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View Full Version : Small-market teams can't just go by the book anymore



westofyou
08-06-2009, 12:43 PM
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/joe_posnanski/08/05/market.size/




Six years after Moneyball, no small-market teams look to be playoff-bound
What changed is that the big-market teams figured out the strategy
Florida is the only small-market team that seems to have a working plan


Funny thing, just six years after Michael Lewis' seminal Moneyball came out there isn't really a small-market team that looks to be playoff bound. Yes, the Minnesota Twins are hanging in there, of course, because the division is so flawed and because the Minnesota Twins always hang in there.* The Florida Marlins have the lowest payroll in baseball and are only five games out. The Tampa Bay Rays are still in the chase.

*Ever since I announced my man-crush on Ron Gardenhire, I get almost daily updates from various Twins fans who point out some utterly incomprehensible move Gardy made in the previous game. This, of course, only bolsters my admiration for the guy. He makes strange moves and the Twins STILL are always in contention. I mean, seriously, how good is that guy?

But, as others have noted, the teams likely to make the playoffs are all big spenders. The Phillies, Dodgers and Cubs -- each with their $100 million payrolls -- are leading their divisions in the National League. The Yankees, Tigers and Angels -- all of them spending at least $113 million -- lead the American League. The Red Sox ($121 million) lead the AL wild card chase.

The NL wild card race -- with Colorado leading San Francisco by a half game and the Cardinals and Cubs by a game and a half -- is right now the only race that isn't led by one of the really big spenders. And a big part of that is that the Mets (with their $149 million payroll) have just been destroyed by injuries and, you know, by being the Mets. In any case, none of those clubs are "small-market teams" either.

The point here is not to write again about the disparity between big markets and small markets -- nobody cares anymore -- but only to say that just a few years after Lewis' wonderful book about the Oakland A's described "the art of winning an unfair game" well, it looks like the art is dead. Or, more to the point, the art has been bought out by large corporations.

There were many points to the book* -- but probably the biggest point is that for a baseball team to win with fewer resources than other teams, the people running the disadvantaged team have to find inefficiencies in the market. That is, they have to find angles and bargains. They have to prize certain facets of baseball that others don't appreciate. It's never especially bright to compare real baseball to fantasy baseball, but I've long thought that a good way to think of trying to win as a small market team is trying to win a fantasy baseball league when you have half the money that other owners have. The worst thing you could do, in that scenario, is use the same fantasy baseball lists or fantasy baseball magazines they are using. That's the one sure way to certain defeat.

*One of my odder but more rewarding jobs the last couple of years has been to discuss Moneyball with prospective military leaders at the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies at Fort Leavenworth. It's always fun to be involved in conversations that involve Afghanistan, Art Howe, the viability of tank warfare and how important it is to have a good defensive outfielder.

So, the small-market GMs and executives have to value things that the big guys don't value as much -- and, even more important, those values need to lead to baseball victories. One of the more specific examples in Moneyball was on-base percentage. The Billy Beane Oakland A's -- and they weren't the first to do this, only the most celebrated -- didn't just appreciate walks more than other teams did, they actually built a system to encourage and reward walking. They tried to find players who got on base rather than players who only hit for good averages. They led the American League in walks in 1999, were second in 2000, led again in 2001, were third in 2002 -- and they won a lot of games.

The A's fully realized that walks -- for many reasons -- are a devastating offensive weapon. Getting on base leads directly to runs. Scoring runs leads directly to victories. It wasn't that other teams didn't know this, it's that Oakland believed in it a little bit more and was willing to build its entire team around that belief. And it works.*

*These days, whenever I hear a general manager talking about batting average or talking about how he doesn't want his players to walk and "lose their aggressiveness" -- I think about writing a play called "Inherit the Walk" where I would put that general manager on the stand and have a brilliant lawyer cross-examine him.

Well, of course, the big-market teams figured it out. They hired their own Ivy League consultants. They bought even better computers. Walks is only one tiny aspect in it ... but who leads the American League in walks this year? The New York Yankees. Last year? The Boston Red Sox. The year before that? The Boston Red Sox. And so it goes.

Now, six years later, it seems to me that the small-market teams are really grasping and trying to find some loophole, some opening that will allow them to win in this tough financial environment.

And it seems like the market inefficiency they have all come up with is this: time.

Here's what I mean: The big-payroll teams want to win right now. More than that, they HAVE to win now. They are spending too much money not to win now. They are leveraged. But most of the low-payroll teams -- say teams with payrolls of less than $75 million -- have come to the conclusion that they are NOT going to win now. The one thing they have is time. And so, they're trading time.

Take the A's -- in the midst of their third consecutive losing season. They (again) are trading away veteran players like mad -- Matt Holliday, Jack Hannahan, Orlando Cabrera and so on. Their plan (again) is to stockpile young players, to deal a little now in the hopes of getting a lot later. It certainly could work. The key is, they have to be right about those young players. And, to be honest, it's hard to be right when you are predicting a distant and hazy future.

The Kansas City Royals are trying to predict an even more distant and hazy future. Their plan is to spend their money and resources on the front end -- they spent more money on the draft last year than any other team and will be one of the biggest spenders again this year. They have become big players in Latin America. They are putting their future in 16- and 17-year-olds. Sure, it's frustrating for fans who have been watching mostly terrible baseball for 15 years to be patient -- especially when the Royals have Zack Greinke, one of the franchise players in the game, right now. But the on-the-cheap big-league moves the Royals have made have ranged from shaky to frightening, and the Royals are on pace to lose 100 games again. The future is later, much later.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, meanwhile, seem to be trying to make up for the sins of their fathers. You probably know that the Pirates have not had a winning record since 1992 -- an astonishing feat of incompetence and bad luck -- and now they're trading off every player anyone has ever heard of. I would reserve judgment, though -- it's not like Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez and Ian Snell were going to win the Pirates any championships. They are breaking away from a haunted past; and it's messy right now.

The Washington Nationals? Well, that's a whole other saga.

Point is, things are fuzzy right now for most of the small-market teams. Florida is the only one that seems to have a working plan. The Marlins have the lowest payroll in baseball but they are playing pretty well. They got Hanley Ramirez in a trade, drafted Dan Uggla as a Rule 5 pick, drafted Josh Johnson in the fourth round and, even beyond Johnson, have a very young and talented starting rotation that could at some point emerge.

