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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

What “Sustainable Success” Really Means

We live in a time in which Major League Baseball front offices are increasingly cutting payroll and are seemingly happy to be “competitive” while eschewing — and sometimes even fearing — taking shots at being truly great. As we’ve discussed a lot around here over the past couple of years, a number of buzzwords — and tortured justifications for low payroll — spin out of that philosophy.

“Financial flexibility” is one we’ve had a lot of fun with. And to be sure, there are way more ridiculous ones. But there’s one you hear more often than all the others lately. Indeed, I can’t remember the last press conference from an owner or head of baseball operations that didn’t nod to it. What is it?

“Sustainable Success.”

If you want to see it in action, look no further than yesterday’s introductory press conference of new Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom. Both he and team president Sam Kennedy used the term on multiple occasions when referring to the future goals of the Boston Red Sox.

Bote Man sez Davey is MoY Posted: October 29, 2019 at 11:30 AM | 8 comment(s)
  Beats: cheap owners, contracts, revenues, spending

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Astros’ owner says Houston might ‘make a run at’ re-signing Gerrit Cole, but there’s a catch

The Houston Astros won’t know who they’re playing in the American League Divisional Series until after Wednesday night’s AL Wild Card Game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics. Still, that didn’t stop Astros owner Jim Crane from looking into the future—as in, to the winter—on Monday by addressing right-handed starter Gerrit Cole’s impending free agency.

Crane even went so far as to concede the Astros might “make a run” at retaining Cole. Here’s more, courtesy of Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle:

“We’ll see where we end up after the year. We may make a run at it. We’re not sure yet,” Crane said. “We’re going to wait and see what else unfolds and who else is going to stay on the team.

Now, before Astros fans rush out to buy Cole shirseys, it’s worth noting that Crane’s proclamation came with a caveat: that he’d prefer to remain under the luxury tax threshold—or, to be straightforward, he’d prefer to avoid paying overage penalties.

Another entry to add to this pile- I hope you don’t mind work stoppages, because I have a bad feeling that’s what’s coming when the CBA is up next….

 

QLE Posted: October 03, 2019 at 12:06 AM | 36 comment(s)
  Beats: cheap owners, gerrit cole, luxury tax

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Mark Shapiro cites Phillies, Padres as cautionary tales for spending on free agents

In our current era of austerity baseball, Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins are an owner’s best friends. They are happy to go out and toe the company line, justifying putting the bare minimum of effort needed to cobble together a major league roster. It is no surprise, then, that the Blue Jays just finished in fourth place for the third consecutive year after back-to-back appearances in the ALCS.

At Pitch Talks in 2018, Atkins said, “When you’re talking about free agency, you’re talking about aging players. And the trend of overpaying a player’s aging curve has come to an end across baseball.”

In late 2018, Shapiro defended the Jays’ decision not to call up top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. when rosters expanded in September, saying the decision “has nothing to do with business.” Guerrero had absolutely crushed it in 2018, batting an aggregate .381/.437/.636 in 408 plate appearances in the minors, including a 1.120 OPS at Double-A and .978 at Triple-A. He would continue to crush it in the Arizona Fall League.

In late February this year, Atkins set the ground work for the Jays to manipulate Guerrero’s service time, saying of the then-19-year-old, “I just don’t see [Guerrero] as a major league player.” Guerrero was held down in the minors until the Jays gained their extra year of contractual control, then brought him up in late April. He was no Pete Alonso, but had a fine rookie season, batting .272/.339/.433 with 15 home runs and 69 RBI in 514 plate appearances in the majors. Not bad for a 20-year-old. But the Jays were less interested in his age-20 season and more interested in his age-26 season. You know, in 2025.

“Why sell our team using star players when we can brag that our players’ dads were ones instead?”

 

QLE Posted: October 02, 2019 at 12:24 AM | 12 comment(s)
  Beats: blue jays, cheap owners, free agents, mark shapiro

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Red Sox plan to slash payroll

A year ago the Boston Red Sox were finishing up a 108-win season and were about to buzz through the playoffs and win the World Series, completing perhaps the greatest season in team history. Today their owner announced that he intended to slash payroll.

That’s the word directly from Sox owner John Henry, who told reporters that he wants the club’s payroll to be below the first threshold of the Competitive Balance Tax.  Currently their payroll for CBT purposes is just under $242 million. The first level threshold for the CBT in 2020 will be $208 million. Which means they’ll have to cut around $20 million while still giving raises to players in arbitration, seeing certain players under contracts get raises per their terms and acquiring new players.

Some of the work on that cutting will happen automatically. As Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe notes, the team will lose around $56.2 million with Rick Porcello hitting free agency and Pablo Sandoval‘s, Steve Pearce‘s, Mitch Moreland‘s and Eduardo Núñez’s salaries coming off the books. Abraham identifies a few other players unlikely to return — Bock Holt, Sandy León, and Steven Wright — who will save the Sox another $7 million in change. Heck, even count Dustin Pedroia‘s salary going down $2 million if you want to. Assuming Abraham’s identified cuts at least, the Sox will start with a $179.2 million figure, leaving around $26 million to spend.

