Scout’s corner: Super teams or superstars?
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
Make no mistake about that. In no way is this article looking to dismiss this basic fact.
We all know that the teams moving on to the postseason in October are loaded with talent. The 2021 season was back to 162 games, not the pandemic-shortened 60-game sprint of ’20. For those who punched their playoff ticket, there was no “super system” or “secret sauce” blended together that bakes into a winner over the long haul. They grinded it out, and overcame the hurdles that repeatedly come up over six months.
Still, there are plenty of teams loaded with star talent that underperform, and will be going home after the regular season concludes on Sunday. When the MLB playoffs begin next week, star-filled teams like the New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies, to name a few, will not be present. They were among the disappointments of ’21.
Their ownership and front offices will be addressing what went wrong, before moving forward on how to build back better in 2022.
The Miami Marlins will be among those going back to the drawing board.
Miami has some exciting, young players. Yet, there is plenty of work ahead. Some hard decisions must be made regarding how close the club really is to being a serious contender, and how much urgency will be placed on winning in 2022?
The Tampa Bay Rays, on the other hand, will be march on into October. Winners of the American League East for the second straight year, the Rays have the best record in the American League. They proved they can hold over 162 games. Remember, they lost in the 2020 World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Marlins, meanwhile, went to the second round of the 2020 playoffs, but now have fallen back to a 90-plus loss team in full season.
With the offseason about to begin for many clubs, here at ManOn2nd, we address a basic question. Which is the best course to build a winner?
Former big league scout Bob Johnson, who has four decades of professional experience, offered his thoughts. Johnson is a special contributor to MO2.
Johnson noted there is a difference in “developing teams” compared to trying to win with stars.
“Do teams need stars? Yes,” Johnson said. “They need somebody to attract the fans, so on and so forth. Stars have the big egos. But when you put that many egos in the room, it’s poison to the room. But if you develop a team of good role players [you have the Rays]. That’s why a few years ago when I was with the Mets, I wanted to get Jeff Conine so badly. Because Jeff Conine was a good team guy.”
Conine needs no introduction to Marlins’ fans. Mr. Marlin himself was a key contributor to the organization’s two World Series titles — 1997 and 2003.
“A role player who is pretty good on a team, who makes a team better,” Johnson said.
Chris Taylor of the Dodgers is another who fits that description.
“Chris Taylor,” Johnson said. “He’s absolutely that player.”
The Rays’ success is bred throughout their organization. Along with having the best record in the American League, the Rays’ farm system boasts best records and championships at their Triple-A, High A, low-A and complex levels.
“They put together teams, not individual players,” Johnson said. “San Diego tried to go the other route. They tried to get a whole bunch of stars. Well, that doesn’t work.”
As talented as the Padres are, they remarkably enter the final weekend of the regular season with a 78-81 record.
“You have to have a team,” Johnson said.
The Yankees seem to have found a balance. They are loaded with superstars, and have a strong team. However, with all their resources, they fell short of the Rays in the A.L. East. They likely will reach the playoffs as a Wild Card.
A club like the Marlins, obviously, has many holes to fill. They need impact hitters, regardless of position. But on their current roster, center field and catcher are the most obvious.
In the offseason, the front office must decide which path they want to follow. Do they want to get into the market of top-tier pending free agents, like Astros’ shortstop Carlos Correa? The answer is probably no. Do they need to trade some starting pitching, even though their so-called surplus is thinned due to some injuries? Do they seek trades, in general, to make upgrades?
MO2 is pushing for Miami to sign South Florida native, slugger Nick Castellanos of the Reds. A corner outfielder, Castellanos is expected to opt-out of his existing contract, and become a free agent. His price tag will be high, but not likely in the Correa category.
Everything should be on the table for the Marlins. They really need to focus on the best player or players they can acquire via free agency or trades. No position player on the current roster should feel completely safe.
If the Marlins do open up and spend, and they land a “star” player, what should we expect? Key will be if that player is the right fit, on the field and in the clubhouse, to build around.
A decade ago, the Marlins made big splash free agent signings, acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. That 2012 team went 69-93, and was dismantled the following year.