I wanted to post a portion of a column that Bill Simmons wrote the other day after the Boston Red Sox won the world series. It touches on how franchises with large budgets should spend their money and how they have gone about it in the past. He makes a point that I never really thought about:
Not only are the people running professional sports teams getting smarter and smarter, but some franchises with deep pockets have figured out it's better to funnel that money into development and scouting instead of just overpaying veterans for splashy, "quick-fix" signings. After the NBA Draft in June, a friend who works for another team fretted that Portland had finally figured out how to spend Paul Allen's money: Instead of handing out lavish extensions to the likes of Darius Miles and Zach Randolph, the Blazers started buying extra first-round picks and even stashing prospects in Europe, with the long-term goal to maintain financial flexibility, build around young stars (Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden) and stockpile as many assets as possible. My friend was petrified of a Portland resurgence, pointing out it's one thing to have a significant financial advantage; it's another thing to know what you're doing with that significant financial advantage.
In the old days, big-market teams spent money like rappers happily spending record royalties, especially in baseball, where ludicrous contracts have been handed out for 31 years and counting (Barry Zito for $126 million???). Even if Boston GM Theo Epstein has a mixed record with free-agent signings (and that's being kind), his overall mindset hasn't wavered since 2003: build up the farm system, build up scouting, don't give away younger assets unless you're getting a blue-chipper back (such as Beckett), don't mortgage the future for one season. You can't argue with the 2007 results or the long-term outlook. I grew up watching Boston teams that threw money at the wrong guys, traded the wrong guys and never seemed to have more than a few blue-chipper prospects per decade. The only other time in my life when the Sox had a perfect blend of young guys and older guys was 1975 -- the World Series team that featured Freddie Lynn, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk and Luis Tiant -- and the front office botched that situation within a few discouraging years.