MLB teams with either long-term or recent championship success have two distinct directions to take their franchises in the off-season.
They can build on their success by aggressively analyzing and re-purposing their team to for continued success, or they can sit back and spend the capital they earned as former champions.
When the Yankees signed Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka to a seven year $155 million contract it capped a redirection of major proportions for a team historically dedicated to winning. In recent months New York spent $438 million on Tanaka, Carlos Beltran ($45m/3 years), Brian McCann ($85m/5 years), and Jacoby Ellsbury ($153m/7 years).
The moves the Yankees have made do not guarantee a first place finish and post season success– but they certainly demonstrate ownership's commitment to winning and their dedication to achieve future championships.
As far as spending $438 million, many other successful teams have shown that you don't need to spend anywhere near that much to achieve success. But you do have to commit some significant amount of money and resources to get the job done.
The San Francisco Giants organization has obviously decided to take the other road. The direction they have chosen is all about looking back and cashing in the good will and capital earned from their 2010 and 2012 Series Championships.
After their disastrous 2013 season the Giants continued a policy of adding a series of inexpensive player reclamation projects, pretending they were doing everything they could to construct a roster geared for post season baseball. Instead of signing quality players who would actually drive the team to the 2014 playoffs.
The evidence of this permeates everything the team's front office and PR people have been putting out since the Giants 3rd place finish in the NL West last season.
Here are the current storylines the San Francisco Giants are using as a substitute for actually building a championship team:
> Promoting a "hey, anything can happen" philosophy the organization hopes fans will happily adopt, instead of wondering why the team didn't carefully analyze their needs and rebuild for success. The idea is to pretend that performing well, winning baseball games, and making the post season is a crap shoot that any team might pull off.
So why do all that work and spend all that money on quality players?
> Hoping fans and the media buy into watching a half dozen flawed players attempt to make a comeback, instead of fielding proven quality players who fill the specific roles that make up a winning team. Pushing that lame story angle has saved the ownership group a lot of money.
> More and more you hear the San Francisco's front office referencing their 2010 and 2012 World Series Championships, using up what they've banked to convince the fanbase they are still relevant.
For the Giants, looking back has become the official substitute for winning forward.
You'll often hear Manager Bruce Bochy or GM Brian Sabean say something to the effect of "Hey, if [pick one: Tim Lincecum/ Michael Morse/Ryan Vogelsong/Tim Hudson/Pablo Sandoval/Angel Pagan/Marco Scutaro, etc.] can repeat what he did in [pick a year, probably two or three years ago] then this team will be successful."
And how often have we heard the tired, "We're hoping we can catch lightning-in-a-bottle with [name virtually any current player] this season."
Hoping, crossing your fingers, pretending that fielding a winning team is a random crapshoot. Tell that to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Boston Red Sox, the Oakland As and five or six other quality franchises in baseball who have made an art out of crafting playoff teams year after year.
San Francisco's pattern is not new, but it certainly is disappointing for a team that has the resources, but apparently not the will or the creativity, to be potential champions every year. And it's truly depressing for their dedicated fans who deserve much better.