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Wednesday, June 06, 2018

As Mets nosedive, GM Sandy Alderson says club will never go ‘extremist’ with rebuild

Not everyone is going to strip down the franchise and automatically become the Houston Astros or Chicago Cubs. Or even the Atlanta Braves. It’s not that simple. Besides, there’s a whole lot of pain involved in any rebuild; the Astros lost 324 games over a three-year span, finishing a combined 127 games out of first place.

“I don’t know why it’s become so popular,’’ Alderson says, “maybe it’s the product of the extremist. In our culture, you’re either really good or you stink. There’s no reason to be caught in the middle. There’s virtue at the extreme.

“I just don’t see it that way.’’

In Alderson’s world, he sees a team that’s still hovering around .500 despite a bevy of injuries, a division that’s vulnerable, and even a league in which no one appears capable of running away and hiding.

Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: June 06, 2018 at 01:21 AM | 27 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mets, the process

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   1. Answer Guy, without side hustles. Posted: June 06, 2018 at 08:40 AM (#5686797)
There are too many teams trying something like that right now for all of them (or even most of them) to succeed.

The Mets' situation is not even that dire. The Nats look like they could be the class of the NL but are facing a day of reckoning and may have to start almost from scratch soon. Atlanta and Philadelphia so far look further along than perhaps most of us thought pre-season, but neither is good enough to run and hide. The Marlins are a major league club in name only.
   2. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: June 06, 2018 at 09:38 AM (#5686839)
“I don’t know why it’s become so popular,’’ Alderson says

Perhaps Sandy could ask one of those owners what it's like to sleep on a mattress stuffed with $100 bills to find out.
   3. PreservedFish Posted: June 06, 2018 at 09:41 AM (#5686841)
This is just what the Wilpons want.
   4. SoSH U at work Posted: June 06, 2018 at 09:54 AM (#5686852)
“I don’t know why it’s become so popular,’’ Alderson says


In addition to the bed stuffing, the fact that the last two World Series champions went that route could have something to do with it.

   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 06, 2018 at 10:36 AM (#5686868)
In addition to the bed stuffing, the fact that the last two World Series champions went that route could have something to do with it.

Yeah, but that was just a happy accident. The Cubs and Astros owners would have been thrilled with the extra $100M in profits w/o the titles.

My take is that owners have found a way to sell massive cost cutting to the fans as the smart move for the franchise. It's a brilliant marketing ploy.
   6. Scott Lange Posted: June 06, 2018 at 10:53 AM (#5686885)
Yeah, but that was just a happy accident. The Cubs and Astros owners would have been thrilled with the extra $100M in profits w/o the titles.

My take is that owners have found a way to sell massive cost cutting to the fans as the smart move for the franchise. It's a brilliant marketing ploy.


The Cubs becoming consistent winners is worth more than $100M/year. Attendance is up, revenue per attendee is up, television ratings are way up, playoff revenue exists...

I'm sure you're right that owners enjoy cutting payroll on its own merits, but the gains from the Cubs' success are much more than incidental.
   7. SoSH U at work Posted: June 06, 2018 at 10:56 AM (#5686891)
Yeah, but that was just a happy accident.


Regardless, it makes finding a way to sell that massive cost cutting to the fans a hell of a lot easier when you can point to the Cubs and Astros. And, given the copycat nature of sports, it increases the appeal to the GM who wants to win a title.

He wasn't asking why it's a good idea. He was asking why it was popular. That it seemed to have worked is undeniably a mark in its favor, happy accident or not.

   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 06, 2018 at 11:03 AM (#5686896)

I'm sure you're right that owners enjoy cutting payroll on its own merits, but the gains from the Cubs' success are much more than incidental.


Are you sure about that? The Cubs drew 3.2 million people last year. They drew 3.0 million in the last year of Hendry's reign. They were at 3.3 in the 2007-2008 time frame.

The Cubs were always wildly profitable. The tank job let the Ricketts pay down their debt.
   9. perros Posted: June 06, 2018 at 11:06 AM (#5686898)
Over your dead, or merely fire-roasted, body is what you mean, Sandy.
   10. Blastin Posted: June 06, 2018 at 01:40 PM (#5687057)
The conservative estimate for the increase in Cubs value has been $300m.

Tanking isn't great, but the value of their succees is real. And it's not really ticket sales.
   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 06, 2018 at 01:51 PM (#5687065)
The conservative estimate for the increase in Cubs value has been $300m.

