Getting to five hundred was hard too
To add something to Dave’s post on why the M’s approach this off-season will look different as involves different trade-offs, there’s something we should briefly touch on:
What just happened with the team is not common or easy. If we remember back to the start of this off-season, it’s obvious: all we really wanted is some forward progress. We should be overjoyed we got more than that. But there’s this perception that the first part of this, the rebound to respectability, is an easy first step, and sometimes it’s easier the worse the team did. It’s not, and it’s not. We should be heartened that the front office made it look like that.
Even excepting teams that are woefully underfunded by their ownership, look at how many teams stink and stink for long periods of time. The Pirates haven’t been over .500 since 1992, new stadium and all. The Orioles play in a tough division (but so do the M’s) and have a ton of cash, they haven’t been over .500 since 1997. Since 1996 (all the full-seasons post strike/lock-out), a quick rundown of teams who reached the depths the 2008 Mariners did:
Baltimore: bottomed out in 2001 at 63, then won 67, 71, 78… still haven’t made it to .500
Detroit won 53 (!) games in 1996, got to 79 the next year (+26) and then won 65, 69,79,65,69,79,66,55,43(!), 72 (+29!), 71, and finally 95 in 2006. And they had money.
The Royals have had 2008 Mariner-like win totals repeatedly and only once bounced back in 03, and immediately fell back.
The Twins won 63 in 1999, improved a little the next year and then won 85 in 2001.
Oakland won 65 in 1997 and steadily improved each year to their 103-win peak in 2002.
Tampa won 63 games or less five times and only turned it around in 2008.
Or just to take an example from our own recent history: the M’s won 63 games in 2004, and only improved 6 games the next year and 9 games the year after that.
If it’s so easy, why couldn’t the last bunch of guys do it? Why can’t various rotating crews of people, under cash constraints or not, do it? Why does it happen so infrequently?
Because it’s hard. Getting to .500 is hard. Building a championship team may be harder, and it certainly involves different tradeoffs. But last year’s roster rebuild was a huge victory, and one that we should value accordingly. Other franchises, you can be sure, wish they had had such success.