And the Marlins have the small-market dance down. Win a World Series, then (just when things start getting expensive) trade off everybody, lose for a while, wait for the new young players to emerge and repeat. It's not all that romantic or fun for the fans -- and the Marlins are second-to-last in baseball in attendance. But in this new world where the rich teams' owners all read Moneyball and all know how to play around with spreadsheets, it might be the best the little guys can do for now.

M2
08-06-2009, 12:53 PM
Small and mid-market teams had an investment opportunity this winter. The opportunity is still there until the trade window officially closes. Free agent prices tumbled and players with contracts can be had for negligible talent returns for clubs willing to pay those contracts.

The Twins and Marlins could be powerhouses right now had they spent more. Meanwhile the clubs that have spent are seeing that investment pay off.

For all of the "what were the Reds thinking" blather concerning the Rolen trade, they were buying in a buyer's market. Makes more sense than selling.

kpresidente
08-06-2009, 01:12 PM
For all of the "what were the Reds thinking" blather concerning the Rolen trade, they were buying in a buyer's market. Makes more sense than selling.

Buying in a buyers market doesn't matter if you still overpay.

M2
08-06-2009, 01:42 PM
Buying in a buyers market doesn't matter if you still overpay.

Maybe, maybe not. Whether they overpaid and whether they can still do the other things that need doing remains to be seen, but the principle behind buying right now is a sound one.

Unassisted
08-06-2009, 02:22 PM
The column dances around the question of whether "Moneyball" forced the hand of the big spenders by giving them (and their teams' fans) a primer on the market inefficiencies that were being exploited by the small-market clubs. If Billy Beane had refused to let Michael Lewis shadow him, would the big-budget teams have stuck with their old-school methods longer, instead of letting "Ivy League consultants" into the FO?

This new paradigm of "time" being the exploitable commodity sure isn't a crowd-pleaser. :p:

TRF
08-06-2009, 02:52 PM
Maybe, maybe not. Whether they overpaid and whether they can still do the other things that need doing remains to be seen, but the principle behind buying right now is a sound one.

That's looking at buying in a vacuum. It does not make a tremendous amount of sense to buy when you can't properly identify the areas of need. FCB is right in that this rotation is in a shambles, and the Reds just sent their likely best SP prospect away for a player that is either a 1 year rental or if signed to an extension too expensive causing the club to miss out on players they need.

I don't think Mike Leake is going to be in a Reds uniform winning 15 games next year. Stewart might have been, emphasis on might. I don't hold any illusions on prospects anymore, but sometimes you need to understand what you have. The Reds never seem to. In fact they never seem to truly understand the value of ANY player in or out of the organization. Rolen's greates value to the Reds in what looks like a dismal 2010, would be to tear up the league for three months, and hopefully the market has shifted to a sellers market.

dougdirt
08-06-2009, 02:59 PM
Rolen's greates value to the Reds in what looks like a dismal 2010, would be to tear up the league for three months, and hopefully the market has shifted to a sellers market.

Uh no TRF. Walt says its his leadership. Get with the program. ;)

Bumstead
08-06-2009, 03:05 PM
Maybe, maybe not. Whether they overpaid and whether they can still do the other things that need doing remains to be seen, but the principle behind buying right now is a sound one.

Not if the 'buying' of one player closes the wallet of the organization...not to mention reduces the chips with which to 'buy' more players at need positions (because the Reds over-valued the player they 'bought').

MrCinatit
08-06-2009, 03:07 PM
"snip"
probably the biggest point is that for a baseball team to win with fewer resources than other teams, the people running the disadvantaged team have to find inefficiencies in the market.
"snip"

Hey, the Reds have been doing this for years. In fact, I would say this ball club has been quite good at finding some of the most inefficient pieces in the market, a la Patterson, Tavaras, Freel, Milton, Womack...you know the list.

kaldaniels
08-06-2009, 03:10 PM
How could Stewart possibly win 15 games next year TRF...he needs to build up his innings.

corkedbat
08-06-2009, 03:14 PM
Small and mid-market teams had an investment opportunity this winter. The opportunity is still there until the trade window officially closes. Free agent prices tumbled and players with contracts can be had for negligible talent returns for clubs willing to pay those contracts.

The Twins and Marlins could be powerhouses right now had they spent more. Meanwhile the clubs that have spent are seeing that investment pay off.

For all of the "what were the Reds thinking" blather concerning the Rolen trade, they were buying in a buyer's market. Makes more sense than selling.

There are three categories of resources you can use to improve your roster:

1. Cash (very limited for a club like the Reds)
2. Prospects/young talent (at a premium, if not downright over-valued)
3. Veteran talent (little-to-negative value unless you're talking cream of the crop).

Even if the resources are used masterfully, it's still going to take a lof luck and convergence of circumstancesto even take a wild card spot. The biggest enemies of the Reds are waste and wasted opportunity.

1. Cash - every dollar spent for the Reds has to be spent wisely. A $5M investment on a player like WillyT is not a minor signing like it might be for another club - it's half or a third of a season for a real major leaguer who can have an impact. The Reds need a FO that knows the difference. Extending Aaron Harang was risky for a team like the Reds, but was at least defensable, an extension for Arroyo was not, Rolen has had a great career, but all the evidence says his numbers and his health are in decline. Dealing useful prospects for him was not a smart move, extending his contract and hoping he's prodcutive (or that he's healthy if he is) is not a smart use of limited resources and not the move of a franchise capable of contending.

A team like the Reds need to earmark a maximum payroll amount each year and jealously guard every cent. That doesn't mean be cheap, just make smart decisions with the $$$ spent, limit waste and only take risks that are likely to improve your chances of contending. One-year rentals are the final pieces of the puzzle, not a starting point. If the full maximum is not used in a year, it needs to be rolled forward to be used toward bringing in solid vets or keeping your young talent as it reaches its more expensive years.

2. Prospects/young talent - yeah, they're a real crapshoot and most don't pan out, but they're also cheap and some do surprise - every major league regular was a prospect at some point. The Reds are not a team that can afford high-priced vets at every spot. You have to depend on kids at some spots to afford pricey vets at others. The key is deciding on which can help you most on the field and which make better bargaining chips.