But hasn't every MLB team gone up in valued similarly over the period? The freaking Marlins sold for $1.3B.
   12. Blastin Posted: June 06, 2018 at 02:04 PM (#5687076)
I know you probably think you're more knowledgeable than Forbes (I kid, because I certainly think that way sometimes too), but here's an article specifically about their increase in value because of the WS win.
   13. Rally Posted: June 06, 2018 at 02:15 PM (#5687084)
There's a big increase in revenue, but you also take a hit for the years of tanking.

For the Cubs attendance figures there isn't too much difference. They were around 2.8 million before the tanking, dropped to 2.6, and now average a bit over 3 million. Of course that doesn't tell us average ticket prices or media revenue. Cubs historically draw well as losers because Wrigley is still a great place to see a game, and they are kind of capped on the high end because of stadium size.

For Astros:

They were drawing over 3 million during the Bagwell-Biggio heyday. Dropped to around 2.5 as a mediocre team that was paying lip service to trying to contend. Fell to 1.6-1.7 during the years they stopped trying. During 3 years of being contenders they recovered to around 2.4 million. In the wake of a championship they are on pace to pass 2.8 million this season.

I don't know how long the Astros would have taken to improve without tanking, and no idea how long the current core will keep contending. I have no idea what the overall financial picture is, vs. what it could have been. But it looks to me that fewer people will be in the Houston ballpark for the 2011-2020 period than if they had taken the middle road and made an effort each year to put the best team on the field.

   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 06, 2018 at 02:15 PM (#5687085)
I know you probably think you're more knowledgeable than Forbes (I kid, because I certainly think that way sometimes too), but here's an article specifically about their increase in value because of the WS win.

The author himself says it's just a rough estimate, and doesn't show any math. I sincerely doubt that if the Cubs had lost G7, their revenue would be any lower today.

I'd also believe that we're both significantly smarter than the average reporter at Forbes.
   15. PreservedFish Posted: June 06, 2018 at 02:20 PM (#5687090)
Although MLB is undoubtedly a very good business, I still believe that most owners get into it primarily for the love of it. There are less stressful ways of making hundreds of millions of dollars, if you're starting with billions, and a prudent non-fan investor is going to get outbid by someone that really gets a kick out of the whole thing. Now, for some owners it might be enough to just walk through the clubhouse and feel like a big shot, and they don't actually care about winning. But some of them must.
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 06, 2018 at 02:24 PM (#5687095)
Although MLB is undoubtedly a very good business, I still believe that most owners get into it primarily for the love of it. There are less stressful ways of making hundreds of millions of dollars, if you're starting with billions, and a prudent non-fan investor is going to get outbid by someone that really gets a kick out of the whole thing. Now, for some owners it might be enough to just walk through the clubhouse and feel like a big shot, and they don't actually care about winning. But some of them must.

Sure. You've got people like Arte Moreno, and Mike Ilitch, and the Steinbrenners (largely) who do no optimize for profitability. But, I think they're getting rarer.

The guys who are going to be ruthless profit maximizers can generally outbid the rich fans.
   17. PreservedFish Posted: June 06, 2018 at 02:32 PM (#5687101)
"Here's the plan, we lose, you make a ton of money, and we'll build an incredible team and the people will love you" seems like a more realistic pitch than "Here's the plan, we lose, you make a ton of money! Oh, and who knows, maybe it'll help us get good again later?" especially if it's coming from an Epstein or Luhnow that have their own reputations and pride to think of.
   18. PreservedFish Posted: June 06, 2018 at 02:37 PM (#5687106)
With that said yes I'm sure there are going to be miserly copycat rebuilding programs.

"GM, I want you to cut payroll to $50M."
"Can I try and improve the farm system?"
"Oh, I guess so. What's the point?"
"It might give the fans a reason not to hate you."
"Ok, cut payroll to $52 million and just don't bother me about it."
   19. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: June 06, 2018 at 02:39 PM (#5687108)
I say it every time this discussion comes up, I don't even know why I bother. The Cubs and Astros approach to rebuilding and cost saving just isn't in the same ballpark. The Astros really, really bottomed out, and saved money everywhere they could (and there's still stories of them cutting staff). The Cubs cut payroll, though not to the same extent, and jumped it back up to a level the Astros still won't touch*. The Cubs put tons and tons of money into their organization, and redid their stadium. The idea that the Cubs cut payroll just to save money is ludicrous, and always has been.

