseason again from their once proud perch. The Pirates are next in line to leapfrog St. Louis. The Cardinals' organization, the front office in particular, should be embarrassed and Cardinal Nation should be embarrassed by the signal the very notion of re-signing Wainwright, with incentives, sends! It's in stark contrast to baseball's Final Four!