Prospects might even be more valuable than cash in some aspects. It might be tough to wave enough cash in front of a big name free agent (especially when your going up against big-market giants), but if you wave the right prospects in front of a GM you might land a top vet. Teams like the Reds cannot throw away prospects like Stewart of Roenicke though. Yeah, there's no guarantee that they'll ever be more than fodder but they have real value. You don't spend them on a veteran with several questiom marks unless thatveteran is sure to help you contend, Whether Rolen wins a triple crown or Stewart or Roenicke fail miserable is not importnat. Any vets the Reds take on now have to be of use for multiple years and have to have a reasonablke expectancy of staying healthy. Unless you are looking at a can't miss deal, you don't use a prospect in a deal until you've seen there full value. Debate Stewart's future all you want, thyere's no reason to believe that his value wouldn't have increased next year and the team would've had a better idea of how much (and where) he could've helped. It was not a smart use or limited resources. Betting on a prospect might fail more often than betting on a vet, but it's a lot less expensive if you lose.

3. Veteran talent - the good ones are expensive, the bad ones are even moreso. The mistakes are the costliest here. LTC's magnify the risk. If a team like the Reds spend more than $2M a year on a vet, they need to be useful for more than a single season (increasing their chances of helping you contend), be in solid projectable health and be a piece that give you more than a young guy or cheap journeyman can. Signings like Taveras, Lincoln and all the nickle-and-dime," two year/$6-7M signings the Reds make every year might be more damaging than the bigger deals.

I also believe that few, if any LTCs should be played out. Any big money deal signed should be shopped for multiple, less expensive players no later than the mid-point of thd contract (if not sooner) unless they're irreplaceable an/or clearly going to help us attain a goal and the only goal worth attaining is the playoffs. Any rentals should put us over the top toward that goal. Any vetran added should also come with projectable producation and health outlooks.

Every move has to make sense when expending any of the three resources above. A waste in any one category is a step back. The Rolen deal fails all three categories and is three steps back for an organization that cannot afford any mssteps.

IslandRed
08-06-2009, 03:42 PM
Good article.

Posnanski is right; it was possible to do what the A's did when the twin objectives of (1) finding what wins baseball games and (2) finding what the market's undervaluing yielded the same answer. I don't doubt there are small inefficiencies left to exploit, but there aren't enough small inefficiencies right now to add up to big.

(Another post-Moneyball lesson -- and this is directed at the author, Michael Lewis, not at Billy Beane -- is that stars, the guys that take a team from good to excellent, are not as easy to come by as he suggested.)

I agree that it's a buyer's market at the moment and anyone willing and able to pay pre-recession prices for talent will be able to find it. The "willing and able" part will be a sticking point for the smaller-market teams, but if anyone has cash reserves, this would be the time.

M2
08-06-2009, 03:49 PM
That's looking at buying in a vacuum.

Yep, and sometimes it's smart to clear away the clutter and buy in a buyer's market.


It does not make a tremendous amount of sense to buy when you can't properly identify the areas of need.

3B was an area of need. I agree the Reds have multiple other areas of need and I'm fairly certain they won't address most of them, but they could pick up talent pretty quick with another few add-a-contract moves (theoretically speaking of course).

RedsManRick
08-06-2009, 03:54 PM
I actually think this is a good thing for the sport. By lessening the gross inefficiencies in player valuation across the league, the influence of financial resources will become undeniably and indefensibly obvious. The specter of undercutting the monopoly exclusion will be raised again, and owners will be forced to consider even greater revenue sharing models which will bring greater equality of opportunity to the sport.

Rojo
08-06-2009, 06:52 PM
I don't doubt there are small inefficiencies left to exploit, but there aren't enough small inefficiencies right now to add up to big.

Defense is one but that window's closing as well.

princeton
08-06-2009, 09:14 PM
Defense is one but that window's closing as well.

coaching, development, and scouting are the biggies

Chip R
08-06-2009, 09:16 PM
coaching, development, and scouting are the biggies

Seems to be what the Marlins do well.

Meanwhile the Reds have Speed + Defense = Speefense

westofyou
08-06-2009, 09:17 PM
coaching, development, and scouting are the biggies

Continuity in those fields on all levels is what makes or breaks teams that have a semblance of that trinity

D-Man
08-06-2009, 09:59 PM
So the "go long" strategy is the new small-market approach? Hmmm. . . Sounds like 1995 all over again.

What's old is new again, I suppose.

princeton
08-07-2009, 10:39 AM
Continuity in those fields on all levels is what makes or breaks teams that have a semblance of that trinity

the ability to integrate the draft with the developmental skills of the organization is another key. If a scouting director has a lot of respect for a particular coach's ability to teach something in particular, then he might be looking for kids that have almost everything but need to learn that particular skill. "You know, all this kid needs is a changeup ( or better plate discipline, or better footwork, or more self-discipline, etc.) and I bet that he'll just take off after a season with coach X"

complementarily, if your developmental team has never had success teaching something in particular, or maintaining discipline etc., then you'd stay away from certain kids-- and that can take a lot of self-discipline by the scouting team.

but scouts and developmental people make peanuts and are a great investment if they do a great job. to me, that's where moneyball is played best.

REDREAD
08-07-2009, 11:45 AM
I actually think this is a good thing for the sport. By lessening the gross inefficiencies in player valuation across the league, the influence of financial resources will become undeniably and indefensibly obvious. The specter of undercutting the monopoly exclusion will be raised again, and owners will be forced to consider even greater revenue sharing models which will bring greater equality of opportunity to the sport.


Not so sure of this. I'm convinced the owners are more concerned about maximizing their profit as opposed to creating parity. The system they have now where NYY, Boston, etc go to the playoffs every year is very profitable.
In contrast, a world Series between Kansas City and Pittsburg is not going to get as good of ratings. I think the owners are very happy with the current set up and don't want parity.

M2
08-07-2009, 11:48 AM
Not so sure of this. I'm convinced the owners are more concerned about maximizing their profit as opposed to creating parity. The system they have now where NYY, Boston, etc go to the playoffs every year is very profitable.
In contrast, a world Series between Kansas City and Pittsburg is not going to get as good of ratings. I think the owners are very happy with the current set up and don't want parity.

Bingo.

Unassisted
08-07-2009, 12:02 PM
Not so sure of this. I'm convinced the owners are more concerned about maximizing their profit as opposed to creating parity. The system they have now where NYY, Boston, etc go to the playoffs every year is very profitable.