*EDIT: I see the Astros payroll this year is quite a bit higher than I thought. I partially retract that part of my comment.
   20. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 06, 2018 at 03:08 PM (#5687131)
Rebuilding can often look like tanking because it can lead a team to acquire young talent that isn't ready to contribute at the major league level. That makes the current season look a lot worse, while also being a sound investment for the future.

If you look at the Cubs, they bottomed out in 2012 with 101 losses - but they also traded for several key players of the subsequent championship team that year, including Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Hendricks and Travis Wood. Those trades hurt the team in the near future but improved them in the long run. The only real talent they dumped that year was D.J. LeMahieu.

I can believe that Theo didn't really care what the Cubs' 2012 record was, but the fact that they got worse that season was incidental to their overall goals. They weren't trying to get worse.
   21. QLE Posted: June 06, 2018 at 06:12 PM (#5687261)
#8 and #13-

Quite- I remember that a critique involving team ownership during the Tribune period was that the ownership had no real incentive to perform better on the field, as Wrigley would be filled and WGN watched from coast to coast regardless of how well the team did. These numbers simply serve as a way to quantify that claim.
   22. Walt Davis Posted: June 07, 2018 at 08:06 PM (#5688045)
Well ...

#19. I give Ricketts credit. He did put a lot of those savings into the ballpark and he upped the payroll when they were ready to win. I especially did not expect the latter and I was wrong. So I've got to agree with you, at least mostly.

#20. Well, kinda. The only one of those trades that was at all challenging was Cashner for Rizzo. The others were the trades that every losing team makes -- the last two months of Dempster, the last two months of Feldman, etc. Many of those trades worked out brilliantly for the Cubs which tells us that Theo's team is pretty damn good at assessing and developing talent (or really lucky ... or both) but they were still the trades that everybody makes and have nothing to do with tanking or even the quality of that year's team.

The "tanking" bit is what Theo did in terms of filling out the roster. I forget now what the exact numbers were but none of the players the Cubs added to the roster even projected to league average. Shawn Camp was our major relief acquisition, Nate Schierholtz was the starting RF (and did OK), Joe Mather FFS. They made zero attempt to improve the 2012 team, even keeping Rizzo at AAA for a half-season to reset his service time clock.

It's in those moves -- when you go out and acquire other team's bench players or AAAA players to become starters, nothingburgers like Joe Mather get substantial playing time (because you've got so little ML talent on the roster), you sign 3 cheap injured starters hoping one of them has a decent first half so you can trade him for something ... and then at the deadline, clearing out as much of the ML talent as you still have left ... holding back a young player who's ready. Those are moves you know are not improving your team's current performance, you're just hoping to trot out guys who won't embarrass you to 2003 Tigers level ... but you know they just might. That's clearly not making an effort to put a good or even your best possible team on the field. You're of course not telling those guys on the field to lose, you're just making sure there's not a lot of talent on the field but enough that the turnstiles don't stop turning. That's tanking.

(Oops, I see I've done some combining of 2012 and 2013 ... whatever.)

Cashner-Rizzo, let's not forget, that wasn't a traditional rebuilding trade of an expensive vet for a prospect, it was a young league-average starter for a young 1B who had tanked in his first half-season. The Padres had just traded for Yonder Alonso, presumably because they thought he was better than Rizzo and possibly partly to clear out Jed's poster boy. As often happens in that scenario, a player's former GM trades for him after landing a new job (and Theo had drafted him originally I believe).

All of this points up the risk of rebuilding (and of staying pat or just GM'ing in general). Obviously every team would swap 2 months of Dempster for Hendricks ... if you had 20/20 hindsight. Clearly Arrieta and Strop (MLers not prospects) is laughably awesome return for a couple months of Feldman in 20/20 hindsight. If Beane knows that his team is gonna collapse anyway, he never gives up Russell. If the Astros don't decide to get rid of Fowler we don't have him for the 2016 breakout; if the O's don't bungle the signing, we don't have him for 2017.

If any of us back in 2011-2012 knew that Springer, Altuve and Keuchel were all going to turn into stars, we'd have been much more bullish on the 2016-17 Astros. Of course if you know those three were going to be so valuable, maybe you didn't need to go through all that terrible losing to build a winner.

