Giants and Cardinals are cream of the crop

Bernie Miklasz and I had a discussion last week during the NLCS about the two best organizations in Major League Baseball, and we both agreed that the Cardinals and the Giants are the models for how a team should be run.

Both franchises have great fan bases, great ownership, creative general managers, and great farm systems. And, it’s no coincidence, that both win consistently. In the last ten years, three franchises have won two World Series titles, the Red Sox (2004 and 2007), the Cardinals (2006 and 2011) and the Giants (2010 and 2012).

The Red Sox essentially purchased their first title, buying Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez. They tried to buy quality when they spent $100 million on Dice-K Matsuzaka, $142 million on Carl Crawford, $154 million on Adrian Gonzalez and $82.5 million on John Lackey. But, they found out that all of that money didn’t necessarily mean they had quality. Boston has promoted some really good players from their system, like Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, but we could never say they won with a core that came from within.

The Cardinals traded for or signed most of their 2006 team. Reggie Sanders, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, David Eckstein, Ronnie Belliard, Chris Carpenter, Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver, Jason Isringhausen and Jason Marquis all came as budget free agents or in trades.

That all changed by 2011, when the Cardinals featured most of a lineup that made their major league debuts in a Cardinal jersey. John Jay, David Freese, Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia and Allen Craig…along with most of a strong armed bullpen, came from the system. That home grown youth allowed the Cardinals to spend big money on imports like Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and Rafael Furcal, and the Cardinals won their eleventh World Series last year.

This year’s Giants are pretty similar. While the only two regulars from the 2010 championship still playing with San Francisco were Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey, those two are the most prominent players on the team. While they were the only two home grown regular position players in 2010 (Jose Uribe and Edgar Renteria shared shortstop, Freddie Sanchez played second, and the outfield consisted of Pat Burrell, Andres Torres and Cody Ross), the 2012 edition showed an evolution toward the system. The Giants allowed young Brandon Crawford to take over at short, they got good quality out of short term investments like Melky Cabrera, Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan, and made big deadline moves to get Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence.

The Giants’ core…their pitching…is home grown. Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Tim Lincecum and injured closer Brian Wilson all came through their system.

The best way to win in 2012 is to bring productive young players to the major leagues, and then to be smart enough to supplement them with quality investments at opportune times. The Giants proved that with their sweep of the Tigers, who spend hundreds of millions of dollars on Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Jose Valverde and the injured Victor Martinez to make their trip to the Series.

The Red Sox have fallen by the wayside because they got away from their system being their foundation, and simply threw money at organizational problems. Eventually, it caught up with them.

The Giants are World Champions for the second time in three years, so their plan speaks for itself.

The Cardinals can look ahead to a lineup in 2014 that will be almost exclusively home grown. Jay, Freese, Craig and Molina should join Matt Holliday. Youngsters Oscar Tavares (in right field), Kolten Wong (at 2nd) and perhaps Ryan Jackson at shortstop will fill it out.

The Redbirds also have their well-chronicled bevy of power arms to help out. In some way, shape or form, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha should join a group that has Wainwright, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs and perhaps Garcia as a foundation.

The way to experience sustained winning in baseball is to develop players, especially pitchers, and then fill in around them. The Cardinals and Giants have proven that. It will interesting to see how many teams copy their lead and try to build the right way.