Of course, the Sox still have to field a team in 2020 and thus still have some choices to make. And they may have some choices made for them.

There will, of course, be people who will defend this- but good luck being able to explain them to the rest of us…..

 

QLE Posted: September 28, 2019 at 12:26 AM | 52 comment(s)
  Beats: cheap owners, red sox

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Baseball Should Be Fun. Let’s Hope It Stays That Way

What do you want baseball to be? That may seem like a silly question—after all, it’s been functionally the same sport for the last century—but it’s one I’ve thought about a lot in 2019, a year that I’m convinced will go down as a turning point for the game (or at least as one of its more important years).

This particular era of MLB has blessed its fans with the greatest and deepest collection of talent in history. Every day, you can turn on your TV or laptop or phone and watch guys like Mike Trout or Ronald Acuña Jr. or Justin Verlander do absurd things that would’ve been unimaginable 50 years ago. “In My Day, Ballplayers Were For S—-,” reads the headline of one of my favorite Onion pieces, and that (very accurate) sentiment from 20 years ago still holds true. This is, to borrow a line of thinking from Dr. Pangloss, the best of all possible baseball worlds.

Yet at the same time, baseball is mutating and shifting into something hard to recognize. More home runs, more strikeouts, more velocity, more power—everything on the field has seemingly been pushed to its extreme. Away from the field, though, the volume has been turned down: shrinking payrolls, frozen offseasons, a sizable chunk of the league simply not trying to compete, postseasons that become predictable and division races that are over in August. As the sport reaches new heights, it also feels like it’s going backwards in terms of its ultimate goal: a fun, watchable product where everyone is trying to win.

I’ve hammered on that point quite a bit in Nine Innings this season, in part because I do think it’s one of the dominant stories of the year, but also because I think it’s vitally important to understand how the future of baseball is being affected by this reluctant present. Teams—or, to be more accurate, the billionaires who own them—have decided that it’s more important to turn a profit (or at least not spend too much) than to win a championship. Some squads have taken that concept to its logical endpoint, wherein they intentionally put together awful, non-competitive rosters for the immediate purpose of saving money and building a team that can win only within a narrow band of payroll. “Sustainable” is the buzzword, but it’s just another way of saying “cheap.”

A consideration of the contrast between the on-field and off-field aspects of the sport.

 

QLE Posted: September 25, 2019 at 12:40 AM | 16 comment(s)
  Beats: cheap owners, competitive, dollah dollah bills, y'all, fun

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Report: Red Sox unlikely to retain Mookie Betts and/or J.D. Martinez

Alex Speier of The Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox are unlikely to retain outfielder Mookie Betts and/or DH J.D. Martinez. One or both are likely to be traded this winter. The Red Sox purportedly do not have the payroll flexibility to afford both given the recent signings of pitchers Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi.

The Red Sox currently have a payroll over $236 million, exceeding the competitive balance tax threshold for a second straight year. Last year, the CBT threshold was $197 million, this year it’s $206 million. The Red Sox will pay a penalty on the $30 million overage, 30 percent ($9 million) plus a 12 percent penalty ($3.6 million) for exceeding the CBT threshold between $20-40 million. To a layperson, these are huge penalties. To a billionaire, they are drops in the ocean. Even to a team, it’s the cost of a free agent reliever.

John Henry, who is the principal owner of the Red Sox (and The Boston Globe), has a net worth of $2.7 billion, according to Forbes. Henry and the Red Sox could keep both Betts and Martinez if they really wanted to. The CBT, of course, was designed to give team owners a reason to limit their investments in their teams, so it’s working exactly as intended.

Ever get the feeling we’re on the verge of a major strike in a few years’ time?

QLE Posted: September 10, 2019 at 01:30 AM | 48 comment(s)
  Beats: cheap owners, j.d. martinez, mookie betts, red sox

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Adeiny Hechavarria gives Mets a million reasons to remember game-changing double

NEW YORK – The day before Adeiny Hechavarria would collect a million bucks, the Mets sent him to the unemployment line, designating him for assignment.

While the team played the move off as one it made due to roster construction with Joe Panik being added, the timing certainly caught Hechavarria’s attention.

“It can’t be a coincidence the day before I was due a bonus it obviously went down. I think the same thing happened with (Carlos) Gomez as well,” Hechavarria said via Braves interpreter Franco Garcia. “It’s hard to believe and hard-pressed to say it’s a coincidence. That’s baseball and the business of the game.”

Hechavarria later landed with the Braves, who are without Dansby Swanson, and he got his first crack at revenge against his team Friday night at Citi Field.

Oh, the fun of beating up upon the Wilpons!


 

 

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