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Thursday, November 08, 2018

Red Sox: Bill James “is not an employee nor does he speak for the club”

People are losing their minds over James’ tweets. Of course, people lose their minds over all kinds of stupid stuff, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Anyway, Craig has the important links and info.

Jim Furtado Posted: November 08, 2018 at 02:03 PM | 182 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bill james, mlbpa

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   1. Baseballs Most Beloved Figure Posted: November 08, 2018 at 02:57 PM (#5784414)
And here we go with another non-scandal scandal.
   2. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 08, 2018 at 03:10 PM (#5784422)
I wonder if James will weigh in on overpaid owners.
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: November 08, 2018 at 03:12 PM (#5784424)

There's a certain truth to what James is saying, but only on the broad and brief level. If all of the players retired tomorrow, and baseball replaced them with the next 600 best players available, the game would likely go on without much of a hitch (provided they were truly retired). Of course, it would also follow that those 600 players would demand to be paid commensurate with the value they're delivering to their organizations. And the organizations, being competitive, would comply. Because baseball players, not beer vendors, win baseball games.
   4. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 08, 2018 at 03:17 PM (#5784427)
I wonder if James will weigh in on overpaid owners.

Or consultants.
   5. Jim Furtado Posted: November 08, 2018 at 03:21 PM (#5784428)
I didn't do an exhaustive study but I checked a few years to see how much turnover there is over a three-year span. I found about 1/3 of the players in year one aren't around in year 3.

I was just curious.
   6. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: November 08, 2018 at 03:21 PM (#5784429)
This just seems an awfully odd argument for James to make... to the extent one actually makes real 'arguments' in a couple of tweets.

Based on what I read - I think James' argument might be more that there are is a fairly decent-size universe of low-paid players, too - who don't garner much sympathy because they're quite replaceable.

IOW - when you consider the concept of replacement-level (and near-replacement level) players - they're pretty lucky, too, because the entire idea is predicated on "freely available".

So - I understand (or think I understand) James' point... even the lower-paid players (some of whom are underpaid) are generally pretty damn lucky to be getting half mil, too on the aggregate. I.e., for every first year player whose salary is well below what a finely-tuned "merit pay system" might say they should be paid, there are a lot more who could be readily replaced.

All well and good.

The problem, though - is that I think it completely ignores that we don't actually know how much each team truly has to spend... Even beyond pure revenue streams - publicly financed facilities, various accounting shenanigans that aren't even unique to baseball, yada yada.

That's kind of where the kernel of a good point collapses.

To truly know what constitutes underpaid/overpaid - we've got what we need on the player side... but not on the team side and we never really will. To get what we need on the team side is basically 30 computerized owners overseen by a computerized MLB whose only target financially is come out *exactly 0* - no profit/no loss, with completely accounted for revenue/expenses.

Without that? No one is overpaid. No one is underpaid. The salaries are just artificial constructs.
   7. Jim Furtado Posted: November 08, 2018 at 03:30 PM (#5784438)
I wonder if James will weigh in on overpaid owners.

Players can certainly be overpaid, especially relative to possible replacements. I find most of the analysis of player value greatly overestimates the relative value of players by using $ per WAR in free agency. If free agency were the only option to acquire players, it would be an appropriate baseline. That's not the case, though.
   8. villageidiom Posted: November 08, 2018 at 04:13 PM (#5784470)
To all the people who disagree with James' statement I guess I'd ask what they think would happen if all MLB players retired overnight. Do they think MLB would end? That the teams would fold? That it would become a volunteer organization? That they'd convert to another sport or something? The most obvious thing is, yes, the teams would still exist, and they would be staffed by another 750 players who are willing to play for the cost teams are willing to pay for their services. The calculus on that would be on a different scale, based on different demand. Ticket prices would drop, and salaries would drop, and quality would drop. But those 750 players would get paid better than they do today for a lesser baseball job or for a non-baseball job, and the teams would still make money.

James is not saying the teams don't want the current players, nor that they shouldn't get paid. He's saying if the best 750 players today basically disappeared from the baseball landscape tomorrow the game would continue. I mean, the Baseball Hall of Fame is full of indispensable players, none of whom are playing today, and yet MLB still exists.
   9. Stevey Posted: November 08, 2018 at 04:28 PM (#5784480)
Based on what I read - I think James' argument might be more that there are is a fairly decent-size universe of low-paid players, too - who don't garner much sympathy because they're quite replaceable.


This is based on only today's comments, yes? When you mix in comments from back in February where James argued that ballplayers shouldn't benefit from labor laws and unions, though, it's a bad look.
   10. McCoy Posted: November 08, 2018 at 04:32 PM (#5784483)
If every player retired revenue for MLB teams would decline. Team values would decline. They would probably eventually rebound or possibly the MLB would fall apart as suddenly the barrier to entry for competing leagues has fallen tremendously. Why would MLB or the teams want to go through all that when they're making hand over fist? So if that is true then they aren't overpaid.
   11. villageidiom Posted: November 08, 2018 at 04:37 PM (#5784486)
If we want to expand further, in his earlier comments he's saying basically that if we're arguing about the injustice of some players only making a few million dollars a year, we're focusing on the wrong things. If we're talking about $7m per win above replacement as the market price - Jim's correct observation in #7 notwithstanding - then getting paid a few million dollars is getting paid in line with 0.5 WAR. There's enough error in the WAR estimate that we can't say a player is even better than a replacement player at that level. And if he's making only a few million and producing like 8 WAR then there's a few ways that could happen.

1. Reserve system. Well, if the reserve system didn't exist then some of those players would make more, and arguably free agent salaries would be lower (because more high-quality players would be available in free agency at any time, thus reducing scarcity). So that $7m per win above replacement might be $6m. Or $5m. Or $2m. Likely not $2m... it depends on how many of the players in the reserve system are underpaid, and by how much. One could argue that most of the players in that system are overpaid, as $7m/win above replacement would imply a worth of $0 for anyone at replacement level. If that's the case, then it's a select few who are underpaid; but when they hit free agency their scarcity nets them a higher salary than they'd otherwise command absent a reserve system. Not that it balances out or anything; but when they're in the reserve system we measure against free agent pay, while when they're in free agency we don't estimate the salaries in a world without a reserve system.

2. Fluke year. Some flukes are underpaid, some are overpaid, for the given fluke year. I'm not entertaining any discussion on the supposed injustice of someone's salary not moving strictly with (randomish) variations in performance.

3. Real and unexpected improvement. I guess if you locked in at a few million per year as a 0.5-win player, and are now at 8 wins, then you made a bad contract decision. I guess while you're crying Bill James a river you can cry one for me, too.