Those were all good trades by the Cubs -- give up little, get some potential in return, maybe that potential pays off -- but there's luck involved in almost all of them paying off and there's still lots of stuff that happened that was outside of Theo's control and not part of a "strategy" beyond "strategy point 6: take advantage of other teams' mistakes ... and hope they really were mistakes."

The Cubs of course have Baez, Almora, Bryant, Schwarber and Happ all in the majors. But that's notable because it's incredibly rare that 5 straight first-round picks would pay off. I don't think they were all first-rounders but the Astros hit the jackpot on Springer, Altuve, Keuchel, Correa (that was pretty obvious from the start), Bregman and McCullers has been good too -- again notable because it almost never happens that nearly all of your top prospects hit. Again, that's not part of the "strategy" ... the strategy is "let's get as much young talent as we can and hopefully enough of it will hit that we can then supplement to win." I mean, every team's "strategy" is "let's hope our current and near-term prospects produce 25 WAR in a single season." That's almost always a winning strategy when it happens.
   23. Adam Starblind Posted: June 08, 2018 at 07:06 AM (#5688185)
Speaking of the Mets...

They wouldn't have to tear down the franchise if they just had a 2 or 3 star position players and a moderately reliable bullpen. They have zero star position players (we'll see about Nimmo; I also happen to suspect that Cespedes is a malingerer, or at least a guy who needs to put on his big boy pants and play through some pain).

There's what I think is a false narrative that they mistakenly built around pitching prospects. That endeavor has yielded 2 ace-level starters and two guys, Wheeler and Matz, who look like they may be settling in as #3-4 types. Harvey was obviously a major disappointment, but overall how much more successful could they reasonably be with 5 pitching prospects?

Anyway, hopefully Alonso pans out, but as usual there's no franchise in baseball that will have a greater need next offseason to go after one of the marquis position players, and as usual they won't.
   24. Zonk is a Doorknob Whisperer Posted: June 08, 2018 at 10:22 AM (#5688265)
The "tanking" bit is what Theo did in terms of filling out the roster. I forget now what the exact numbers were but none of the players the Cubs added to the roster even projected to league average. Shawn Camp was our major relief acquisition, Nate Schierholtz was the starting RF (and did OK), Joe Mather FFS. They made zero attempt to improve the 2012 team, even keeping Rizzo at AAA for a half-season to reset his service time clock.


They also signed David DeJesus prior to 2012 and Paul Maholm in the 2012-2013 offseason. Kerry Wood was resigned as well - though he retired in 2012. Reed Johnson - who was a perfectly nice short-side platoon CF was brought back.

I know there are just Gonfalon posts I could link to instead, but I just wholly disagree with Walt's frowning assessment.

The Cubs also had the flaming albatross of Carlos Zambrano to deal with, Soriano's unmoveable contract, Matt Garza getting expensive and failing to be the ace the Cubs thought they had acquired in the mistake-laden last gasp of the Hendry regime. The corpse (pre-final resurrection) of Marlon Byrd.

The Cubs had a fair amount of dollars involved in sunk costs who were getting worse... It was not a scenario where one should try to spend MORE money to put pieces around them.

   25. Adam Starblind Posted: June 08, 2018 at 12:33 PM (#5688370)
The corpse (pre-final resurrection) of Marlon Byrd.


Was he the player who, when caught with PED, said they were for moobs?
   26. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 08, 2018 at 01:31 PM (#5688403)
The "tanking" bit is what Theo did in terms of filling out the roster. I forget now what the exact numbers were but none of the players the Cubs added to the roster even projected to league average. Shawn Camp was our major relief acquisition, Nate Schierholtz was the starting RF (and did OK), Joe Mather FFS. They made zero attempt to improve the 2012 team, even keeping Rizzo at AAA for a half-season to reset his service time clock.


This doesn't even make sense. Anthony Rizzo had been terrible in the majors in 2011 and was only 22 in 2012, so it's hardly a foregone conclusion that he would have improved the Cubs' record by being up in the big leagues all season. Nate Schierholtz was added to the team for the 2013 season and was half-decent, which makes him not very good evidence that the 2012 Cubs were tanking.
   27. SoSH U at work Posted: June 08, 2018 at 02:27 PM (#5688429)
They also signed David DeJesus prior to 2012 and Paul Maholm in the 2012-2013 offseason. Kerry Wood was resigned as well - though he retired in 2012. Reed Johnson - who was a perfectly nice short-side platoon CF was brought back.


And I presume they didn't sign Edwin Jackson with the expectation he'd suck.

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