MLB teams mortgage today to win tomorrow

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jserraglio
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MLB teams mortgage today to win tomorrow

Post by jserraglio » Sun May 13, 2018 6:12 pm

WSJ — Only one club has had a 100-loss season in the past four years. Six teams are on pace for at least 100 losses in 2018.
Scott Boras, baseball’s most powerful agent and pre-eminent cage-rattler, spent the entire off-season railing against what he described as the “noncompetitive cancer” plaguing the sport. As this winter’s free-agent market developed slower than any other, Boras saw as many as a third of franchises across the league valuing the future over the present, emboldened by the success of the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs. He predicted that it would impact the standings.
Now, six weeks into the year, it seems difficult to argue with Boras’s point. Six teams—the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins and San Diego Padres—entered Friday’s action on pace for at least 100 losses. A seventh, the Texas Rangers, is just off the 100-loss track.
Never before have more than four teams finished with 100 or more losses in a single season, an ignominious record set in 2002 that very well could fall in a few months. Only one team—total—lost 100 games between 2014 and 2017.
And here’s the upshot of all this: There are still 77 games remaining on the schedule between those seven teams, which means there is a whole lot of baseball left to be played between teams that aren’t just bad—but downright awful.
“Baseball’s a great sport, because if you have two competitive major-league teams and one is under .500 and one is above .500, the fact is that usually, you still don’t know who’s going to win,” Boras said in a recent interview. “Well, there are a lot of times where you go to the ballpark right now, and that thought process is very different.”
Heading into the season, much of the conversation revolved the idea of “tanking”—a once-radical rebuilding strategy that has quickly become ubiquitous.
The Astros, the defending World Series champions, famously averaged 104 losses from 2011 through 2014, which gave them the draft picks that turned into star infielders Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. The Cubs also tore down their roster before their title in 2016, resulting in them drafting Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ. Not surprisingly, they inspired copycats.
“Perhaps there’s a greater acceptance of teams going to the southern extremes as long as there’s an understanding of what they’re trying to do for the long term,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “There have been successful examples in baseball and other sports, so fans understand it a little more.”
This does explain part of what’s going on now: The Reds, White Sox, Padres and Marlins are all somewhere in the throes of a full-blown rebuild, leading to their dismal records. The Marlins, under a new ownership group led by businessman Bruce Sherman and retired New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, were especially brazen: They traded Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon in rapid succession, gutting a young core of talent.
This isn’t to say all of these teams are hopeless. The Padres and White Sox have accumulated arguably the two best farm systems in baseball and appear to have brighter futures. San Diego even sped up the process this February, signing first baseman Eric Hosmer to an eight-year, $144 million contract.
But that doesn’t matter much right now, as these teams slog through an ugly season. The White Sox, for instance, went into Friday on pace to compile a record of 43-119, which would match the 2003 Detroit Tigers for the second-most losses of the modern era, which started in 1900. (The 1962 New York Mets went 40-120.)
Meanwhile, Chicago’s average attendance of 15,486 at Guaranteed Rate Field is down 25% from 2017, though weather has likely played a role in that. They have 12 games left to play against the Royals, a divisional opponent on their way toward challenging their franchise-worst 56-106 record from 2005.
“My mission is to put the Chicago White Sox in the best position to win multiple championships,” Hahn said. “We have to be focused on making sure we’re advancing toward that cause and be less concerned about macro issues about the game, what other clubs are doing and, in turn, the impact that has on the product at large.”
Then you have the Orioles who entered Friday at 10-27. They, quite notably, decided to keep their roster intact in an effort to compete in 2018, holding on to assets like shortstop Manny Machado and center fielder Adam Jones, both free agents at the end of the season. They gave pitcher Alex Cobb a four-year, $57 million deal in March. The Orioles tried to win.
They just didn’t succeed, and in the coming months, they will almost certainly start trading away their best players, making them even worse in the short term. Their home attendance is down nearly 30%.
“There’s entertainment value beyond the won-loss record when you come out, have a good time with your family and you watch a ballgame,” Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. “Having said that, part of the equation is the competitiveness of your ball club.”
It’s too early to stay for certain that things will continue this way. There were five teams with winning percentages below .400 at this point last season. Only two of them finished that poorly. (That said, no teams last May had a winning percentage under .300, like the Orioles, White Sox and Reds currently do.)
None of this surprises Boras. He thinks the answer is a system in which teams who don’t put a certain amount of their revenues into major-league payroll are penalized with a loss of top draft picks or bonus money.
Whatever the solution, this much seems clear: The “noncompetitive cancer” that Boras saw coming has metastasized.
“In the off-season, it’s opinion,” Boras said. “During the season, it’s reality.”
Write to Jared Diamond at jared.diamond@wsj.com