4. Accepted a below-market salary. Likewise. But on this note... We often see young superstars signing a below-market AAV on a long-term deal as a tradeoff for income certainty. If there were no reserve system, wouldn't we see more of these deals? Again, that would depress the $ per win we'd see for free agents in general.

I mean, it really seems like free agent salaries today, thanks to the reserve system, are higher than they would be without it. (Likewise, reserve system salaries are lower than they would be without it, which is the most obvious thing I've said.)

   12. villageidiom Posted: November 08, 2018 at 04:43 PM (#5784489)
Why would MLB or the teams want to go through all that when they're making hand over fist?
They don't, and James has said as much.
   13. JRVJ Posted: November 08, 2018 at 04:44 PM (#5784490)
I think James' comments reflect a disengage within certain parts of baseball's cognoscenti/analytically inclined types vis-a-vis the players.

To me, that disengage was the main reason why last year's off-season was so lackluster for FAs: players (and agents) thought they were dealing with the FA market of 10, 20 years ago, but front offices were playing a very different game.

Rob Neyer has made the point in a couple of recent interviews that the actual game is currently not particularly geared for the enjoyment of fans, but for the benefit of players (and implicitly, for the benefit of the bottom line of team owners).

Something is going to give sooner rather than later.
   14. The Duke Posted: November 08, 2018 at 04:47 PM (#5784494)
I don’t understand the point of the discussion. Did we time travel back to players “holding out” for more money? Is it 1972?
   15. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: November 08, 2018 at 04:57 PM (#5784496)
To all the people who disagree with James' statement I guess I'd ask what they think would happen if all MLB players retired overnight. Do they think MLB would end? That the teams would fold? That it would become a volunteer organization? That they'd convert to another sport or something? The most obvious thing is, yes, the teams would still exist, and they would be staffed by another 750 players who are willing to play for the cost teams are willing to pay for their services. The calculus on that would be on a different scale, based on different demand. Ticket prices would drop, and salaries would drop, and quality would drop. But those 750 players would get paid better than they do today for a lesser baseball job or for a non-baseball job, and the teams would still make money.


I would put it this way:

How many people play baseball sims - and even straight-up console games and the like - with generic or fictional players vs "real" roster sets?

Retire every active player?

I'd follow it less.

I mean, are the bands who book stadiums and have gold/platinum records REALLY that much better than the smaller ones playing the Empty Bottle?

No, they are not.

But - on rare occasions, I'll pay 50-100-etc to see a band at Soldier Field. I'll pay 25-30 bucks for a paper-thin T-shirt from the show.

I won't pay 150 bucks for the same experience at random local bar.

Familiarity has value. SIGNIFICANT value.
   16. Bote Man Posted: November 08, 2018 at 04:59 PM (#5784497)
Ticket prices would drop

HAH! HA HAH!! HAAAAAHAHAHAHAAHHAAAH!!
   17. Rennie's Tenet Posted: November 08, 2018 at 05:00 PM (#5784499)
Years ago James was arguing that antitrust rules should be applied rigorously to baseball, and speculated that if that happened we'd rapidly go to 75 or 80 teams, without a long-term drop in the quality of play. I guess that's what he's saying here - that half a billion people in North and South American and East Asia could rapidly replenish the talent pool if the need arose?
   18. asinwreck Posted: November 08, 2018 at 05:03 PM (#5784502)
This concept makes me think of MLB towards the end of World War II, though I suspect the league would have to lose a couple thousand players and prospects to get to the level of the 1945 Phillies.
   19. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: November 08, 2018 at 05:07 PM (#5784504)
Years ago James was arguing that antitrust rules should be applied rigorously to baseball, and speculated that if that happened we'd rapidly go to 75 or 80 teams, without a long-term drop in the quality of play. I guess that's what he's saying here - that half a billion people in North and South American and East Asia could rapidly replenish the talent pool if the need arose?


Well, if it's just "MLB players" - there are what... 7-8 times that many minor leaguers? I mean, the pure "quality level" - at least, generically, to the lay-fans eye - isn't that different than AAA.

So... why don't AAA teams have billion dollar TV deals... some draw fairly well, but some don't - and in many cases, you can damn near sit front row for a few bucks.

Just like with bands... People will pay big money to watch U2. They won't pay the same amount to go see MEALSO, even if MEALSO is pretty darn good.
   20. McCoy Posted: November 08, 2018 at 05:08 PM (#5784505)
Ticket prices would drop

HAH! HA HAH!! HAAAAAHAHAHAHAAHHAAAH!!


Well, they probably would. A drop in demand should lead to a drop in price. Either that or another competing league will do it for them.
   21. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: November 08, 2018 at 05:18 PM (#5784509)
Retire the top 500 paid actors.

Does TV stop making shows or Hollywood quit making movies?

Retire the top whatever painters.

Do people really stop painting?

Retire the top 500 best-selling authors.

Do people stop writing and buying books?

   22. BillWallace Posted: November 08, 2018 at 05:19 PM (#5784510)
Really poor from James, I'm disappointed. It's one thing for a true exec to get caught saying out loud what should be kept quiet, but James comes from the land of objectivity, and has a reputation built on it. And he is objectively wrong in a serious and hurtful way.

I've been thinking about this a lot recently, in the context of the CBA and the share of revenue between players and owners. I believe that it should be pegged, like it is in other sports, with a major positive outcome being that it becomes much easier to negotiate around things that will improve the sport when you're not arguing so much about money. But what should the level be? Well here's a thought experiment that I think drives at that question.

Baseball generates a lot of value but who is responsible for that value? The top players generate a lot of it... people go to see the best in the world do amazing things. But the laundry generates a lot of it too. People go to root for the teams and the histories and the rivalries.

1) Let's say that the 800 best baseball players struck over a long period of time, but the current franchises carried on with the next best 800 players. How would they do? A lot worse than now, obviously. For this part, I think it's important that the top 800 still exist and are alive, but aren't involved. If the top 800 all died in a Dominican car crash then I think baseball would recover quickly, but I don't think that's the fair comparison.

2) Conversely, if the top 800 players formed their own league, redrafting teams which play in the same metro areas with new branding. How would that league do over time? Worse than now, clearly. These brands and rivalries and history have value, but how much?


For both parts of the experiment you have to think about it over a long period of time, not just what will happen for the first year. My view is that the players league would do a lot better over time than the laundry league. The history and brands are nice and all, but if everyone knows that we're not watching the best vs the best then it will sour, and sour quickly.

