Sunday, November 19, 2006

If It's Not True, Pretend That It Is

Barry Rozner of Chicago's Daily Herald goes off on a rant about payroll disparity and how only the big city teams with the bloated payrolls qualify, which sounds all well and good until you realize that none of it is true.
Level playing field? Not in your baseball lifetime
Seven different champions in seven seasons. Sounds pretty level to me. In comparison, the NFL the "ultimate parity league" have, since the Yankees beat the Mets in the 2000 World Series to begin that seven team run, seen 50% of their championships go to one franchise, the New England Patriots. The NFL has near full revenue sharing and a salary cap. I guess there must be more to it than payroll, huh?
NEW YORK — Only in Gotham can you find a team truly worth a billion dollars.

And it’s clear from the early returns that the Cubs won’t fetch that price.

At least not yet.

But imagine a group of local businessmen/Cubs fans buying the club and paying, say, $700 million to $800 million for the team, give or take a few bucks, with a sweet broadcast deal thrown into the package.
Ok, I am imagining this. My guess is that they wouldn't invest that much unless they thought they'd get a return on that investment, but hey, what do I know, I don't write for the Daily Herald.
There are some who believe that could happen any day now, but we’re inclined to think ownership will continue to drive the price higher and create a bidding war.
There are some who think that man never walked on the moon and that OJ was innocent. It's lazy writing to say "there are some who say" without mentioning who those some are, and then to refute those nameless hordes with a "we're inclined to believe" as if Barry Rozner is not a man, but a collective mind of experts. Example: there are some who say that Barry Rozner is a big jackass, but we're inclined to believe he is many jackasses.
Still, whether it’s this year or next, it’s likely to happen, and if it does, imagine further a Cubs team willing to spend $200 million on payroll to win.

That would put them in the rarified air that belongs only to the Yankees and now the Red Sox, who were willing to spend more than $100 million alone on a hurler who has yet to throw a North American pitch in anger.
Yes, it would be truly awful of ownership to invest their profits into the team instead of pocketing it. Man what a bunch of jerks!
And nowhere in the last week — since owners began spending like drunken Steinbrenners — have you heard Bud Selig proclaim that the game is perfect, that anyone can win at any time, and that the days of the Haves vs. the Have-nots are over.

Indeed, Selig tries only to sell such fiction around the time of the All-Star Game, when it’s true there is parity in the game.

One game.

Wait, so is Bud Selig supposed to make a weekly address that "everything is fine"? Rozner would probably have purchased this invention:

Homer: Here's my "Everything's O.K." alarm! (loud piercing alarm)
This will sound every three seconds, unless something isn't
Marge: Turn it off, Homer!
Homer: It can't be turned off! [alarm fizzles out] But it, uh,
does break easily.
The reason Selig doesn't preach balance is because he's always been an owner for small markets (since he and his daughter have owned the Milwaukee Brewers for the better part of the last few decades) and doesn't complain when owners of those franchises line their pockets with revenue sharing. To admit that there is some competitive balance would be to undermine the "dire need" for a new stadium for every franchise owner wanting a community to pay to buy him a new toy.
Other than that, his “perfect’’ system seems quite broken, as there is no level playing field, and there is no competitive balance.
Seven champions in the last seven years.
Certainly not when it comes to purchasing free agents or making the playoffs.

That is reserved for the richest of the rich, and you’ll notice you have not heard a word from Selig since he bragged about the new collective bargaining agreement being signed without a work stoppage.
Again, I'm no Bud Selig fan, but why exactly should Selig be making statements "since the collective bargaining agreement" about parity? I'm truly at a loss to figure out why Rozner keeps saying that Selig hasn't made a statement since some arbitrary time about a situation that hasn't changed.

