Watching the Rockies and the Rays make the World Series in consecutive seasons has been thrilling for me. As a fan, these teams seem to enjoy winning more because with every victory they are defying the odds by achieving something that no one, outside of the team, thought was humanly possible. In this era of big spending and outrageous contracts, the Rockies and Rays became competitive out of nowhere thanks to player development and shrewd trades. That's the only way for small/mid market teams to compete against the Yankees, Red Sox, and Mets. A small market team's payroll is between normally between $40-$60 million dollars while a mid market team has a payroll closer to $80 million while the big guys have payrolls well above triple digits with seemingly no end in sight. The success of small market teams is not only refreshing for the fans, but it is refreshing for baseball economics, which are by nature absolutely ridiculous.
The key is too spend money on player development rather than the absurd contracts given to free agents. The only problem is that this process can take a long time because breaking into the majors is hard work and a constant struggle.
Looking ahead to 2009, I can only wonder what small/mid market team will sprint out of nowhere to capture not only my heart, but an entire fan base. No one saw the rise of the Rockies or Rays coming, which made their success even more enjoyable for their respective long suffering fan bases. The odds are stacked against these teams to compete year after year with the big spending teams, but if the Twins and Athletics have taught us anything, it can be done.
So who will be the next small/mid market team to succeed? Your guess is as good as mine. But if I were too guess, I would have to say the Marlins. The NL East is very weak and the Fish have tremendous leadership that knows exactly what its doing. To squeeze 84 wins out of a $20 million dollar payroll is simply fantastic. Hanley Ramirez is obviously a huge plus here. Plus, the Marlins have great offseason trade chips in Dan Uggla, Mike Jacobs, and even Josh Willingham, all of whom can potentially bring back either younger players or pitching in return.
I'd like to see which small/mid market team (payroll less than $80 mil) you all feel has the best chance to win in 2009. Please leave your response in the comment section and explain why!