'Superpowers Club' expands with spending
Tigers, Angels, Rangers, Marlins join in on big-money signings
By Lyle Spencer | MLB.com Columnist | Archive 01/25/12 10:00 AM EST
The Superpowers Club seems to be expanding its membership by the day.
Step right in, Detroit, and kindly accept your gold key with all of its privileges. No need for introductions. Everyone inside is keenly aware of Motown's credentials now.
What was widely viewed as an exclusive enclave as recently as, oh, a year ago, suddenly has grown considerably. A winter free-agent spending spree spreading from South Florida to Southern California to Texas to Michigan will do that.
The newly-anointed Miami Marlins stole the early headlines in signing Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle. A tantalizing National League East entree, heavy on the salsa, could be on the menu in their sparkling new ballpark.
While they were still celebrating in South Beach, the Angels, known for their stealth, reached deep into the vault to land Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. The best player in the game and the ace of the staff of your primary competitor -- has a team ever had a more exhilarating day not involving a champagne celebration?
Soon, news arrived of the Rangers' equally stunning (and expensive) move on Japanese import Yu Darvish. If the smooth young right-hander is as good as club president Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels believe he is, Darvish gives the Texas rotation depth without equal to go with a loaded lineup and deep bullpen.
And now we have the already formidable Tigers pairing Prince Fielder with Miguel Cabrera to create a potentially devastating attack in support of American League Most Valuable Player Justin Verlander.
In a word: wow.
The dollars that are being invested in all of this prime-time talent, fueled in large part by fresh regional media millions, are staggering.
This brand of high finance makes no sense to those of us residing in the real world. It is best, for sanity's sake, not to dwell on that aspect of it and go straight to the baseball side of things.
That's where all the fun is.
The Major League landscape suddenly has acquired some James Bond-esque intrigue, practically overnight. Our old perceptions about the natural order of things are in need of rebooting.
Wasn't it just yesterday -- or a week ago -- that everyone was complaining about how the Yankees and Red Sox were able to just go out and buy any player they wanted, creating a ridiculously uneven playing field?
Then the Phillies moved boldly forward, assembling a pitching staff for the ages to complement quality athletes on the field. The Superpowers Club cracked open its door, unaware of what was coming.
The big three appeared to be operating on a different plane, tilting toward the densely populated East. The rest of the country expressed understandable resentment.
The Central and West divisions, while intensely competitive in their own way, were a notch or three below the superpowers in terms of spending power.
The winter following a fantastic postseason has changed all that, dramatically.
On the heels of the Marlins, Angels and Rangers swinging for the financial fences with bravado, the Tigers have united Fielder with Cabrera. That's a destructive duo certain to create migraines for pitchers.
First base on the American League All-Star roster, with Pujols and Fielder having switched leagues, and Adrian Gonzalez having done so a year ago, is getting preposterously deep.
Looming on the horizon, waiting for new management to pump life and millions into their roster, are the Dodgers. Expect ownership to make major additions as soon as possible, perhaps as soon as the July non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Similarly, the Cubs have brought in a whole new front office, led by Theo Epstein, to straighten out a mess decades in the making. Those North Side computers are humming into the wee hours.
This might be a good time to mention the past two World Series champions: San Francisco and St. Louis.
What the Giants and Cardinals did, resoundingly, is deliver reminders that money doesn't buy October happiness.
Massive payrolls have been known to unravel on the field, taken down by less-expensive outfits that get on a roll and rock their way to the finish line.
The only thing securing high-profile talent guarantees is the elevation of expectations. And we all know what that can bring: disappointment accompanied by finger pointing.
Generally, the digit is directed at the manager, even if he's done more for his franchise than anyone who's ever sat in his chair. Case in point: Boston. Adios, Terry Francona. Hello -- and good luck -- Bobby Valentine.
It is worth noting that the Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies have not made blockbuster free-agent splashes, apart from Philly nabbing Jonathan Papelbon, Boston's understated closer.
The relative inaction by the big boys can be traced at least in part to the new Basic Agreement and a luxury tax that everyone wants to avoid. If that has helped to create a larger crowd at the top of the power structure, wonderful.
The more the merrier.
Where it's all headed remains to be seen, of course. We know that money doesn't always talk in this sport. But the emergence of new powerhouses sure beats three against 27, competitively speaking.
The door to the Superpowers Club is unlocked. That's a very good thing.