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The Best Of The Best: Building a Championship (A Four-Part Series)

dave hallContributor INovember 29, 2009

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 04:  Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees celebrates with the trophy after their 7-3 win  against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Six of the 2009 MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium on November 4, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Creating a championship team has never been more difficult than it is now in professional sport.

Annual play-off contenders in all sports are working hard to continue the trend and make important post-season revenue to pursue or re-sign important team components.

Dave Hall will examine the most successful builders of champions in each of the major sporting leagues in a four part series.

Major League Baseball has seen three multiple winners over the last 15 years; The Yankees have five, and the Florida Marlins and the Boston Red Sox have two apiece.

Each of these winners employed a distinct strategy to maximize player talent, either through trades, free agency or drafted player development. The constant has been finding the right compliments to a talented core.  

All is well again in New York as the Yankees won a 27th World Series Championship title this year, and as the rest of the baseball world regroups and figures out what went wrong, so do the Yankees.

Respect must be paid to a team that wins the coveted title and then goes right to work and finds a way to get better. Now that the Yankees have tasted the champagne in the new stadium, they have a new legacy to enjoy.

This championship, like most of the Yankees' recent triumphs, did not come cheaply, the total payroll topped over 200 million dollars and the new building which began construction in 2006 cost $1.3 billion.

Yet management continues to look at adding contracts by possibly acquiring P Roy Halladay and his $15 million price tag or making a run for the AL MVP, Joe Mauer.

Pursuing the "best of the best" will at the least convince the loyal fan base that the team is attempting to improve.  Although an argument can be made that the rest of major league baseball suffers due to the Yankees' riches, all seems to remain right in the baseball world when the Yankees are the defending champs.

The Boston Red Sox continue to be the Yankees' closest competition when it comes to payroll loftiness and signing the “best of the best”.

A renewed culture of winning in Boston has made the historic city once again a destination for free agents looking to play for a contending team.

It is almost as if Boston and New York’s interest in a player sets the market, dangerous when you look at what both teams are willing to pay players.  

The most recent Yankees have built their teams around Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams and Andy Petite, adding players along the way; Paul O’Neill, Wade Boggs, Tino Martinez, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez, etc...

The players they add are sometimes remembered best for their stint in the pinstripes despite other past success.

The Red Sox most recent triumphs have come with the signings and acquisition of the best of the best; Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Tim Wakefield, and Johnny Damon.

The BoSox had the likes of Jason Varitek, Nomar Garciaparra, and Kevin Youkilis to add to, and now Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury are the central cogs.

Other teams during the past 15 years since the baseball strike have also won championships using altogether different strategies; like the Florida Marlins who have two titles with small payrolls and fewer current All-Stars; and the Diamondbacks and Angels, who employed a more complete team effort to win.

With an annual General Managers winter meeting in December promising to bring further changes to current rosters, it always a safe bet that the Yankees and the Red Sox will be the most talked about destination for free agents or for star players needing a change of scenery.

Only the upcoming season will prove who is the “best of the best” but it is obvious which teams will be considered favourites to contend for that coveted title.

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