In contrast, a world Series between Kansas City and Pittsburg is not going to get as good of ratings. I think the owners are very happy with the current set up and don't want parity.That's a reality that will drain most of the remaining joy out of being the fan of a small-market team. Let us hope it's not a sustainable model.

Spring~Fields
08-07-2009, 01:49 PM
That's a reality that will drain most of the remaining joy out of being the fan of a small-market team. Let us hope it's not a sustainable model.

Unfortunately assets, liabilities and revenues are the bigger part of the reality. Too bad it is not just a game of baseball with its simplistic beauty and fun.

Rojo
08-07-2009, 02:06 PM
That's a reality that will drain most of the remaining joy out of being the fan of a small-market team. Let us hope it's not a sustainable model.

Optimal? No. Sustainable? Probably. This model lasted decades.

GAC
08-07-2009, 03:36 PM
Not so sure of this. I'm convinced the owners are more concerned about maximizing their profit as opposed to creating parity. The system they have now where NYY, Boston, etc go to the playoffs every year is very profitable.
In contrast, a world Series between Kansas City and Pittsburg is not going to get as good of ratings. I think the owners are very happy with the current set up and don't want parity.

Neither do those media outlets that spend lots of money for the TV rights to the post-season and World Series. Would you want to have to "sell" a Pittsburgh-Kansas World Series?

We've seen some WS match ups in the last decade that as far as ratings go were disasters.

It's a sad state of affairs for millions of baseball fans who would love to see their team in that post-season; but "a disaster waiting to happen" for those who have to market and sell it. Yeah, it may be great for the fans of those small market teams (who are local); but MLB, and the media, want teams in there that have "national name recognition" that has more drawing power as far as viewership goes. It's hard to get people, not just baseball fans, to tune into games between "non-name" teams with talent obviously; but few big name star players.

Its also sad that it took a book like Moneyball to somehow wake organizations up to something they should have been doing all along. It espouses an approach/philosophy that ANY organization, big or small market, can and should implement for any chance of success in today's baseball economics. It improves a small market team's HOPE of having a chance. What other avenue(s) do they have at their availability when their spending is restricted? But like the article said - the bigger market teams practice it too. Notice how they aren't so quick to divest themselves of their top prospects. They've grown wiser, in a sense, knowing that those smaller market teams may have to settle for "less" when they are facing losing their own top players to FA. A "take it or leave it" approach anymore.

But those larger market teams still have that added advantage of having the revenue to spend when they need to. They can still gamble and take those risks that can be more easily absorbed that a smaller market team can't afford to make.

I still believe that MLB needs a salary cap at both ends of yearly payrolls.

But that would bring a greater parity that, as you mention, MLB, the owners, and the media, don't want to see.

Eric_the_Red
08-07-2009, 04:07 PM
I still believe that MLB needs a salary cap at both ends of yearly payrolls.

But that would bring a greater parity that, as you mention, MLB, the owners, and the media, don't want to see.


Not saying you are wrong, but why does parity work for the NFL and not MLB?

Chip R
08-07-2009, 04:47 PM
Not saying you are wrong, but why does parity work for the NFL and not MLB?


Does it work?

traderumor
08-07-2009, 07:00 PM
Not so sure of this. I'm convinced the owners are more concerned about maximizing their profit as opposed to creating parity. The system they have now where NYY, Boston, etc go to the playoffs every year is very profitable.
In contrast, a world Series between Kansas City and Pittsburg is not going to get as good of ratings. I think the owners are very happy with the current set up and don't want parity.Yes, but when the owners of the smaller franchises do not share in enough of the profits from the big boys, they align and put pressure for a fairer playing field. Also, these same "losing" owners are human beings, and most will have competitive urges trump greed eventually.

Cooper
08-07-2009, 11:02 PM
I think it maight be advantagous for small market teams to invest in players that may not have explosive tools, but instead have a wide array of tools that are average, thus spreading out the risk.

I'm thinking of a player like Kevin McReynolds. He never had one skill that was a solid A, but he was a 4 tool player with B minus skills, thus if he tanked in one area there was enough there in other places to give you some value. Heisey is the best example of this at the minor league level. He may never provide the team with huge numbers, but there might be enough small things there that add up to quality (if you are measuring them). That helps a team spread out its risk in case one skill tanks or a player has a fair amount of bad luck.

Eric_the_Red
08-07-2009, 11:39 PM
Does it work?

I think if you ask the NFL owners and media, they would say yes. The statement was a reply about parity not working for the MLB owners or media. I don't understand why it wouldn't.

It's one thing to have a large market like New York or LA watching a sport. But over time if the small to mid market teams are being left behind, there will be no audience from those areas, and your sport is dead.

Phhhl
08-08-2009, 12:15 AM
[QUOTE=Eric_the_Red;1945379]I think if you ask the NFL owners and media, they would say yes. The statement was a reply about parity not working for the MLB owners or media. I don't understand why it wouldn't.

It's one thing to have a large market like New York or LA watching a sport. But over time if the small to mid market teams are being left behind, there will be no audience from those areas, and your sport is dead.[/QUOTE}

In a way, I am glad the era of denial is almost past us. For years I have come on this board complaining that the disparity in the value of these teams was growing rapidly and that soon no amount of intelligence, or adaptive thinking or patient development of the farm system, or sabremetric practice could stem the inevitable result that baseball was moving towards a horrible feudal system that basically renders more than two-thirds of the league absolutely meaningless. Those of us that believed in reality have been disparaged by a large portion of this board who valiently break down the machinations of each franchise in a very scientific attempt to show how hard work and cunning can overcome the giants of industry. But, it is pure fantasy. The Reds have not been the brightest bulb in the drawer for the last 15 years for sure, and have missed out on what will probably be remembered by future generations as the last chance the game had to be competitive and enjoyable. But, putting the plight of our favorite franchise aside, Baseball is in the process of becoming an absolute charade where the most gifted performers are ordained to generate even more wealth upon the massive value of the largest markets almost as soon as these athletes (and don't be surprised if they are referred to as actors some day) are born.

It is truly sad to see what has happened to the game. But, I hate to admit, there is some degree of satisfaction in having been right. I never knew I could feel that way. The NFL, which has been the greatest league in the world for quite a while, is sadly following suit with no salary cap for the 2011 season.

Hope you like movies.