Meanwhile, people are going to want to watch Betts v Severino. Kershaw v Posey. Yes it will be lame at first, but over the years the Boston Harbors vs the New York Skyscrapers will generate almost as much revenue as Sox-Yanks (Yes, I'm terrible at naming teams).


This conclusion fits in with another aspect of this, which is that you'd expect the owners to be able to negotiate much better than the players vs what is fair, because they can be much more cohesive AND have a much longer time horizon. If the players could somehow magically be cohesive and strong enough to pull it off, I bet the true negotiating break-even point would be for the players to get like 70% of the revenue.... something far far far away from where we are now. I know it won't happen.

Last point, one way for the players to tackle the time horizon issue, would be for them to bake in the following clause: After the strike is concluded then over a number of years, lets say 10, a portion of the revenue that would go to the players would be set aside and distributed back to the players who lost income during the strike. So for example, if the players are currently getting 46% (I don't know the real number), and they strike for a year and settle on 55% going forward, and player Joe Smith was on $10M/yr, then some money would be scraped off the top of that 55% to make Joe Smith whole again.

I know none of this will happen, but it's interesting to think about, at least for me. Also, James is an ####### and is wrong.
   23. BillWallace Posted: November 08, 2018 at 05:32 PM (#5784523)
As I said in my post, 'retiring' the top players isn't a fair comparison... you guys need to stop phrasing it that way.

Trout exists and will continue to exist (let's hope). His fair market value is the delta in revenue from having him or not having him play in your league while he is currently existing.

Dont imagine what it would be if the 800 retired or got hit by a bus. Imagine what it would be if there was a strike and I'm watching AAAA dude while Trout is sitting at home watching NOAA feeds.
   24. Walt Davis Posted: November 08, 2018 at 05:33 PM (#5784524)
C'mon Jim, you know it's the cost of a marginal win, not any win. There really aren't other ways to add players that add marginal wins.

Draft -- these aren't marginal wins, these are essentially fixed-cost wins. Every team drafts and, if you're a good team, you are heavily disadvantaged in acquiring talent this way.

Amateur internationals -- again, fixed-cost wins. Every team (except the O's!) signs them for peanuts plus they are mostly 16-17 years old and several years away from adding value.

These first two are a bit like saying "you don't have to pay market price for blue chip stocks to succeed in the stock market, you can instead invest in 100 cheap stocks and hope one of them becomes the next Microsoft." Except adding the further conclusion "therefore Microsoft stock is clearly overpriced."

Pro internationasl ... there are the somewhat kooky rules screwing over Japanese players but this is essentially FA especially when the team fees are added in.

That leaves trades. Information disparities aside, trades are supposed to be (on average) fair value for fair value. We rarely see a trade of two established MLers with both teams dealing from surplus such that both teams benefit anymore (or probably ever). What we mostly see now are swaps of present value (and contract) for future value -- which is to say it's about (a) the time value of wins and (b) the size of that contract. The two teams essentially come to an agreement on what the "true market value" of the player is, assess that relative to the guaranteed contract and any difference is then made up in prospect value -- with the caveat that when that excess value is near zero, you still need to throw in bodies to make it "legal." And of course there are many times when the excess value is negative and the sending team has to add money. Once the excess value has been agreed upon, the two parties might agree to what amounts to a second trade of more money for better prospects.

So, the first two methods won't help you for about 5-6 years and carry a lot of risk. Outside the top handful of picks, it's got nothing to do with pricing and acquiring individual talent, it's at most about an aggregate investment hoping for an aggregate payoff. Those top few picks are where MLB really has given itself a massive financial advantage but at least you have to suck to get that pick. But most importantly, this is generally about adding wins 5+ years down the road -- that has nothing to do with adding marginal wins over the next few years which is what any FA decision or acquiring trade is about.

Then trades are about equal value for equal value. But that valuation is based on the same market principles although if it's a reasonably straight "I'm trading you 6 wins over the next 2 years for what I expect to be 8 wins down the road", it doesn't really matter what the price of a marginal win is because you're trading win for win. At the other extreme, for something like the Stanton trade, that's barely different from an FA decision. He was owed 10/$295 (or whatever), the Yanks thought he was only worth 10/$265, the Marlins decided they didn't want the financial commitment and the Yanks essentially got him for nothing but money. The Yelich and Ozuna trades were a bit different as the teams seemed to agree that those contracts had excess value and so the Brewers/Cards agreed to send some reasonable talent back the other way. If you trust your long-term prospect projection system (who in their right mind would), we get some notion of what the agreed excess value was.

As to FA ... what do you or others think is going on here? That the true value of a win is $3 M and that the owner says "sure, I know this 3-WAR guy is only going to increase my revenues by $9 M per year but I'll pay him $20 M per year anyway cuz I'm making such a killing on all those pre-arb players?" Please. Owners only pay $8 M per WAR on the open market if the revenue per WAR is at least close to $8 and likely over $8.

The non-linearity is a stronger argument -- the $/WAR for a 4-WAR player should be higher than a 1-WAR player. The $/WAR for a win that is more likely to matter -- contend, playoffs, serious WS contender, etc. -- is higher than the $/WAR for a roster-filling vet on a crappy team. And presumably a win in NY is worth more than a win in Pitt. That's probably true and makes any revenue per WAR calculation context-specific -- which is annoying to have to do on a baseball website or even for a piece about a signing so it's simple and accurate enough to use an average value then add a verbal assessment of whether the signing has extra/less value for that particular team. But pretty much by definition, if you're in the market for a top FA, you're in that high-cost marginal win scenario.

This suggests we might find the baseline cost of a win if we looked at the smaller deals for the mediocre teams. (The genuinely bad teams, if they're adding any FA talent, are generally shopping in the clearance bin.) But what do we see here? We see relievers who might generate 1 WAR getting $9 M AAV contracts. We see Jay Bruce getting 3/$39 when pretty much everybody agreed he was at best a 2-WAR player these days. We saw Jason Hammel, a 1.5 WAR pitcher the previous 2 years, get 2/$16 (one season at 1.5 WAR, one season at -1 WAR).

The reliever contracts suggest that $/WAR is around $8. Bruce's contract suggests $/WAR is around 8 (5 wins over 3 years). Hammel's suggests it could be more like $6. And that's before bringing aging curves into the pricing structure.

It's hard/impossible to know what value the Yanks projected Stanton to ... but it's pretty hard to think they priced that at something substantially less than $8/win. It's hard/impossible to know what value the Brewers projected Yelich to and what values the Marlins projected the prospects to but it's pretty clear both sides expected him to produce far more value over 4 years than the $45 M he was guaranteed. It's hard/impossible to know what value teams project Bryce Harper to but I'm pretty confident he'll be signing for more than $20 AAV. There's less guesswork involved in the value of Steve Cishek, Jay Bruce, Jason Hammel et al. They indicate the price is somewhere around $8/WAR.

