“What if?” Save it, Dodgers and Tigers

Here come the “What if?” stories for the Dodgers and the Tigers. “What if” they didn’t have those injuries? You know, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Miggy Cabrera, Alex Avila — apparently the only catcher ever dinged by foul tips and baserunners in the history of the tools of ignorance.

Well, forget it. You want to try that line on the Cardinals, who lose their biggest run producer [Allen Craig] just as they were turning for the stretch? How about the Red Sox, who at the end were down to their No. 3 closer? If Koji Uehara became untouchable, that’s to their credit — but Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey both had to get out of the way before the ALCS MVP got the ball.

It’s all about depth — as important as any other team attribute. And depth is all about proper planning. It’s tough to have the necessary depth when so much of your $220 million payroll is vested in a few players you have to keep playing a shortstop who can’t even take a deep breath with a fractured rib. Or, in a first baseman who can go through an entire October without driving in a single run, and has no trouble shaking it off.

Not that further testimony was needed, but the Pirates proved the value of depth. Really, their 2013 season could’ve been no different from 2011 or 2012 if it hadn’t been for the depth provided by years of sound player development. The only thing you need to know about that is a reminder that A.J. Burnett was the last man standing from their season-opening rotation.

So here’s your “What if?” What if you focused more on having a good team rather than a few great players? You get the Cardinals, that’s what. They may have ranked last on the highlight reels [13th in homers in the NL, last in steals]. But they’re still playing.

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