Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Kind of Moneyball Perspective

After reading John Beamer's article over at The Hardball Times I felt compelled to write a piece on MLB salaries and team spending. Beamer comes to the following conclusion:
So, if we were to throw revenue sharing and CBA out of the window what would happen to baseball? Wouldn’t it become a predictable snooze fest?
It might do. For a start we’d see fewer teams having a shot of World Series glory and although that may be a bad thing for some franchises it may not be to the detriment of the game as the postseason is more likely to contain the best teams in the parts of the country with the most money. However, the bald facts are that would leave 20 or so teams with nothing to play for and unlike, say European soccer, or golf (where Tiger Woods doesn’t win every week), there are few other mechanisms to retain excitement.

The magic formula is to make the playing field level enough to ensure that fan interest is retained, brilliance can be pursued and the best, richest and most storied franchises have the best odds of success. I believe that it is in the interests of the sport for a healthy number of super-franchises to slug it out in the postseason.
Baseball mostly has it spot on. Teams, these days are making reasonable money. The power resides with the larger ballclubs, as it should, and these teams have greater odds of success. Also it is possible for smaller market teams to diligently build competitive ballclubs that can challenge the bloated mega-clubs. Moneyball has made it apparent that small teams can innovate to win and teams such as the Twins and Athletics do just that.
Invariably in life we are going to have the haves and the have nots, this may be unfair to those of us who are fans of small market clubs whom have to rely on a form of intelligent design, however no one team is doomed to failure.

The Cleveland Indians, for example, were recently called, "the poster child for building from within" by

Although, the news isn't always positive. Al Doyle at questions whether teams that are rebuilding should spend extra to go from being average to slightly above average.

I have to agree, but at the Bleacher Report an author suggests that not only should a limit be set at how much a club can spend, but also at how little a club can spend. He then goes on to state that the poor teams, if they do not reach the minimums should be docked money from their revenue sharing income. But why? Do we really want a league of average teams? If I am a fan of a team that is not going to win in 2008, what is the difference if they are 4 games out or 14? Or even 24 for that matter? So let the owners pocket the cash, it is, after all, their investment. Maybe the owner is saving it for when they.

However, if the owner is doing as Jeffrey Loria is being accused of doing by John Brattain at The Hardball Times, then I do see an issue. But for a second, as a fan, think about which club you would have preferred to follow the past decade, the Florida Marlins and their 2 championships or the Atlanta Braves and their annual playoff failures? While following a team that wins is always exciting, following your team to the championship game, when everyone is watching is that much more exciting.

This is something that Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane seems to have taken note of. The club he put on the field in 2007 finished 3rd in the division. Not much was going to improve within the organization and there was little hope of bringing in an impact free agent. The minor league system had been run dry and the once highly touted top prospects they did have, were not panning out at the major league level.

What to do? Beane could have easily held onto Haren and Swisher, he could have still pieced together veterans such as Brown, Sweeney and Foulke possibly catching lightning in a bottle in all three players. Maybe the team squeaks into the playoffs with a great deal of luck. No way the team has enough luck to go to the World Series and win it all, and chances are the team doesn't make the playoffs at all.

So what Beane did was the most intelligent thing possible. He moved highly valued commodities like Haren and Swisher, players whom are still young and have excellent contracts for younger players with better contracts and whom he can control for longer. For 2008, 2009 and even 2010 the A's will probably regret the trades they made, but much like the Mulder and Hudson deals, the value received will begin to outweigh the value given up.

Billy Beane, again took advantage of market inefficiencies. This time adding extremely high ceiling players while taking a poor farm system and making it one of the best.

Again, I pose the question, what team would you prefer to follow for the time period of 2008 to 2012? A team like the Oakland Athletics, who may struggle this season but should still be entertaining and will allow one to watch the development of minor league players. OR a team like the Seattle Mariners, whom should be strong in 2008, maybe even 2009, but who have little to nothing in the system and will struggle to compete beyond 2010?

I'm a big picture guy...

BallHype: hype it up!

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