GAC
08-08-2009, 04:28 AM
Not saying you are wrong, but why does parity work for the NFL and not MLB?

I never said it wouldn't. Only that some MLB owners don't want it.

Chip R
08-08-2009, 03:04 PM
I think if you ask the NFL owners and media, they would say yes. The statement was a reply about parity not working for the MLB owners or media. I don't understand why it wouldn't.

It's one thing to have a large market like New York or LA watching a sport. But over time if the small to mid market teams are being left behind, there will be no audience from those areas, and your sport is dead.


You just think there's parity in the NFL. Go back over the past generation and you will see that there have been more different teams that have participated in the World Series than there have been in the Super Bowl. Don't let the NFL pregame shows tell you that there's parity in the league because there really isn't.

Comparing the NFL and MLB is like comparing apples and manhole covers. One of the least known reasons why weaker teams in the NFL can have a good record after a poor year is scheduling. Bad teams, for the most part, get to play bad teams and not the better ones. In MLB, record isn't a factor when they make up the schedule. Another very big, but also understated, reason is that out of 32 teams in the NFL, 12 make the playoffs including 8 division champions. Only 8 of 30 make the playoffs in MLB with 6 division winners. Simple math will tell you that the odds in reaching the post-season in the NFL are much better than in MLB.

traderumor
08-08-2009, 03:21 PM
You just think there's parity in the NFL. Go back over the past generation and you will see that there have been more different teams that have participated in the World Series than there have been in the Super Bowl. Don't let the NFL pregame shows tell you that there's parity in the league because there really isn't.

Comparing the NFL and MLB is like comparing apples and manhole covers. One of the least known reasons why weaker teams in the NFL can have a good record after a poor year is scheduling. Bad teams, for the most part, get to play bad teams and not the better ones. In MLB, record isn't a factor when they make up the schedule. Another very big, but also understated, reason is that out of 32 teams in the NFL, 12 make the playoffs including 8 division champions. Only 8 of 30 make the playoffs in MLB with 6 division winners. Simple math will tell you that the odds in reaching the post-season in the NFL are much better than in MLB.I don't think parity is reflected in who makes it to the championship, but the season records and how many teams have a chance year after year.

Chip R
08-08-2009, 03:54 PM
I don't think parity is reflected in who makes it to the championship, but the season records and how many teams have a chance year after year.


True parity in the NFL would be if every team went 8-8. As it is, about the only reason you wouldn't have a chance at post season play in the NFL year afer year is if you had an owner who wanted to sit on all that TV money and not care about going out and doing what it takes to put a winning team on the field. Sound familiar?

Marc D
08-09-2009, 10:55 AM
People hate to lose money more than they like to make it.

If you want something done you just have to make sure the behavior you want to see is properly incentivised. Don't worry about capping payrolls, just penalize owners for losing.

Easy in theory, difficult in practice but if you could be a fly on the wall of any pro sports owners meeting and get that idea put to a vote you'd find out real quick who was in it for what reason.

RedEye
08-09-2009, 01:09 PM
People hate to lose money more than they like to make it.

If you want something done you just have to make sure the behavior you want to see is properly incentivised. Don't worry about capping payrolls, just penalize owners for losing.


Yeah, that'd be just great. Then the Reds would not only lose money from lack of attendance to see a loser, they'd have more money taken away from the team when that loser lost.

There are a limited number of wins to go around in a given season, and the big market teams are just better positioned to buy them than are teams like the Reds. Penalizing the Reds for being in that position will do nothing but sink them further into oblivion.

Marc D
08-09-2009, 01:31 PM
Yeah, that'd be just great. Then the Reds would not only lose money from lack of attendance to see a loser, they'd have more money taken away from the team when that loser lost.

There are a limited number of wins to go around in a given season, and the big market teams are just better positioned to buy them than are teams like the Reds. Penalizing the Reds for being in that position will do nothing but sink them further into oblivion.


Or motivate them to get their act together and actually win. It all depends on the kind of human you have as an owner. No one puts a gun to the small market owners head and forces them into moves like extending Arroyo or signing Willy Tavaras. Right now what do they pay for such poor decisions? Another sub 500 season for the fans and a healthy bottom line for them.

I'm quite sure a Mike Brown would use it as an excuse to rationalize losing even more. I'm also quite sure a Stienbrenner would say screw that I'm going to compete and let the other guy pay a "loser tax" or whatever you want to call it.

In the short run it might bury some teams but in the long run it would probably force out the type of owners who just wanted to be mediocre and make money and have a league full of people focused on winning.

HokieRed
08-09-2009, 01:54 PM
I doubt GM's make decisions like extending Arroyo because they don't have enough incentive to win.

RedsManRick
08-09-2009, 01:59 PM
True parity in the NFL would be if every team went 8-8. As it is, about the only reason you wouldn't have a chance at post season play in the NFL year afer year is if you had an owner who wanted to sit on all that TV money and not care about going out and doing what it takes to put a winning team on the field. Sound familiar?

I don't think this is true. What people want is not parity of outcomes, where every team plays .500 ball. What they want is parity of opportunity, where every team has an equal chance to build a winner. The problem with the current system is that certain teams have significant inherent advantages which make it easier for them to put a winner on the field.

Even very well run teams in baseball can find it extremely difficult to compete now that the rich teams' front offices have gotten their stuff together. In football, the "who has the most resources?" issue is simply a non-starter -- success is based on how well you run your organization. Hence you have still have the Patriots and Bengals of the world, but the difference boils down solely to the competency (or lack thereof) of the organizations, not their resources.

I think it's completely reasonable to assert that in a closed monopoly where avenues for increasing revenues are restricted by the league, that the league should take greater action to equalize the distribution of the resources which it, as a league, generates.

Marc D
08-09-2009, 02:30 PM
I doubt GM's make decisions like extending Arroyo because they don't have enough incentive to win.


You are absolutely correct.

They make them because they don't pay a steep enough price for bad decisions. More specifically the guy who employs the GM doesn't pay a steep enough price.

RedEye
08-09-2009, 03:04 PM
Or motivate them to get their act together and actually win. It all depends on the kind of human you have as an owner. No one puts a gun to the small market owners head and forces them into moves like extending Arroyo or signing Willy Tavaras. Right now what do they pay for such poor decisions? Another sub 500 season for the fans and a healthy bottom line for them.

