The Los Angeles Dodgers' great success was built on intelligent and plentiful use of an incredible farm system. That system not only brought them 10 trips to the World Series -- five of which they won -- but it also brought them 12 rookies of the year (including a record five in a row from '92 to '96) and even trained up one of their managers, who was promoted along with a number of his players from the Dodgers' AAA affiliate. The Dodgers' storied success might have continued had the O'Malleys not sold out -- sorry, sold the team -- to Rupert Murdoch. Not coincidentally, the 1998 sale of one of baseball's greatest teams effectively ended reliance on the farm. And the Dodgers haven't won a pennant, let alone a World Series, since 1988. It's reasonable to argue that the demise of the once-great Dodger farm system is directly related to the fading glory of Dodger Blue.
Meanwhile, back in the Bronx, the Bombers embraced free agency like teenagers at the high school prom. Since 1976, the Yankees have been to the World Series 10 times, winning it six times. Including back-to-back wins over the Dodgers and their vaunted farm system in '77 and '78.
All this to say that building a great farm system is a wonderful thing, if you can keep your players. But free agency being what it is, the odds are good that when your best product is ready to test the market, the teams with the deep pockets will doubtlessly reap the fruit of your prospect's best years anyway.
Cynical? Maybe, but definitely real.
Which brings me to the Angels' trade of one of their best, most-fun-to-watch home-grown prospects in a long time -- Casey Kotchman -- for a former Ranger and established future free agent whom I loved to watch: Mark Teixeira.
The Angels are giving up a tremendous young first baseman who has spent 4-1/2 years with the club, putting up decent numbers, including a "lifetime" .274 average, an average of just over 6 home runs a year, and about 60 hits a year. To be fair, Kotchman only had one full season with the Halos -- last year -- and his numbers were significantly better than the career numbers, with a .296 average, 131 hits, and 12 home runs.
And what are they getting in return? Teixeira is a career .286 hitter who has averaged 34 home runs in his 5-1/2 seasons, with an average of better than 150 hits a year. Oh yeah -- and he's barely three years older than Kotchman. Arguably, he still hasn't hit his prime.
How could an Angel fan not be dilerious about this?
There's no down side. If the Angels can sign Teixeira to a long-term contract after he becomes a free agent, they've got another offensive piece to a puzzle that looks pretty complete from a pitching-and-defense perspective.
And what if anything happens to Teixeira? You need to understand that Angel fans HAVE to ask the hypothetical. The team's history is loaded with bizzarre tragedy: Lyman Bostock. Donnie Moore. Bobby Rose. And, sadly many more.
So at the risk of appearing overly pessimistic, let's explore that question. They've got Robb Quinlan, who at 31 years of age is a career .287 hitter who's hit fewer home runs in his career than Teixeira hit last year. But then they also have an impressive and exciting young man from Cuba, Kendry Morales, playing first base in Salt Lake, their AAA affiliate, who's hitting .310 and has nine homers this season. So they have a man in the pipeline who looks pretty good, too.
But Teixeira is a jewel. Interestingly, he spent the same amount of time with the Rangers as Kotchman spent with the Angels, but he made much better use of his 4-1/2 years. Angel fans have to be excited to see him come to Anaheim.
I sure am.