So yes, teams can also acquire marginal wins by identifying an existing contract on another team that they think returns fair or excess value, then compensating that other team. It's up to you or somebody else to demonstrate these wins are "priced" far below $8/WAR after accounting for the time value of wins, the uncertainty of prospects, the aging curve of the vet, etc.

But if you look back at the Stanton trade threads, you'll see I was predicting the Marlins would have to pick up that age 37 salary and bonus (they will pay $30 of $35). If you look at the Verlander threads, you'll see I and many others said that the Tigers would have to pick up cash, especially if they wanted any kind of prospects back (they picked up at least $16 M). (Of course Verlander has blown away our pessimistic projections.) Those were both glorified FA deals and suggest a $/WAR around $8.

BTW, none of the Verlander prospects has yet made the majors. Cameron, 21, was fine at AA, flopped at AAA, still plenty of time but I can't imagine he projects to be above-average unless the CF defense is good. Perez, 20, appears to have gotten hurt (just 19 lousy innings). Rogers, 23, was bad at AA and looks like a bust.
   25. zachtoma Posted: November 08, 2018 at 05:52 PM (#5784539)
MLB players are overpaid. Enormously. Not relative to league revenues of course. But there is little justification for the degree of wealth elite athletes are able to acquire relative to the rest of society. But this is a public policy problem, not one that baseball can solve internally. This is not "pro-owner", obviously the owners should have their wealth seized and be executed in public - this goes without saying but I will say it again just to be safe. In a vacuum, it is not "good" for a handful of elite jocks to wind up controlling the GDP of Burundi and fans should stop pretending that it is.
   26. SoSH U at work Posted: November 08, 2018 at 05:55 PM (#5784541)
As I said in my post, 'retiring' the top players isn't a fair comparison... you guys need to stop phrasing it that way.


That's the way James phrased it. If we're addressing what he said, then that's the only way to properly phrase it.
   27. McCoy Posted: November 08, 2018 at 05:57 PM (#5784544)
MLB players are overpaid. Enormously. Not relative to league revenues of course. But there is little justification for the degree of wealth elite athletes are able to acquire relative to the rest of society. But this is a public policy problem, not one that baseball can solve internally. This is not "pro-owner", obviously the owners should have their wealth seized and be executed in public - this goes without saying but I will say it again just to be safe.

I'm not going to shell out $500 to see a teacher teach or a policeman police and you're certainly not going to get 60+ million tickets sold to watch either of those things. You will for baseball.
   28. McCoy Posted: November 08, 2018 at 05:58 PM (#5784547)
Retire the top 500 paid actors.

Does TV stop making shows or Hollywood quit making movies?

Retire the top whatever painters.

Do people really stop painting?

Retire the top 500 best-selling authors.

Do people stop writing and buying books?


Hollywood would probably have a drop in amount things produced until they could build up enough talent to a)make lots of things and b)not have it be crap.

Remove the top writers and yes less new books would get sold and read.
   29. zachtoma Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:00 PM (#5784548)
I'm not going to shell out $500 to see a teacher teach or a policeman police and you're certainly not going to get 60+ million tickets sold to watch either of those things. You will for baseball.


This is an explanation of why baseball is a great source of revenue, not an argument for why Bryce Harper is should get 400 million dollars, which is a ludicrously large claim on society's resources that no one is entitled to. Least of all the owners of MLB, again. Just because someone's skills are "entertaining" does not entitle them to the status of Croesus.

I know this isn't what James meant obviously, but the cheerleading for the immense personal wealth of superstar athletes is something that increasingly grosses me out and I want to push back on it.
   30. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:01 PM (#5784549)
If all the current MLB players retired, the quality of the 750 players who immediately replaced them would obviously be lower - but that is different from the amount of competition we'd see as fans. There would be players who would hit 30 home runs, and pitchers who would have low ERAs, and fielders making diving catches.

However, the overall quality would be diminished. Here's my question: What is the baseball skill that would be most severely diminished overall if you replaced the 750 players currently in the big leagues with the next 750 players?

It wouldn't be speed, or strength of defensive throwing arms, or raw power, IMO. It would probably be pitchers' ability to throw breaking balls and off-speed pitches for strikes.
   31. PreservedFish Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:03 PM (#5784551)
I am intensely curious about what would happen in the Next Best 600 MLB. I don't think it's right to assert that our appreciation of baseball ability is totally relative, and that overnight we'd be totally content with the quality of play in the new league. I think some talent drop-off would be perceptible, but where?

Would the "talent pyramid" look just the same? Or would talent cluster in new ways? Would the Jabari Blashes become superstars, or would there just be a lot of guys with 25 HRs and fewer standouts?

Would there be any new starters that go 200+ IP? Or are the Verlanders truly the last of that breed?

Would Vlad Jr hit .400?

And, a few years later, to what extent would prospects and draftees take over the league? How many draftees could go immediately to the majors?

Cries for an OOTP sim. Or a DMB sim - might be more realistic.

> ha, partial coke to Balboni's trainer.
   32. BillWallace Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:07 PM (#5784553)
That's the way James phrased it. If we're addressing what he said, then that's the only way to properly phrase it.


Reasonable, except that just shows that James isn't making a coherent logical point. I went back and read it more carefully. James is essentially saying players are overpaid, and if they retired we'd replace them. But what he doesn't say is that if that happened and nothing else, the replacements would almost certainly make a lot of money too.

Absent blatantly illegal collusion enforced by the government, whoever are the best 800 or so baseball players in the world that are willing and able to play baseball WILL make a lot of money, full stop.


So because James isn't even making any coherent point at all, I devised what is a coherent (but bad) point for me to then argue against. Call it a tin-man instead of a straw-man, because it has no heart.

To restate what I'm saying: The fair market value of the top 750 is equal to how much revenue they bring in over and above what the next 750 would, in the world where the top 750 still exist and are willing and able to play baseball. NOT how much revenue would decline if the top 750 retired.

The thought exercise you guys are engaging in with the retiring is interesting, but not relevant to answering the question of whether the current players are 'overpaid' in any framework that is relevant to anything.
   33. McCoy Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:11 PM (#5784556)
This is an explanation of why baseball is a great source of revenue, not an argument for why Bryce Harper is should get 400 million dollars, which is a ludicrously large claim on society's resources that no one is entitled to. Least of all the owners of MLB, again. Just because someone's skills are "entertaining" does not entitle them to the status of Croesus.

