I've watched just about every game of this post season, and the one thing I never hear mentioned by the announcers is how did these teams get built. Sure Moreland is the first baseman, but how did this unheralded rookie end up manning 1st base for the World Series bound Texas Rangers? Then again I spend a good amount of the time watching these games on mute so it is possible I've just missed this part of the incredible information that TBS or Fox impart upon us, usually through insipid sideline reporting.
So maybe you've heard this before, maybe not, but here goes.
1st Base Rangers - Chris Davis was supposed to the answer at 1st base, and if he wasn't the answer then Justin Smoak was ready to take the reins of the job that was expected to be his ever since he was drafted with the 11th pick of the 2008 draft. Chris Davis was only 22 years old when he hit the major leagues with a big bang in 2008, hitting 17 home runs in only 317 at batting posting a robust .547 slug%. The future looked bright for Davis if you looked past the 88 K's. So in 2009 the job was handed to Davis but he fumbled it striking out 150 times in less then 400 at bats. He still hit his home runs but not enough to hold the job. In 2010 he was given two chances. His first chance came at the beginning of the season but he was awful, hitting just .188 through April 22nd. Meanwhile Justin Smoak was smoking in AAA so they switched jobs. Smoak was not much better hitting only .209 in 275 at bats. When Texas needed an ace they sent their top hitting prospect Justin Smoak to the Mariners for Cliff Lee and stuck Chris Davis back at 1st base. This was Chris Davis's final putt to make par, and it didn't go in. From July 9th - July 28th he was the regular 1st baseman, but again could not get his average above .200, and worse he didn't hit one home run. With no other choice the Rangers turned to 24 year old Mitch Moreland, an after thought in the 2007 draft, when he was picked in the 17th round. Moreland however had done nothing but hit since being drafted, and was up to the task. From July 29th through the end of the year Moreland was the number one 1st baseman against RHP, and he delivered a solid .833 OPS, showing excellent plate discipline and just enough power to make the pitchers pay if they hit the strike zone. Mitch Moreland's success after the debacle at bats from Davis and Smoak is one of the biggest surprises of the 2010 season. To handle LHP, the Rangers traded for Jorge Cantu, but the man who put up a .923 OPS for the Marlins in April did nothing for the Rangers. He was so bad against LHP that in the end Moreland was even getting those at bats.
1st Base Giants - You could argue that Aubrey Huff was the best free agent signing of 2010. For only 3 Million the Giants replaced a huge hole with a bonafide slugger. Huff had hit in the past but his heyday was 2002 - 2004, and steroid rumors plagued him considering how far he dropped off from 2004 to 2007. However he put some of the that to rest when he bounced back with a big year for the Orioles in 2008. In 2010 Huff put up an OPS+ of 138, his second best OPS+ of his career. I remember reading where Huff's right field power would die with the Giants but the experts were wrong, the power didn't die, it exploded. If you have been watching the playoffs you almost might have noticed just how well Huff hangs in against LHP. Having watched Loney and Andre basically give up every at bat this year against LHP, I just figured every left handed hitter was a pussy against LHP. Uh, no. Huff hits lefties hard. Very hard.
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2nd Base Rangers - Ian Kinsler was a 17th round pick of the Rangers back in 2003. Quick name me one other team that has two 17th round picks manning the right side of the infield? Or two in the same lineup? Beats me but I doubt if anyone is doing that. Kinsler flew through the system and was the starting 2nd baseman by 2006. When healthy he's as good as Robinson Cano. Kinsler's only problem is staying healthy, and he had trouble doing that in 2010. However he learned some new tricks in 2010. Known mostly as a home run hitting 2nd baseman he lost some power in 2010 but gained more back with his new found patience, as he jumped his walk rate to 13% netting him a .380 OB%.
