9. I think I hate to do this. I really do. We're in Week 6 of the football season, but I have to give some advice to Joe Torre and Brian Cashman right now, because they are decent men, even if they do work for the Evil Empire. Get in a car sometime this month, and drive 3½ hours up I-95 to Foxboro. Visit the Patriots. Or if you're inclined to go a place where you might be more invisible, fly to Chicago, rent a car and drive north to Lake Forest, where the Bears are headquartered. Learn how to build a winning team and how to navigate through the noise that disrupts every big-market team today.
Football isn't baseball, you'll argue. Football is the ultimate team game, and baseball is more of a stars' game. But the one thing all good baseball teams have is the one thing all good football teams have -- role players. Guys who don't need the credit and who don't earn the big money. In baseball, David Eckstein is a winning player, much the same as Mike Vrabel is. It wasn't so long ago that both of them were on the street. The best team in football right now is the Chicago Bears. Look at their roster. Ever hear of Bernard Berrian, Rashied Davis, Mark Anderson, Tank Johnson, Alfonso Boone or Jason McKie? Don't feel bad. Not many football fans have, either.
Those are six of the 25 or 30 most important players on the team rampaging its way through the NFL right now. I'm guessing their combined salaries equal one month of Alex Rodriguez's. This is what Bears GM Jerry Angelo told me the other day: "One of the things I learned from the Patriots and Steelers in the last few years is they lost more than they gained in free agency, and they never were worried about it. They drafted rank-and-file players, developed them, were patient with them, knew the exact roles they wanted them to play and put them in those roles. Dan Graham, Asante Samuel, Eugene Wilson ... are any of them stars? No. Are they Patriots players? Yes. And that's all they care about.''
Before this season, Angelo was assailed for not getting a big-name receiver in free agency. He was in the game for Antwaan Randle El but didn't think he was worth $6 million a year, and lost him to Washington. "I got hammered by the local media for not getting a good receiver,'' he said, "but I said, 'Guys, we've got good receivers here. They fit the profile of what we want in a receiver.' But because we'd done a poor job of stabilizing the quarterback position, you couldn't tell what we had at receiver. We'd gone for five years playing three or four quarterbacks almost every year. How do you know if your receivers are any good? They never work with the same quarterback. Now that we've had Rex for an offseason and he's been healthy for the regular season, now we can judge the receivers. And what we have is pretty good.'' To say the least. It's a lesson for all other franchises, regardless of the sport.
The minute I read that, I was just waiting for the guys over at Fire Joe Morgan to have at it, and well...