If we're talking about all of society then 400 million over 10 years is a ludicrously small amount of its resources.
   34. zachtoma Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:12 PM (#5784558)
If we're talking about all of society then 400 million over 10 years is a ludicrously small amount of its resources.


In America yeah, but still far too much to go to an individual.
   35. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:13 PM (#5784559)
This is an explanation of why baseball is a great source of revenue, not an argument for why Bryce Harper is should get 400 million dollars, which is a ludicrously large claim on society's resources that no one is entitled to.


The problem is you can replace this statement with someone from ANY industry and 400 million.... this is a point I agree with and have steadfastly endorsed - and will continue to insist is right and proper up until the day I get 400 million dollars. Then, I reserve the right to alter my opinion. Or pay someone better at constructing a reason why it isn't enough to do so for me.
   36. BillWallace Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:21 PM (#5784560)
I actually agree with you zachtoma, but what you're talking about is a political or sociological digression. Personally I think Harper should make $400M and be taxed at 90%.
   37. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:23 PM (#5784562)
I actually agree with you zachtoma, but what you're talking about is a political or sociological digression. Personally I think Harper should make $400M and be taxed at 90%.


OK, well... now I have to pay someone to argue with you. The pressure on the first guy I'd hire just got bigger - because now I'm SURE 400 million isn't enough.
   38. Tin Angel Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:24 PM (#5784563)
Hollywood would probably have a drop in amount things produced until they could build up enough talent to a)make lots of things and b)not have it be crap.


Heh, yeah...Hollywood is obviously deeply concerned about not putting out any crap right now.
   39. BillWallace Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:29 PM (#5784567)
now I have to pay someone to argue with you


Give me $10M and I'll just go away ;)
   40. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:31 PM (#5784571)
Give me $10M and I'll just go away ;)


Give me $399M and we can just forget the whole thing!
   41. zachtoma Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:32 PM (#5784572)
I actually agree with you zachtoma, but what you're talking about is a political or sociological digression. Personally I think Harper should make $400M and be taxed at 90%.


Yes, that's right - it's not germane to how MLB is actually run or what the players have collectively bargained. But as fans we don't really have a stake in that, yet that lens is increasingly the one through which sports business is seen. Of course the players are in the right in their efforts to gain more of the league revenues from owners, who are mostly old parasites. But I think the digression is important - their wealth shouldn't be celebrated either, it should be seen as a social and political problem and very few sports fans seem to see it that way. Mindless cheering for players making a run at half-a-billion contracts as if they somehow deserve it (they don't) really grates on me. A sports league the scale of MLB should be run for the benefit of the public and the communities that host its teams, not for the enrichment of a few uber-jocks who won a genetic lottery, even if they have a nice smile and are kind of endearing weather dorks.

The apotheosis of the appalling rhetoric today is the smattering of oh-so-smart sportswriters who have taken to likening amateur drafts to "slave auctions".
   42. villageidiom Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:34 PM (#5784573)
But if that happened and nothing else, the replacements wouldn't almost certainly make a lot of money too.
Well, yeah, because the entire league would be subject to the reserve system for 6 years. But over time we'd probably end up close to where we'd be without any changes. And if we rolled in free agency to be in line with how it is for the current crop of MLB players, that would happen a lot faster.

Let's take another example. Let's say today's players don't exist, but the players from the 1950s do, and they've been magically transported to today without aging. They are worse conditioned as were all players BITD, but they have the advantages of modern equipment, modern field conditions, etc. Would you be just as willing to pay to see that in 2018 as you would have been with 2018 players? How much would those players get paid, as free agents?

In making that change, the only thing you're getting are worse players, which is the same as James' scenario. 1950s players don't have the advantage of modern conditioning, and it will take a few years before improvements like that can have an impact. But they're not facing 2018 players; they're facing 1950s players, so the fact that a player is objectively worse won't matter because so are his opponents. How long before the dollars (in ticket revenues, and in player salaries) are close to where they'd be otherwise?

EDIT: I see I'm responding to what you said before your edit, which is completely different from what you're saying. Never mind.
   43. BillWallace Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:41 PM (#5784581)
Well this has been brought up many times, but in the context under which these discussions occur any money that doesn't go into Harper's pocket goes into the owners' which is more or less the exact opposite of social welfare.

In fact, even if you insist on putting the discussion into the context of society and politics as a whole, it's not too much of a leap to equate making sure that Harper isn't getting colluded and monopolied out of his due $400M to making sure that bus drivers keep the right to bargain for $18/hr vs 12, plus a social safety net and clean drinking water.

Edit: Harper is still labor, even if he's the richest labor in the world
   44. BillWallace Posted: November 08, 2018 at 06:47 PM (#5784587)
EDIT: I see I'm responding to what you said before your edit, which is completely different from what you're saying. Never mind.


Yep, my bad. I needed to edit my "wouldn't" to "would". Sorry. I agree with what you wrote. I liked the analogy too. 2018 Mantle would get paaaaaaid. But ONLY if 2018 Trout doesn't exist.

I'm going to say this for the 4th time so I apologize for the repetition. If Betts is sitting at home working on a cure for cancer because the owners are too cheap to pay him to play baseball, the replacements are NOT going to generate nearly as much revenue as they would if the replacements were actually now the best players in the world.
   45. BDC Posted: November 08, 2018 at 07:13 PM (#5784598)
An interesting if somewhat abstract debate. They ran this thought experiment for real in 1995 and thought better of it pretty quickly.
   46. AndrewJ Posted: November 08, 2018 at 07:15 PM (#5784600)
I think we're all (myself included) on edge lately for a multitude of reasons. The worst thing you could say about Bill is that he made a poorly-phrased hypothetical comment online. Full stop.
   47. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: November 08, 2018 at 07:25 PM (#5784604)
If all the current MLB players retired, the quality of the 750 players who immediately replaced them would obviously be lower - but that is different from the amount of competition we'd see as fans. There would be players who would hit 30 home runs, and pitchers who would have low ERAs, and fielders making diving catches.

Top college football teams outdraw top NFL teams even though relatively few players on any top college team will play -- much less be a star player -- in the NFL.
   48. AndrewJ Posted: November 08, 2018 at 07:34 PM (#5784610)
Top college football teams outdraw top NFL teams even though relatively few players on any top college team will play -- much less be a star player -- in the NFL.

But how much of college sports fandom is related to quality of play, as opposed to a deeper connection (it's a local school, you or someone in your family graduated from there, etc.)?
   49. The Yankee Clapper Posted: November 08, 2018 at 07:39 PM (#5784612)
Imagine what it would be if there was a strike and I'm watching AAAA dude while Trout is sitting at home watching NOAA feeds.

