Conventional thought in modern sports would tell you that there are a few ways to build a successful baseball team.
Thatís because, with the abscence of a salary cap and a draft lottery in Major League Baseball there are two prevailing ways that have proven to work time and again since the turn of the century.
First, you can build the best team money can buy. This theory works by grabbing all of the best free agents by paying more money than the rest of the league. It was most successfully used by the Yankees of the 2000s, and this yearís Los Angeles Dodgers have ridden a similar strategy to the World Series.
You can also do the exact opposite. Strip the team down to the studs, lose a lot and draft the best young players to fill your team with affordable talent. By the time those players hit their primes, youíre a winning team set up for the future. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series with that strategy last year and the Houston Astros won 101 games this season after losing 111 just four years ago.
Those are the two most common ways of building a winning team. Win from the front or tank and win from behind. The worst place to be in all of sports is at .500.
What you donít often see is how the Yankees were able to build one of the most exciting young teams in baseball.
New York has gone through both styles of rebuilds in the past. The Yankees were terrible at the start of the 1990s and were able to amass a wealth of talent that included Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera and all-stars Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams. To bolster and extend the primes of those players, the Yankees spent big in the 2000s, eventually winning the 2009 World Series with a payroll of more than $200 million, more than $65 million more than any other team in the MLB.
This time, they did neither.
As that aging, expensive roster retired and left the league, the team got cheaper and younger, but never tanked.
The Yankees won at least 84 games in the last four years and made the playoffs once during their rebuild.
Yet, somehow, with a few deft trades and a few lucky draft choices, the Yankees have gotten to the same place as the Astros. Both teams have what looks to be a young, fun squad stocked with talent for the future.
Undoubtedly, the Yankees have the capital to go back to being the spending behemoths of the past, but for now, how theyíve gotten to this point is refreshing.
It shows that as a fan of the Mariners or Tigers, you donít have to hope for a complete tear down or a well-timed spending spree. You donít have to watch terrible baseball for years only to hope all of those young players pan out and make a great team.
With good management and smart picks, itís possible to still compete in a rebuild and come out successfully. Itís possible to shirk that mid-table malaise and come out a winner as long as thereís a good plan in place.
Tanking can be useful, and for some teams, in some sports, it may even be necessary.
However, itís good to know thereís a different way to get good, and it sure beats the alternative.
Joseph Terry is an award-winning sports reporter and columnist for the Daily Inter Lake, covering the Flathead Valley since 2012. He can be contacted by phone at (406) 758-4463 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.