2nd Base Giants - I don't even have to hit the reference material to talk about Freddie Sanchez. He was the star of Burbank at Burbank HS , the smallish kid was a freak during his high school run. According to my niece who went to high school with him, he was also a very cool kid who didn't have attitude to go along with his success. He eventually was a 11th round pick by the Boston Red Sox, a cause for much celebration in the Gurnee household being that my nieces dad and thus my niece were huge Red Sox fans. The Giants picked up Freddie in 2009 when they traded once heralded prospect Tim Alderson for him. Then signed him to a two year deal worth 12 Million. He was not much use in 2009 due to injuries, but in 2010 he did a solid job for the Giants, posting a 98 OPS+. His .342 OB% was the highest since his mostly forgotten 2006 season when he lead the league in hitting with a .344 average.
SS Rangers - Elvis Andrus is a magician with the glove, but the trade that brought him to the Rangers was the greatest trick in the book. With Mark Teixeira needing to be traded in 2007 Jon Daniels the Ranger GM was known for having traded Adrian Gonzalez / Chris Young for crap then for anything good he'd ever done. He needed a win when he traded Teixeira or his franchise would be in trouble. To get this win he needed a trading partner and lucky for Daniels the Braves thought they had a good team who could get to the World Series if they added a slugging first baseman. The Braves also had a loaded farm system which was the perfect match. I consider this the greatest trade of the 21st century.
Why do I consider this trade so great? Because Jarrod Saltalamacchia was the centerpiece of the deal. The Ranger scouts failed on the keystone but nailed the others. Heck even if Jarrod was a failure based on expectations he was still a starting catcher. The Rangers got a starting catcher, a starting SS, a starting pitcher, and a bullpen guy with the best arm in baseball. Okay, now that I look at it, not the greatest traded of the 21st century. Hell we all know that was the Smoak for Lee deal, don't we:)
SS Giants - Juan Uribe are you kidding me. Juan Uribe was 28 years old in 2009 when Sabean signed him as a free agent. His OPS the previous three years were .698, .678, .682. He sucked. He became a Giant too basically handle the utility gig, he ended with an OPS in 2009 of .824, and while he fell a bit in 2010, he came alive in Sept posting his best OPS of the season. Another 3 Million dollar Free Agent deal. For just over 10 Million the Giants had a 1st/2nd/SS. Of course not everything is roses. The Giants had signed Renteria to be their starting SS by giving him a 18.5 two year deal in 2009. It was a terrible deal, but no one cares because Uribe picked up the slack. Renteria was hurt most of 2010 after having a dismal 2009 season.
3rd Rangers - Mike Young was drafted in the fifth round of the 1997 draft by the Blue Jays. Then they traded him on July 19th for one Estaban Loaiza. From then on Young was a fixture at SS for the Rangers until Andrus showed up.
Then unlike one John Valentin, Young moved to 3rd base without grumbling Originally Mike Young requested a trade but the Rangers were unable to move his large contract and in the end he became the 3rd baseman, and viola, the Rangers had a left side of the infield that was the envy of the American League. Young could always hit, mixing in two great years with many solid years.
3rd Giants - Pablo Sandoval was the find of 2008, the converted catcher destroyed NL pitching for 1 1/2 seasons and looked to be the heir apparent to Vlady as the best bad ball hitting player in baseball. However something changed and in 2010 Sandoval stopped hitting on April 28th, 2010 (my 20th wedding anniversary). He was hitting .373 at that point, by the end of the year he was hitting .268. This is what he did from April 29th until the end of the year. Pablo was signed as a free agent out of Venezuela.
C Rangers - No story is getting more play then the Bengie Molina story and the fact he will win a ring no matter who win this World Series. Everyone already knows this story, so we will skip it for brevity. Since I expect hardly anyone has even gotten this far.
C Giants - Buster Posey was the fifth pick in the 2008 draft and has been destined for greatness ever since. You get players like Posey by being so bad you get to draft fifth. When fans ask why we don't have a Posey the answer is simple. You don't want to be the team who was so bad they were drafting fifth. A year ago there was rumblings that he couldn't catch, well those seem to have been put to rest. After seeing how much Matt Weiters was hyped and how much he underwhelmed I will say I did not buy into the Posey hype. So far however he's been even better then advertised. That said he sucked against the Phillies.