The NFL did that, going with replacement players during the 1987 players strike. Attendance dropped precipitously - often under 10,000, with TV revenue down 20%, too.
   50. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 08, 2018 at 07:50 PM (#5784619)
To all the people who disagree with James' statement I guess I'd ask what they think would happen if all MLB players retired overnight. Do they think MLB would end? That the teams would fold? That it would become a volunteer organization? That they'd convert to another sport or something? The most obvious thing is, yes, the teams would still exist, and they would be staffed by another 750 players who are willing to play for the cost teams are willing to pay for their services. The calculus on that would be on a different scale, based on different demand. Ticket prices would drop, and salaries would drop, and quality would drop. But those 750 players would get paid better than they do today for a lesser baseball job or for a non-baseball job, and the teams would still make money.

James is not saying the teams don't want the current players, nor that they shouldn't get paid. He's saying if the best 750 players today basically disappeared from the baseball landscape tomorrow the game would continue. I mean, the Baseball Hall of Fame is full of indispensable players, none of whom are playing today, and yet MLB still exists.


That's because those HoF players retired one at a time over the course of over a century. Talk about apples and oranges.

If today's 750 Major Leaguers disappeared today, it would at best take MLB over a decade to recover, by which time their attendance and TV money would've fallen through the floor. At worst it would kill the game forever.

As zonk said in #15, familiarity is the glue that keeps fans hooked from season to season. Remove that familiarity wholesale, and essentially you'd be trying to pass off minor league baseball as the real thing. How many people here---and answer this honestly---would be interested in following anything like that?

Speaking for myself, I'd just switch to watching older games on YouTube, and find something else to do. I'm not paying good money to watch players I've never even heard of, and neither would most people who'd spent a lifetime being used to watching the real thing.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Top college football teams outdraw top NFL teams even though relatively few players on any top college team will play -- much less be a star player -- in the NFL.

That's because college games have decades worth of tradition behing them, and they draw from the alumni and their extended families. How many former MLB players are there?

EDIT: coke to Andrew J

EDIT: And what Clapper said in #49 above. Fans may be blind with laundry loyalty, but they're not completely stupid.

   51. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: November 08, 2018 at 08:01 PM (#5784623)

The NFL did that, going with replacement players during the 1987 players strike. Attendance dropped precipitously - often under 10,000, with TV revenue down 20%, too.


If the owners had any sense, the quality of play of the replacement players (not Sotomayor) would have ended the 1995 strike. Kevin Millar, Damian Miller and Ron Mahay notwithstanding.
   52. BillWallace Posted: November 08, 2018 at 08:08 PM (#5784625)
They ran this thought experiment for real in 1995 and thought better of it pretty quickly.


And this has been true in all sports where it's been tried. Which again ties into the fact that there's an enormous imbalance in leverage in favor of the owners, who are much better positioned to outlast a strike. If the players could somehow stick together to really get what they could, it would be enormously more than they're getting now.

Top college football teams outdraw top NFL teams even though relatively few players on any top college team will play -- much less be a star player -- in the NFL


It's a good point, but here's a counterpoint. First, as AndrewJ says there's the laundry component, and one could argue that the laundry component is stronger in college sports than pros. But second, I've been arguing strenuously that it matters whether or not the replacements are actually the best players in the world or not. In college they create the artificial scarcity of only using the best college age players, and in that context, they are still the best in the world.

If the equivalent of AAAA NFL players who are 26 years old started filling out NCAA rosters I think it would suffer greatly. In fact I can remember an incident or two where a much older guy played in NCAA sports, and I think most people thought it was lame... I know I did.

There's a tie-in between the essence of the laundry component and how it's tribal, and it being our best kids against your best kids and our best kids are better than yours because clearly all that is Georgia is great and good and all that is Florida is evil and disgusting etc etc. And that whole thing doesn't work with a bunch of older washouts.
   53. SoSH U at work Posted: November 08, 2018 at 08:10 PM (#5784626)
But what he doesn't say is that if that happened and nothing else, the replacements would almost certainly make a lot of money too.


Yeah, I said the same thing above. James' argument is way too limited to be worthy of serious consideration by itself (even if can prompt a good conversation).
   54. BillWallace Posted: November 08, 2018 at 08:20 PM (#5784627)
How about this, what if we had both at the same time?

League 1:
All the current franchises, with replacements

League 2:
The best 750 players in the world, redrafted and with new branding.


Running concurrently, Who wins? I think it's pretty clear
   55. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: November 08, 2018 at 08:30 PM (#5784629)
League one wins. It’s imperfect but look at the USFL. The imbedded rooting interests are hard to get past. People have a greater commitment to the laundry than the players.
   56. Kiko Sakata Posted: November 08, 2018 at 08:38 PM (#5784633)
League one wins. It’s imperfect but look at the USFL.


The USFL had SOME of the best players in the world, but not most and certainly not all, as posited in #54. Even in an Internet-connected world, there's still going to be a natural appeal for, say, Chicago residents to root for and follow a team based in Chicago. But if Leagues 1 and 2 were basically located in the same cities with similarly easy access for attending games in person and watching on TV, I think League 2 wins.
   57. McCoy Posted: November 08, 2018 at 08:40 PM (#5784634)
League one wins. It’s imperfect but look at the USFL.

I'd say it is very imperfect. Trump helped wreck it. They played in the spring/summer, they played in some smallish markets, and they plunder all of the talent from the NFL.
   58. BillWallace Posted: November 08, 2018 at 08:42 PM (#5784635)
It was slightly before my time. The USFL got some name brand players, but never even approached parity right? Much less having the preponderance of talent that it would take to beat out the laundry.

I think League 2 wins, but I respect your differing opinion.
   59. PreservedFish Posted: November 08, 2018 at 08:47 PM (#5784637)
I found it irresistible, so I went into OOTP (2016 version) and retired all major league players. Only took a few minutes.

I haven't pressed sim yet, but as per the scouting system, the best surviving player is Nick Ahmed. The highest rated contact hitter is Kevin Plawecki, and highest rated power hitter a fella named Xavier Scruggs! Best starters, Kendal Graveman and Chad Billingsley. Let's see what happens.
   60. McCoy Posted: November 08, 2018 at 08:49 PM (#5784640)

Heh, yeah...Hollywood is obviously deeply concerned about not putting out any crap right now.


It may be crap in that the plot or story aren't very good and while the actors may not all be of the Sir Laurence Olivier level of acting it the acting would be a helluva lot worse if we were only employing #501 and worse actors in America.
   61. BillWallace Posted: November 08, 2018 at 08:49 PM (#5784641)
if Leagues 1 and 2 were basically located in the same cities with similarly easy access for attending games in person and watching on TV


Definitely they get any cities they want.