I'm quite sure a Mike Brown would use it as an excuse to rationalize losing even more. I'm also quite sure a Stienbrenner would say screw that I'm going to compete and let the other guy pay a "loser tax" or whatever you want to call it.

In the short run it might bury some teams but in the long run it would probably force out the type of owners who just wanted to be mediocre and make money and have a league full of people focused on winning.

You really think ML owners don't have incentive to win? Castellini knows his team will have a windfall if they actually put together a competitive season.

No type of fine is going to change the fact that not all teams are playing on an equal playing field. Fix that first and then put in fines, but not before.

RedEye
08-09-2009, 03:11 PM
Hence you have still have the Patriots and Bengals of the world, but the difference boils down solely to the competency (or lack thereof) of the organizations, not their resources.


Not to hijack this thread for a football discussion, but I'm under the impression that this parity is under threat. Yes, there is a salary limit, but the big market NFL teams have way more capital to work with in the other parts of their game. The NFL will have to continue to make parity a priority if it hopes not to go the way of MLB.

Marc D
08-09-2009, 03:21 PM
You really think ML owners don't have incentive to win?

I think they don't feel enough financial pain for losing. As I stated before the need to avoid pain is the stronger motivator.


No type of fine is going to change the fact that not all teams are playing on an equal playing field. Fix that first and then put in fines, but not before.

Salary caps in the NFL haven't stopped Mike Brown.

RedEye
08-09-2009, 03:35 PM
I think they don't feel enough financial pain for losing. As I stated before the need to avoid pain is the stronger motivator.


Perhaps. But that's a different issue than whether or not they should have equal resources with other teams.


Salary caps in the NFL haven't stopped Mike Brown.

There are always going to be winners and losers no matter what kind of salary structure there is in a professional sports league. All I'm saying is that MLB teams like the Reds could use the kind of resource parity that franchises like the Bengals have. Obviously, if they squander those resources, that's a different matter.

RANDY IN INDY
08-09-2009, 03:37 PM
I think they don't feel enough financial pain for losing. As I stated before the need to avoid pain is the stronger motivator.



Salary caps in the NFL haven't stopped Mike Brown.

Or the Cleveland Browns.

RedEye
08-09-2009, 03:41 PM
Let's take this "fine for losing" argument a bit further. If all teams faced a potential fine for losing, I would think that teams like the Yankees and Red Sox would have yet another advantage. Not only could they spend at will, they would also have even more incentive to spend more--to avoid the "losing tax." Meanwhile, a franchise like the Reds, God bless them, could make a bunch of smart, calculated decisions (for once), suffer a few freak injuries and a string of bad luck, and then get punished for losing when the real cause wasn't organizational incompetence at all. Then, they would have even LESS money the next year to recover. I imagine that the end result would either be the contraction of all small market teams or their move to bigger markets. Baseball would become a coastal sport with a few teams in places like Chicago and Detroit.

It doesn't make any sense--and would make an unfair game even more... unfair.

Marc D
08-09-2009, 03:54 PM
Let's take this "fine for losing" argument a bit further. If all teams faced a potential fine for losing, I would think that teams like the Yankees and Red Sox would have yet another advantage. Not only could they spend at will, they would also have even more incentive to spend more--to avoid the "losing tax." Meanwhile, a franchise like the Reds, God bless them, could make a bunch of smart, calculated decisions (for once), suffer a few freak injuries and a string of bad luck, and then get punished for losing when the real cause wasn't organizational incompetence at all. Then, they would have even LESS money the next year to recover. I imagine that the end result would either be the contraction of all small market teams or their move to bigger markets. Baseball would become a coastal sport with a few teams in places like Chicago and Detroit.

It doesn't make any sense--and would make an unfair game even more... unfair.

The devil is always in the details. You would have to make a plan that involved some sort of rolling average to allow for the occasional bad year or two. I didn't want to delve into hypothetical details because its a never ending process. I could always come up with a scenario that fits my theory just as you could always come up with one that fits yours.

In general terms making someone feel economic pain for poor decisions and experience economic rewards for good decisions works. Taking away from the successful to pull up the unsuccessful idoesn't have much of a track record and getting away from the feeling a loss part of things is a recipe for disaster.

HokieRed
08-09-2009, 04:24 PM
You are absolutely correct.

They make them because they don't pay a steep enough price for bad decisions. More specifically the guy who employs the GM doesn't pay a steep enough price.


What's a steeper price for the unsuccessful GM than being fired?

RedEye
08-09-2009, 05:18 PM
The devil is always in the details. You would have to make a plan that involved some sort of rolling average to allow for the occasional bad year or two. I didn't want to delve into hypothetical details because its a never ending process. I could always come up with a scenario that fits my theory just as you could always come up with one that fits yours.

In general terms making someone feel economic pain for poor decisions and experience economic rewards for good decisions works. Taking away from the successful to pull up the unsuccessful idoesn't have much of a track record and getting away from the feeling a loss part of things is a recipe for disaster.

Okay, well I'd have to see the details before really weighing in on this idea. Taking your proposition at face value though, I would say that usually when people make poor decisions they already feel economic pain just for making them. Not sure I see the need to pile it on even more--that just makes things even more hopeless than they were before.

As is, the big market teams already have a structural advantage over the small market teams. When you are trying to promote a business like MLB that flourishes based on widespread, popular interest in a variety of regions, the current set-up can't last for too long before everyone outside of NY, LA, Chicago and Boston stops giving two figs about the sport.

HokieRed
08-09-2009, 05:20 PM
Which teams will be best able to pay the prices assessed for failure? The best-capitalized.

Marc D
08-09-2009, 07:10 PM
Which teams will be best able to pay the prices assessed for failure? The best-capitalized.


Not necessarily. Why does it have to be a fine? Why not have a mechanism in place to take their team away from them?

Lets say you have a 5 year rolling average to make the playoffs at least once or you go into a 2 year probationary period. Don't make a single playoff appearance in 7 years and you have to sell. Period.

The owners would then police themselves as far as eliminating any inherent unfair advantages a select few teams may enjoy much more efficiently than any type of arbitrary salary/revenue cap. 25 guys aren't going to sit back and let a handful of guys maintain any advantage that may force any member of the 25 to sell his golden goose.