The playoffs are not reserved for the "richest of the rich." But let's use facts rather than hyperbole to prove it:
Top 10 2006 Payrolls and their results playoff teams in bold:
  1. New York Yankees
  2. Boston Red Sox
  3. Angels of Whatever City You Choose
  4. Chicago White Sox
  5. New York Mets
  6. Chicago Cubs
  7. Los Angeles Dodgers
  8. Houston Astros
  9. Atlanta Braves
  10. San Francisco Giants
That's three out of the top ten.
Well, congratulations for not killing the game again.
Hey dude, that is actually a big deal that there will be no work stoppage for the forseeable future and no acrimonius, dragged out negotiations full of threats and timetables. That is a very big deal, as it's pretty much unprecedented in the history of the sport. However I suppose Selig's time would have been better served giving speeches about competitive balance.
The truth is there was no work stoppage because the big-market owners are making money hand over fist, and the players couldn’t be more pleased.
I know this won't make and sense to Barry Rozner, but ALL teams are making money hand over fist. Remember the Brewers I mentioned before? Small market team, right? Well a few years ago they were the most profitable team in baseball: "Figures released by major league baseball show that the Milwaukee Brewers were baseball's most profitable club, after revenue sharing, in 2001. Without revenue sharing, the Brewers were the fourth-most profitable team." That hasn't changed. The Brewers are still making money:

Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has said his profit for 2005 was about $4.5 million. That’s much lower than the Forbes estimate, but the magazine does not take into account taxes, depreciation and interest payments. A newly purchased franchise like the Brewers can claim millions in phantom depreciation on ballplayers, a tax break not allowed to any other industry. As for interest payments, that reflects borrowed money, not money an owner actually put up to buy a team.

The long and short of it is the Brewers are doing very well. Though the team ranks 26th of 30 franchises in total revenue, its profit is high because its expenses are low. That would reflect two factors: a very favorable stadium deal, with the public paying for more of the costs than most cities, and a player payroll that is one of the lowest in the league. This raises an obvious question: Given how generous the taxpayers have been, why is the Brewers payroll so low?

Ok, back to Rozner's Ramblings:
A terrible free-agent class is seeing ridiculous offers, and they’re getting them from the usual suspenders holding up the deep pockets of the big-market owners.

Just imagine a year from now the Cubs up around $200 million with fans/owners so possessed by a century of suffering that they’ll do anything to win.

Of course, money’s no guarantee, but we’ll guarantee you the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, White Sox, Mets and Dodgers, who all spent over $100 million in 2006, won’t sit back and let the Cubs spend alone.
Wow, some clubs are going to invest in free agents? Seriously? It's not just those teams. The biggest free agent contract ever was signed by the Texas Rangers. A couple of seasons ago the Seattle Mariners handed out huge contracts to Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson. Every team spends on free agents.

Also I don't see why Rozner chooses to isolate the Cubs here as if all of a sudden they'll be "up there" with these franchises. As I listed above, the Cubs had the 6th largest payroll in 2006 - just behind the Mets, and more than the Dodgers who at least in 2006 were content to "sit back" and let the Cubs spend.
Some of them will go with the Cubs dollar for dollar, competing for free agents as they are this winter.

What’s that you say about competitive balance?
Oh, you must not have been paying attention. I said "seven champions in seven years."
Of the bottom 19 teams in payroll, only two — Minnesota and Oakland — regularly compete for a playoff spot, and that’s only because their GMs are smarter than most and have figured out how to beat the system.

The rest of the Pirates, Royals, Marlins, Brewers, Devil Rays and Rockies still serve as farm teams for the major-league teams, trading their best and most expensive players either because they can’t afford them now, or know they won’t be able to sign them later.
This is pure nonsense. The Cardinals "regularly compete" for a playoff spot. They've been to two World Series in the past three years (and won one, I might add). The Padres regularly compete for a playoff spot, as do many other franchises. So far the only real "fact" presented in this article is that the Twins and A's have won playoff spots despite low payrolls. Yes,this is a testament to good management. It is also a testament to which divisions in which they play.
You want to talk level playing field?