If you wanted to try to move this thought experiment towards reality, League 2 would have to concede finding stadiums and TV deals from scratch. I think it would be fair to say that infrastructure of this sort is part of the equity that owners have built up in their franchise (or bought when they purchased the franchise).

This would be a struggle for league 2, but I think it would be doable. If they're bringing in every one of the top 750 players in the world, they'll be able to get on TV, and they can find alt stadiums until they build their own, or otherwise make something work.

Edit: Here's a fun question. How much value-add do you think all the baseball execs on all of the teams and commissioner's office bring to the table :) Do I hear negative?
The scouting infrastructure would be a real loss for league 2 though.
   62. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: November 08, 2018 at 08:50 PM (#5784642)
MLB players are overpaid. Enormously. Not relative to league revenues of course. But there is little justification for the degree of wealth elite athletes are able to acquire relative to the rest of society. But this is a public policy problem, not one that baseball can solve internally. This is not "pro-owner", obviously the owners should have their wealth seized and be executed in public - this goes without saying but I will say it again just to be safe. In a vacuum, it is not "good" for a handful of elite jocks to wind up controlling the GDP of Burundi and fans should stop pretending that it is.


Sports is one of my only respites from a live of drudgery and toil. I'm being dramatic but there is something incredibly powerful in watching the best artists at anything -- hitting a ball, swinging a racket, climbing a mountain -- that makes you forget the everyday problems of life for a minute. DFW has quite a few thoughts on it. It's old time religion for some of us. And that's why I pay for MLB.tv and go to a few games every year.

And I think James is a cranky old troll. If you retired the White Sox' 2018 projected starting lineup I wouldn't watch hardly a single inning. I ain't rolling out there without Eloy man.
   63. McCoy Posted: November 08, 2018 at 09:00 PM (#5784644)
It was slightly before my time. The USFL got some name brand players, but never even approached parity right? Much less having the preponderance of talent that it would take to beat out the laundry.

I think League 2 wins, but I respect your differing opinion.


The USFL got some great talent out of college but they weren't snagging great talent that was already in the Pros. Reggie White, Herschel Walker, Steve Young, and Jim Kelly. But they weren't all there from the beginning and the league didn't last long enough for them to grow into great players for the USFL. I mean Bobby Hebert was the best QB of the USFL with Kelvin Bryant and Sam Mills being the best RB and LB.
   64. BillWallace Posted: November 08, 2018 at 09:05 PM (#5784646)
re: Kiko & McCoy: Thanks, that's what I thought

re: Mr. Wall: That's lovely, I agree. Good luck with Eloy, I hope he's everything he's supposed to be.
   65. McCoy Posted: November 08, 2018 at 09:07 PM (#5784649)
Plus the great Chuck Fusina was the Derek Jeter "count da ringz" QB of the USFL. He couldn't get a starting job before the USFL and he couldn't get one afterwards.
   66. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: November 08, 2018 at 09:21 PM (#5784657)
As I said the USFL is an imperfect comp but your points are valid. I think you guys are vastly underestimating the connection the local teams have. It takes a long long time to overcome that.
   67. McCoy Posted: November 08, 2018 at 09:40 PM (#5784662)
It takes a long long time to overcome that.

Certainly but Baltimore embraced the Ravens pretty quickly despite them having no history in Baltimore. And one of the ways to overcome it is to put a crappy product on the field. If the NY Giants are running out a team as bad as Kent State year after year while the upstart NY Knights are running out the New England Patriots year after year you can bet your wallet that there is going to be a flip eventually.
   68. Kiko Sakata Posted: November 08, 2018 at 09:56 PM (#5784670)
I think you guys are vastly underestimating the connection the local teams have. It takes a long long time to overcome that.


Some of it is laundry, but some of it is the players. Remember, in this hypothetical, the 2019 Chicago Cubs have zero players who played for the 2018 Cubs - or, perhaps even worse, Tyler Chatwood and Brian Duensing stick around because they're not among the 750 best players who move to the alternate league. Whereas, if the Chicago Whales of the New Federal League sign Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez, you don't think that'll get the attention of a LOT of Cubs fans?
   69. Ray (CTL) Posted: November 08, 2018 at 10:18 PM (#5784681)
If all the current MLB players retired, the quality of the 750 players who immediately replaced them would obviously be lower - but that is different from the amount of competition we'd see as fans. There would be players who would hit 30 home runs, and pitchers who would have low ERAs, and fielders making diving catches.

However, the overall quality would be diminished.


We wouldn't be able to notice the difference pitch to pitch or PA to PA or play to play, but in a weaker league it's easier for individual players to dominate -- particularly as true talent young players phased back into the league after the purge.

Think of Trout going to AAA. He'd dominate more. Although there's a lot of overlap between MLB and AAA, with players shuffling back and forth.

James laid this out himself years ago. There are tells for weaker leagues: the better players dominate more; pitchers can hit better as a class; etc.

   70. SoSH U at work Posted: November 08, 2018 at 10:22 PM (#5784682)

Certainly but Baltimore embraced the Ravens pretty quickly despite them having no history in Baltimore.


They were choosing the Ravens over nothing.

And one of the ways to overcome it is to put a crappy product on the field. If the NY Giants are running out a team as bad as Kent State year after year while the upstart NY Knights are running out the New England Patriots year after year you can bet your wallet that there is going to be a flip eventually.


But the records of all the teams in each league are going to be .500. If the NY Knights and NY Giants are both winning football games, is the same switch made.

Remember, in this hypothetical, the 2019 Chicago Cubs have zero players who played for the 2018 Cubs - or, perhaps even worse, Tyler Chatwood and Brian Duensing stick around because they're not among the 750 best players who move to the alternate league. Whereas, if the Chicago Whales of the New Federal League sign Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez, you don't think that'll get the attention of a LOT of Cubs fans?


What if the Chicago Whales sign Yadier Molina and Josh Hader instead?

It seems these hypotheticals are stacking the deck for the new league, and not really offering an honest comparison. The Chicago Whales may be great and the Cubs terrible, but that would be offset by the Philly Cheeseteaks being terrible and the Phillies good.

The primary interest for most baseball fans is to watch the guys wearing their favored laundry win. I don't think it will be surrendered so easily (also why I've never bought into the "just put a third team in NY argument.")

   71. SoSH U at work Posted: November 08, 2018 at 10:24 PM (#5784683)
We wouldn't be able to notice the difference pitch to pitch or PA to PA or play to play, but in a weaker league it's easier for individual players to dominate -- particularly as true talent young players phased back into the league after the purge.