It's a lot like the sub prime mortgage issue we are living with right now. The people writing the loans had no financial disincentive if the loans defaulted because as quick as they could write them the mortgages were packaged up and sold to investors. Theoretically a cap on the amount of revenue the industry could generate from this practice would have reduced the amount of bad loans somewhat but not all together. Making the company that writes the loan hold the loan eliminates risky lending instantly. This is a simplistic example but the principle is sound, incentivise the behavior you want.

It always comes back to the fundamental human motivations. Fear of loss or hope for gain. Fear of loss is the stronger of the two.

RedEye
08-09-2009, 07:48 PM
Not necessarily. Why does it have to be a fine? Why not have a mechanism in place to take their team away from them?

Lets say you have a 5 year rolling average to make the playoffs at least once or you go into a 2 year probationary period. Don't make a single playoff appearance in 7 years and you have to sell. Period.

The owners would then police themselves as far as eliminating any inherent unfair advantages a select few teams may enjoy much more efficiently than any type of arbitrary salary/revenue cap. 25 guys aren't going to sit back and let a handful of guys maintain any advantage that may force any member of the 25 to sell his golden goose.

It's a lot like the sub prime mortgage issue we are living with right now. The people writing the loans had no financial disincentive if the loans defaulted because as quick as they could write them the mortgages were packaged up and sold to investors. Theoretically a cap on the amount of revenue the industry could generate from this practice would have reduced the amount of bad loans somewhat but not all together. Making the company that writes the loan hold the loan eliminates risky lending instantly. This is a simplistic example but the principle is sound, incentivise the behavior you want.

It always comes back to the fundamental human motivations. Fear of loss or hope for gain. Fear of loss is the stronger of the two.

This is really interesting, Marc D. Your argument makes a lot more sense here. IIRC, in your original post you did actually write "fine" but this is quite a different scenario indeed.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure that anyone would want to own a franchise if this type of policy were in place. I'm sure we could think of a list of franchises that did a really good job remaining competitive over a five-year span but didn't quite make the playoffs. It all depends on the quality of competition by division.

There would also be quite a few wrinkles to iron out--perhaps even a calculus to fit into the policy--that would take into account the reality of different divisions. A team that plays in the AL East, for example, might have a legitimate gripe that their performance standards for making the playoffs would be quite a bit higher than those in, say, the NL Central. I would hazard a guess that simply "making the playoffs" would end up not being the most accurate way to judge the quality of the team's performance over time--and that such a clause, if fairly written, would likely need to be replaced by some kind of winning percentage formula.

And that's to say nothing of how the built-in advantage that would go to teams in bigger markets would figure into all of this. If the goal was to attract owners to small market teams who have incentive to win, then to get those owners you would also need to convince them that they would be given a fair shot to compete against the big dogs on the coasts. It stands to reason, does it not, that a team with a $40 million payroll has much less chance of being competitive--everything else being equal--than a team with a $200 million payroll? How would this disincentive program address this problem?

Marc D
08-09-2009, 08:08 PM
This is really interesting, Marc D. Your argument makes a lot more sense here. IIRC, in your original post you did actually write "fine" but this is quite a different scenario indeed.

Yes I did, my bad.


Unfortunately, I'm not sure that anyone would want to own a franchise if this type of policy were in place. I'm sure we could think of a list of franchises that did a really good job remaining competitive over a five-year span but didn't quite make the playoffs. It all depends on the quality of competition by division.

That's the beauty of free markets and the proper incentives. The people who aren't o.k. with this type of emphasis on winning are the very people you want to drive out. They will be replaced by people who know the rules coming in and will therefore be much more engaged in finding new and creative ways to win.

I'm just suggesting a mechanism for economic Darwinism to take effect. The stupid/weak/inefficient should be replaced by the smart/strong/efficient new breed of owners.


There would also be quite a few wrinkles to iron out--perhaps even a calculus to fit into the policy--that would take into account the reality of different divisions. A team that plays in the AL East, for example, might have a legitimate gripe that their performance standards for making the playoffs would be quite a bit higher than those in, say, the NL Central. I would hazard a guess that simply "making the playoffs" would end up not being the most accurate way to judge the quality of the team's performance over time--and that such a clause, if fairly written, would likely need to be replaced by some kind of winning percentage formula.

And that's to say nothing of how the built-in advantage that would go to teams in bigger markets would figure into all of this. If the goal was to attract owners to small market teams who have incentive to win, then to get those owners you would also need to convince them that they would be given a fair shot to compete against the big dogs on the coasts. It stands to reason, does it not, that a team with a $40 million payroll has much less chance of being competitive--everything else being equal--than a team with a $200 million payroll? How would this disincentive program address this problem?

I agree-lots of details but again, with the proper incentive these guys will figure it all out, you/me/we don't have to.

The majority of owners stand to lose so they will quickly band together to identify, and remedy, any unfair advantages the big market teams currently enjoy. Chief among them the revenue disparity issue. They'll get it done because they will be the majority. Let the market police itself.

Just throw the stone in the pond, let the ripples do the work.

IslandRed
08-09-2009, 08:13 PM
That's the beauty of free markets and the proper incentives. The people who aren't o.k. with this type of emphasis on winning are the very people you want to drive out. They will be replaced by people who know the rules coming in and will therefore be much more engaged in finding new and creative ways to win.

I'm just suggesting a mechanism for economic Darwinism to take effect. The stupid/weak/inefficient should be replaced by the smart/strong/efficient new breed of owners.

So how do you plan to get the current batch of stupid, weak and inefficient owners to vote for a system that will get them kicked out of baseball? :p: Nobody else has the authority to do it.

BCubb2003
08-09-2009, 08:39 PM
I think what would help the most is to make all the media money equal before it gets into anybody's pockets, more or less like the NFL. It's the media money that creates the exponential gap between teams. Although it's easier to fill a stadium if you're in a huge market, there are limits. You can fit only so many people into a stadium and charge only so much for tickets. A well-run winning small-market team stands a chance against big markets by putting a good product on the field.

Beyond that, you could align the divisions according to market size. The playoffs would be like the Indiana high school basketball tournament.

Marc D
08-09-2009, 08:47 PM
So how do you plan to get the current batch of stupid, weak and inefficient owners to vote for a system that will get them kicked out of baseball? :p: Nobody else has the authority to do it.

Yeah, its just a theory. :(

No way any change comes while the fox is guarding the hen house.