Modernistfan
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Re: MLB teams mortgage today to win tomorrow

Post by Modernistfan » Sun May 13, 2018 7:36 pm

I can't stand Boras' whining. Why should teams pay megabucks for declining performance? Remember the Angels a few years ago with Vernon Wells--he was making something like $18 million per year and he barely was hitting his weight. As far as the Cincinnati Reds go, they just finished sweeping the Dodgers, with a payroll something like 4 times the Reds' payroll, in a four-game series. The real problem is the overall paucity of talent, a problem exacerbated by the large contracts handed out to too many players who start acting as though they didn't give a damn; they don't work to correct flaws in their game or, for hitters, weaknesses that can be exploited by pitchers. About 60 years ago, I read an article published under Yankee pitcher Whitey Ford's name (presumably ghost-written by some sportswriter), who said that word about a hitter's weaknesses somehow got around the league immediately (and this was in the age before digital video and the internet). Years ago, it was a rule of thumb that the best years for hitters were 27-31 or 27-32, with somewhat of a decline thereafter. Now, the prime years for a hitter seem to be 25-29, with many of them declining rapidly after that (of course, this assumes no serious injuries). The only cure for this game will be to somehow tie compensation to performance.

jserraglio
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Re: MLB teams mortgage today to win tomorrow

Post by jserraglio » Mon May 14, 2018 2:24 am

Babe Ruth wrote:The only real game in the world is baseball.
Ruth's reported reply when a reporter objected that the salary he was demanding ($80,000) was more than that of President Herbert Hoover ($75,000): “I know, but I had a better year than he did.”
From time immemorial, disgruntled fans, and the owners that stoked their jealousy to feed their own bottom lines, have groused about having to pay a ML ballplayer significantly more than what an Oklahoma schoolteacher makes. That attitude probably stems from baseball's origins in the 19th-century as an amateur sport for gentlemen of leisure. Grubby professionalism was looked down upon in the earliest days of the game, and that aristocratic attitude seems to have persisted to this day.

Those that complain that ballplayers are overpaid usually ignore the fact that as minor-leaguers and as major leaguers under their "rookie contracts", most kids are underpaid until they hit free agency which doesn't happen till 6-7 years after being called up to the majors.

I agree, however, that attempts to tie pay to performance in the modern era have resulted in glaring anomalies. The Cleveland Indians traditionally cannot and do not pay big bucks. When their aggregate payroll is compared to other teams, they rank 16th out of 30, below the league average, yet their performance ranks as one of the finest in MLB of late, currently in 1st place in the AL Central. The Twins pay even less at 18th of 30 but are nipping at the Indians's heels in the standings. The Royals, with a small payroll, went to the World Series in 2014 and won it in 2015.

In the NL West, the Diamondbacks are 17th in payroll but sit in first place at 24-16.The Brewers are 8th from last in payroll yet occupy first place in the Central at 24-17. The Pirates, fifth from last, are 0.5 games out of first at 23-17. In the NL East, the Phiilies 23 of 30 in payroll are in 2nd place. The Reds may have just swept the Dodgers but at 22 of 30 in payroll they reside in last place with an embarrassing .341 winning percentage.

But are these anomalies due to overpaid players no longer caring or to the unpredictability inherent in baseball from one game to the next, let alone one season to the next, c/w a player's inevitable physical decline over time, as shown by the fact that when a player is still productive at age 40, it is big news? I think the latter is the more likely explanation.

Since it emerged from the steroid era, I think the quality of professional baseball play has never been higher.

Modernistfan
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Re: MLB teams mortgage today to win tomorrow

Post by Modernistfan » Mon May 14, 2018 3:02 pm

I respectfully disagree that the quality of baseball since the end of the steroid era (if it ever really ended) has never been higher. In April, there were more strikeouts than hits for what was probably the first time ever for a month. The games are virtually unwatchable--who wants to sit through a 3-hour, 15-minute game with maybe a total of a dozen hits, 25 or so strikeouts, and a pitching change every other hitter? There are very few true stars (I will grant Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve, and very few others on the offensive side; I cannot put Ohtani in this category after 1/4 of a season). A lot of the old-time skills like hitting behind the runner and shortening up your swing with two strikes so that you could make contact and avoid a strikeout, skills that made the game more interesting to watch, have all but vanished.

jserraglio
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Re: MLB teams mortgage today to win tomorrow