It’s not just the air that’s thin in Colorado, where the Rockies might have to deal their best pitcher, Jason Jennings, because he’s a free agent after the 2007 season.
Jason Jennings had a career year. Now would be the time to unload him no matter what team owns his rights. His road ERA the past three seasons has been unremarkable and average at best. Yes, he's their best pitcher, but that should say something about the Rockies' long history of being unable to scout and develop any real pitching talent, and the fact that they still haven't really figured out how to build a franchise in that thin air. Coors Field is huge, and will sell out if the Rockies could put together a winner. Denver is a great sports town and I'm sure they'd love to get behind their team, but you can't praise the A's and Twins for great management and not blame the Rockies for mismanagement.
You worried about a luxury tax?

Not in New York, L.A., Boston or Chicago, where if the Cubs are sold, you’ll have another monster payroll to suck dry the best and brightest from the poorest of the poor.
Well, no team is really poor, but that's another reason why revenue sharing was created. However, owners often abuse their payouts as they shove millions of dollars into their pockets and do not invest in their teams.
Good for us in Chicago, bad for most of America.
Playoffs? Playoffs?

No, Jim Mora, the playoffs are reserved for the big markets.

Hahaha, a timely Jim Mora non-sequitor reference! Barry Rozner, you card you!

Ok so even though I posted that only three of the top ten payrolled teams made the playoffs last year, lets do the rankings of the teams who did make the playoffs:

1. New York Yankees
5. New York Mets
6. Los Angeles Dodgers
11. St. Louis Cardinals
14. Detroit Tigers
17. San Diego Padres
19. Minnesota Twins
21. Oakland A's

Hardly the richest of the rich. Hardly just the big markets.
Since revenue sharing was boosted in the previous CBA, three playoff teams out of 32 came from the group (the bottom 10) that is supposed to get the most money from the luxury tax — Oakland twice and the Marlins once.
Their owners and GMs are either not interested in investing that money back into their franchise, or are in a rebuilding mode, or are inept. Take your pick.
Since the expansion in 1998, 64 of 72 postseason clubs (89 percent) emerged from the top 66 percent of revenue clubs. Of the poor sisters who made it, five of the eight were Billy Beane’s Athletics.

In that same time period, 79 percent of the playoff teams were in the top 50 percent of payrolls, and 60 percent came just from the top 10 spenders.
Wow! Most of the playoff teams were from the top two thirds of teams based on payroll! Besides that fact that we're talking about a large majority here, of course that's the case. Teams looking to be competitive in a year are willing to spend, teams that are rebuilding are dumping high salaried players and going with young talent. That's the way it works.
The numbers don’t lie: If you’re a fan of the Reds, Brewers, Royals, Pirates, Rockies, Rays or Marlins, you’ve got a better shot at getting hit by lightning — or witnessing the Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup — than you doing watching your baseball team make the playoffs.
The Reds came pretty close to making the playoffs in 2006. The Marlins have won a World Series since the hated big payroll Yankees (in fact they beat them in order to do it) and have won two championships since big payroll teams like the Mets, Dodgers and (yes) Cubs have won their last one.
Level playing field?

Yeah, as smooth as a Chicago side street in winter.
Barry Rozner, I have to admit I really don't know what you've been talking about this whole article. The Cubs are about to become a big spender (but they already are). Only the rich make the playoffs (but they don't) and the small market teams can't compete (but they do).

Next time before you write an article, take a deep breath and think about what you're point will be for the piece, and then throughout the article use facts to support your arguments. Now don't just pick and choose facts to support your case, but instead make a case based off all of the facts. Here's one, try it out: seven champions in seven years.

posted by Mr. Faded Glory @ 12:57 PM   1 comments


At 11/19/2006 11:02 PM, Blogger susan mullen said...

Great post, Mr. H&T. You never know--you could inspire enough other people to expose the entrenched, unaccountable, (except to their code of silence) baseball back-room mafia. There is absolutely no reason to put up with this. Baseball belongs to the fan, from whom all money flows.


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