My original point was to be a fly on the wall in an owners meeting if the subject were even broached. Those throwing the biggest hissy fit would be the aforementioned group in need of removal. ;)

RedEye
08-09-2009, 09:11 PM
That's the beauty of free markets and the proper incentives. The people who aren't o.k. with this type of emphasis on winning are the very people you want to drive out. They will be replaced by people who know the rules coming in and will therefore be much more engaged in finding new and creative ways to win.

The majority of owners stand to lose so they will quickly band together to identify, and remedy, any unfair advantages the big market teams currently enjoy. Chief among them the revenue disparity issue. They'll get it done because they will be the majority. Let the market police itself.

Just throw the stone in the pond, let the ripples do the work.

Of course, free markets aren't always the solution--as we've seen a few examples of in other places recently. There also has to be proper regulation. Incentives by themselves can lead to quite a lot of problems if not properly overseen.

Marc D
08-09-2009, 09:21 PM
Of course, free markets aren't always the solution--as we've seen a few examples of in other places recently. There also has to be proper regulation.
Incentives by themselves can lead to quite a lot of problems if not properly overseen.


Agreed however, the only regulation needed in this model is that of a Commissioner who can run a 5 year moving average and an ownership committee that settles everything by majority vote.

You can't implement anything new without some unintended consequences cropping up. As long as the majority of owners were properly motivated to keep everything as level as possible so they could win and keep their teams I think they could work out the details as they came along.

Like we said though, fun to discuss. Never going to happen.

cincrazy
08-10-2009, 04:33 PM
Small market teams like the Reds, Pirates, and Royals are going the way of newspapers...

Which is to say they're dying. Maybe not as quickly as newspapers. And no, they probably won't fold, like newspapers. But you meant to tell me baseball REALLY matters in these cities anymore? Because I beg to differ.

I've gone to several Reds games this year, and sometimes I feel like I'm the only one at the game actually WATCHING the game. It's nothing but a social gathering nowadays, like going to the park for a walk. I don't know how these teams can contend [B]consistently[B] without some kind of change being made to the system.

corkedbat
08-10-2009, 07:21 PM
The "fine" isn't for losing, it's for prolonged, stupid, rudderless managment at the very top and it's a fine that is well-deserved in the case of the Reds. There is no reason that club cannot be competitive drawing 2.5-3M fans a year. The main reason this franchise is not drawing that many fans is decade of losing.

The only way to rectify that is to change the culture of mediocrity and ineptitude that has permiated this franchise at the top. The top is where the change needs to happen. Its not good enough for the owner to come in and say "the losing ends now," or is brinigng in over-rated, overpaid GMs, managers and past-prime players just because of reputation.

A franchise like the Reds must have rock-solid, intelligent, innovative leadership at the GM and field managment levels. There has to be a very solid five-year plan in place and it has to be updated yearly. Signings like Taveras and trades like the Rolen deal are the kind of meaningless player acquisitions and waste of rseources that kill franchises like Cincinnati.

Being a "small market" team hasn't stopped teams like the Twins and the Marlins (small market revenues). Being small-minded is what dooms the Reds.

cincrazy
08-10-2009, 07:40 PM
The "fine" isn't for losing, it's for prolonged, stupid, rudderless managment at the very top and it's a fine that is well-deserved in the case of the Reds. There is no reason that club cannot be competitive drawing 2.5-3M fans a year. The main reason this franchise is not drawing that many fans is decade of losing.

The only way to rectify that is to change the culture of mediocrity and ineptitude that has permiated this franchise at the top. The top is where the change needs to happen. Its not good enough for the owner to come in and say "the losing ends now," or is brinigng in over-rated, overpaid GMs, managers and past-prime players just because of reputation.

A franchise like the Reds must have rock-solid, intelligent, innovative leadership at the GM and field managment levels. There has to be a very solid five-year plan in place and it has to be updated yearly. Signings like Taveras and trades like the Rolen deal are the kind of meaningless player acquisitions and waste of rseources that kill franchises like Cincinnati.

Being a "small market" team hasn't stopped teams like the Twins and the Marlins (small market revenues). Being small-minded is what dooms the Reds.

Have the Twins won the World Series? They have not. And they're going to lose Joe Mauer any day now. So lets not pretend that they're not handicapped. How much better would they look this year with Hunter in center and Santana still in the rotation?

And so the Marlins have two championships. But the first year they won it, they BOUGHT IT. They threw cash at a ton of free agents. And in 2003, they caught lightning in a bottle. But they had to break up both of those teams. That 2003 team, if it were located in New York, would have had a sustained run in it. Teams like Florida, Minnesota, Oakland, don't get that chance.

And the A's, for as much as Beane has been lauded, they've never been to a World Series under Beane, and they've recently fallen on hard times with no end in sight.

So I agree that there's no reason the Reds shouldn't have at least ACCIDENTALLY competed in the last decade.

But, simply put and depressingly so, there will probably not be a time in the future when we look at this team as a year in and year out contender. If we break through next year, with Votto continuing his play and Bruce breaking out with Cueto being lights out and Homer figuring it all out... what does it all mean? It means start the countdown until they all leave.

corkedbat
08-10-2009, 07:57 PM
Winning the World Series is a crap shoot even for the big budget boys. While I'm not saying moneydoesn't help, it is the reason the have sucked for a decade. I'm not even worried about the World Series - right now I settle for a well-conceived interesting team that made me think they were at least trying or had half a clue.

I just used the Twins and Marlins as an off the top of my head example. There are several franchises in this game that of similar mar/fanbase size as the Res that are doing a much better job than the Reds current "brain trust."

cincrazy
08-10-2009, 08:06 PM
Winning the World Series is a crap shoot even for the big budget boys. While I'm not saying moneydoesn't help, it is the reason the have sucked for a decade. I'm not even worried about the World Series - right now I settle for a well-conceived interesting team that made me think they were at least trying or had half a clue.

I just used the Twins and Marlins as an off the top of my head example. There are several franchises in this game that of similar mar/fanbase size as the Res that are doing a much better job than the Reds current "brain trust."

I agree completely with you. I'm as frustrated as anyone with this front office.

But the point I was trying to make had more to do with small market teams in general, and less with the Reds.

The name of the game is winning the World Series. And with the way the system is currently set up, it's going to be a looooooooonnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggg time before fans in Cincy, Pittsburgh, K.C., and other markets can see their team raise any kind of trophy.