When the Arizona Diamondbacks won the 2011 NL West crown, some armchair analysts dismissed their journey because of the supposed cakewalk of a division they won.
Last month, I wrote why D'Backs skipper Kirk Gibson should win the NL Manager of the Year Award. Comparing Gibson with the likes of St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, I concluded Gibson and the D'Backs enjoyed a tremendous turnaround from their 2010 season.
In arguing La Russa's case, one commenter wrote: "Gibson doesn't deserve manager of the year for owning a weak and putrid division."
The NL West is baseball's diamond in the rough, a "weak and putrid" collection of misfits that just happened to have won the 2010 World Series.
No division has done so much with so little.
At an average of $86.5 million per team, the NL West has the lowest average payroll of any division in baseball. By comparison, the NL East spends an average of $106.9 million per team, while the NL Central spends an average of $89.4 million per team.
Predictably, the AL East earns top honors at $107.5 million per team.
So while MLB's diamond in the rough NL West is MLB's poorest division, the 2012 free agent market offers some diamonds in the rough of its own, at ideal prices for NL West teams.
These are 15 free agent moves for the NL West to become baseball's best division and recapture a splendor not seen since... two years ago.