RF Rangers - Nelson Cruz is proof enough that Billy Beane is not a magic man. He's made some bad deals but none may have been worse then trading Nelson Cruz for Keith Ginter in 2004. It took a while for Cruz to make his mark but anyone who has watched him this post season has to be impressed with the player. When Cruz was traded to the Brewers it was a small trade, it took a blockbuster to get him to Texas. Quite a deal when you look at it:
RF Giants - The Giants tried everyone from John Bowker to Nate Schierholz to Jose Guillen but none of them fit the bell until Cody Ross showed up just in the nick of time. The previous three all under performed expectations, so Sabean went to the well one more time and acquired Ross on waivers August 22nd. Ross had been a consistent outfielder for the Marlins ever since they stole him from the Reds who stole him from the Dodgers. A career 104 OPS+ while only earning 7 Million during his 2222 plate appearances. The deuces are wild indeed.
CF Rangers - Josh Hamilton is a frigging folk hero, so by now I expect everyone knows his story. If not, you will by the end of the World Series as I'm sure his addiction well be gone over like a fine picked comb. For the record Hamilton was the Number One Pick of 1999 by the Rays, had a slight problem with drugs/alcohol, recovered to late for the Rays to get any benefit, and was picked up in the 2006 Rule Five draft by the CUBS, who then do what Cubs do, and traded him to the Reds. The Reds got a good year out of a guy who had not played baseball for a while, but needed pitching so they traded him to the Rangers in 2008 for Edinson Volquez. I'm impressed with how he kicked his addictions for the time being but the reason Josh Hamilton is one of my favorite players is because of how he plays the game.
CF Giants - Torres was drafted in the fourth round of the 1998 draft. By the age of 27 his major league career appeared over as he hit .141 for the Texas Rangers. That was 2005. After having played in 89 major league games, he would not see the major leagues again for three bloody years. At age 31 he resurfaces again when the Giants signed him as a NRI in 2009. He made the team in 2009 out of camp but was sent down until late May when he got the call again. Since then he has done nothing but play one of the best centerfields in the NL. This is incredible. Even with a huge slump in Sept that saw his OPS drop 40 points he still ended up with a .823 OPS for the season. A freebie by Sabean. Just like Ross. In fact as you will see the starting outfield of Ross/Torres/Burrel is making peanuts. You may not be impressed with the names but that is the starting outfield for the 2010 NL Champions.
LF Rangers - David Murphy gets alot of time here, he was the number one pick of the Red Sox (17th pick) back in 2003 and then the Red Sox dealt him and Engel Beltre (another nice prospect) for the right to watch Eric Gagne suck in 2007. Murphy is not great, kind of like Cody Ross but he hits enough. Julio Borbon was the starting CF at the start of the year but when he failed, this is the outfield you see most of the time.FYI Ned, a Murphy/Ross platoon might make for a killer LF.
LF Giants - Pat Burrell was a much ballyhooed number one pick in the country in 1998. If you got this far you will notice that the number one pick of 1999 is playing against the number one pick of 1998 and both are on their third team. Burrell did his gig with Phillies then signed a two year deal with the Rays that many considered a good deal (2/16). The many were wrong as Burrell was so putrid that the Rays released him when he couldn't get his OPS above .700. The Giants nabbed him for nothing since the Rays are paying his salary and of course he then proceeded to give the Giants the offense the Rays had been paying for. For the record I totally despise players in any sport who fail for the team who gave them the large contract, get released, sign for the minimum, then deliver. Asswipes.
DH Rangers - Big Daddy Vlady has always been one of my favorite hitters. Vlady may leave behind a trail of bad swings during the post season but is anyone more fun to watch hit? Any Angel fan could tell you that Vlady destroyed the Rangers, so when his agent picked Texas as Vlady's home in 2010, you expected good things to happen. So for the mere price of 6.5 Million the Rangers added the potent DH bat they had been seeking for years. For a guy with the rep of not hitting in the postseason this link says not so fast.
That is how you build a World Series Team.
Draft - Moreland, Kinsler, Posey
Trades - Andrus, Young, Molina, Hamilton, Cruz, Murphy
Free Agents - Vlady, Huff, Uribe, Sanchez, Torres
International Signings - Sandoval
Waiver Wire - Burrell, Ross