Post by jserraglio » Mon May 14, 2018 3:53 pm

Modernistfan wrote:
Mon May 14, 2018 3:02 pm
A lot of the old-time skills like hitting behind the runner and shortening up your swing with two strikes so that you could make contact and avoid a strikeout, skills that made the game more interesting to watch, have all but vanished.
The Indians did both of those things last year on their way to winning a record 22 straight and the year before that when they went to the World Series to play another youthful team from the old Northwest Territory. As for stars, if Frankie Lindor isn't a star, then I sure can live without them. And Jose Ramirez. With men in scoring position and two out, Ramirez this year is hitting .467. Talk about hitting behind the runner!!! And Michael Brantley is hitting .496 with men on base. The DiMaggio era (13 SOs in the year of the streak!) long ago vanished and will never come again. Götterdämmerung. But small-ball has not vanished, not by a long shot.

And then there is pitching. Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Trevor Bauer. The list goes on and on.

Count me as a guy who has no problem watching a hundred or so 3.5 hour games a year. As Joseph Heller astutely pointed out, making time go slow is an effective way of prolonging your lifespan. I don't follow the coastal leviathans that buy their star players on the retail market so much as clubs from the great American heartland: Pirates, Reds, Cards, Cubs, Twins, Royals, Nationals, Brewers, Astros, Rangers, Indians, etc.

Modernistfan
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Re: MLB teams mortgage today to win tomorrow

Post by Modernistfan » Mon May 14, 2018 8:51 pm

Yes, Lindor and Ramirez are very good players, but it is something of a stretch to call them stars by the standards that formerly applied. They will have to produce at that level or higher for a substantially longer period of time to rate that appellation. There are a lot of guys who have one or two good years--then, pfffft, for no apparent reason. When I use the word "stars," I am thinking of players like Mays, Aaron, and Ted Williams.

jserraglio
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Re: MLB teams mortgage today to win tomorrow

Post by jserraglio » Tue May 15, 2018 5:01 am

Modernistfan wrote:
Mon May 14, 2018 8:51 pm
players like Mays, Aaron, and Ted Williams.
. . . who in their day were being compared to Ruth, Gehrig and . . . Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? / A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Modernistfan
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Re: MLB teams mortgage today to win tomorrow

Post by Modernistfan » Thu May 17, 2018 10:16 am

Right now, after losing two games to Miami, the Dodgers now have exactly the same record as the purportedly tanking Marlins.
One problem with the watchability of these games is the overreliance on stat geeks in the front office to make player personnel decisions. For some reason, the stat geeks do not consider speed and baserunning smarts very significant. This leads to a team like the Dodgers, who have absolutely no speed (save for Yasiel Puig, who has the speed, but not the smarts). The Dodgers do not steal bases, they don't bunt, and they don't hit-and-run. They also do not have a decent leadoff hitter. The stat geeks do not seem to understand the role that emotion plays in igniting the offense, and also the pressure that speed puts on the defense. Jackie Robinson must be spinning in his grave. (Right now, the Dodgers have exactly one African-American player, Matt Kemp, whom they actually tried to get rid of to save salary, but they were unable to; ironically, up to this point, Kemp has been the most productive hitter in an extremely lackluster offense.)

jserraglio
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Re: MLB teams mortgage today to win tomorrow

Post by jserraglio » Sun May 20, 2018 9:45 am

Modernistfan wrote:
Thu May 17, 2018 10:16 am
Right now, after losing two games to Miami, the Dodgers now have exactly the same record as the purportedly tanking Marlins.
One problem with the watchability of these games is the overreliance on stat geeks in the front office to make player personnel decisions. For some reason, the stat geeks do not consider speed and baserunning smarts very significant. This leads to a team like the Dodgers, who have absolutely no speed (save for Yasiel Puig, who has the speed, but not the smarts). The Dodgers do not steal bases, they don't bunt, and they don't hit-and-run. They also do not have a decent leadoff hitter. The stat geeks do not seem to understand the role that emotion plays in igniting the offense, and also the pressure that speed puts on the defense. Jackie Robinson must be spinning in his grave. (Right now, the Dodgers have exactly one African-American player, Matt Kemp, whom they actually tried to get rid of to save salary, but they were unable to; ironically, up to this point, Kemp has been the most productive hitter in an extremely lackluster offense.)
One of my favorite also-ran teams, the Twins, try to do the little things you mention that I agree are so important to the game. They also have a superb manager in Paul Molitor. Every time I've watched them in past years, mostly in losing efforts against the Indians, they played hard and played smart. If it is not fated to be the Indians in the AL Central, I hope it will be the Twins instead. I'd love to see them play the World Series some day.

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