Do we see more domination (uneven distribution of results) at Triple A than MLB?
   72. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: November 08, 2018 at 10:38 PM (#5784690)

Do we see more domination (uneven distribution of results) at Triple A than MLB?


It's been going on ten years since last I looked at it, but based on back then--yes, but just barely. The effect is heavily muted by the fact the best players are continually being brought up to the majors. But generally yes, each rung further down the minor league ladder you go, the slightly more often you see a player killing the league, or a team killing the league, or a game being decided by a score of 15-2.

Bill James (thread relevant!) wrote about this 20-25 years ago, that one of the reliable indicators of the quality of a league is the degree to which the best players and teams tend to dominate it. If I tell you there's a league where a team has a record of 28-0, a pitcher has 155 strikeouts in 65 innings, and the final score of a game yesterday was 19-1, you will assume that must be Little League, and you will probably be right. That stuff happens once in a while at the high school level, but rarely, and is unheard of in even the low professional leagues.

James' angle was to point out that 110 years ago the Cubs were winning 105+ games a year and Ty Cobb was hitting .400 every year and these are indicators the quality of the league then was far weaker than it is today, when those things are effectively impossible. I think he's right, and the logic is sound. But, anyway, yes--even today, you will find a tiny bit more dominance by individuals in Triple-A than the majors, at Single-A than at Double-A, and so on.
   73. BillWallace Posted: November 08, 2018 at 10:43 PM (#5784692)
What if the Chicago Whales sign Yadier Molina and Josh Hader instead?

It seems these hypotheticals are stacking the deck for the new league


I'm trying to avoid stacking the deck in my hypotheticals. For example I concede that League 2 will have to replace all of the infrastructure, as that stuff is bought and paid for by the owners.
But I don't think this argument relies on any 'just so' premises. If the signings are close to random, then each league 2 team should have a player or two from the old team. So give the Whales Baez, Molina, and Hader, they get another star or two but also some dregs. Call them a .500 team for the first year. I still think they do better in the long run than the AAA Cubs.

Do we see more domination (uneven distribution of results) at Triple A than MLB


You should see less. Baseball talent is a bell curve, and the actual 750 players in MLB represent most of the long tail. Even conceding that you won't get all of the next 750, because some of them left to become doctors and car salesmen, your next 750 is going to come from a taller and thinner part of that curve, i.e. less variation between the best and worst. There are many other factors at work, but that should be the main one.

   74. PreservedFish Posted: November 08, 2018 at 10:43 PM (#5784693)
Speaking of Tyler Chatwood, he just won World Series MVP in my OOTP sim of the league minus its best 750 players. For the Cardinals, natch.

Maikel Franco had a 9 WAR season (the game likes his defense) to lead the majors. Big years from fellow rookies Joey Gallo, Gary Sanchez, Carlos Correa, Peter O'Brien, Blake Swihart, David Dahl, etc. Also big years for AAAA players such as Eric Campbell, Clint Robinson, Caleb Gindl, Kyle Blanks, Jordany Valdespin. This year, the former group doesn't have markedly better scouting ratings than the latter. If I simmed for another few years, I think a huge gulf would open up between the limited number of players with actual MLB ability and the guys that are true scabs. The top 5 in WAR averaged about 22 years, and they all have potential to get a lot better.

Among pitchers, the standouts were rookies Archie Bradley and Robbie Erlin and crafty back-ender Odrisamer Despaigne. OD went 217 IP, 142 ERA+, 5.1 WAR. Perhaps a realistic result.

None of the first round draftees, who included guys like Bregman and Benintendi and Swanson, played in the majors. By scouting ratings, they were all good enough to be MLB bench-warmers on the day they were drafted, but the teams brought them along super slow.

Regarding increased/decreased domination ... there was extreme parity in the standings, for what it's worth. And I don't have a way to quantify it, but the leaderboards look more even than they usually do. Franco was a outlier at 9 WAR, but everyone else was tightly clustered. Franco was the equivalent of what would happen if you did this in 2019 but Vlad Guerrero Jr wasn't among the players that lost their jobs.
   75. SoSH U at work Posted: November 08, 2018 at 10:54 PM (#5784695)
You should see less.


That's what I was thinking. I wonder if the disparity PF has seen has more to do with the fact that the minors aren't neatly partitoned by ability (Triple A not being uniformly better than Double A).

f the signings are close to random, then each league 2 team should have a player or two from the old team. So give the Whales Baez, Molina, and Hader, they get another star or two but also some dregs. Call them a .500 team for the first year. I still think they do better in the long run than the AAA Cubs.


I'm not convinced. It's not a perfect example, but the G League surely offers a higher level of play than college basketball, but the interest in the NCAAs dwarves that of the developmental league. I think laundry has more of a pull than you and others are suggesting.



   76. Kiko Sakata Posted: November 08, 2018 at 11:08 PM (#5784703)
James' angle was to point out that 110 years ago the Cubs were winning 105+ games a year and Ty Cobb was hitting .400 every year and these are indicators the quality of the league then was far weaker than it is today, when those things are effectively impossible.


But that's not exactly the same as the hypothetical that was set up here. One problem with MLB in the early 20th century is that it didn't have the top 400 (25 x 16 teams) baseball players in the world - obviously it had none of the black ones and virtually none of the non-American ones, but it also was much less efficient at finding and employing even the best white American baseball players. Ty Cobb may well have legitimately been the best baseball player in the world. But his competition included some guys who may not have been among the best 1,000 players, whereas Trout's competition is pretty damn close to the best 750 players in the world.

In the hypothetical here, there is no Ty Cobb available to dominate League 1, because, by the rules of the hypothetical, the best players are all in League 2.
   77. Kiko Sakata Posted: November 08, 2018 at 11:10 PM (#5784705)
It's not a perfect example, but the G League surely offers a higher level of play than college basketball, but the interest in the NCAAs dwarves that of the developmental league.


I don't think modern minor leagues can really tell us much about this hypothetical. Minor league teams don't exist for the purpose of competing for championships at their own level; they exist to develop players who, when/if they get too good, leave for greener pastures.
   78. Ray (CTL) Posted: November 08, 2018 at 11:25 PM (#5784710)
Do we see more domination (uneven distribution of results) at Triple A than MLB?


I think so. How many times have you looked at a player's minor league record to see sillyball performances here and there?
   79. BillWallace Posted: November 08, 2018 at 11:27 PM (#5784712)
I think laundry has more of a pull than you and others are suggesting.



Definitely a possibility I could be wrong. My only/best counterargument to the college sports thing is the one I laid out above, which is that college has this baked-in parameter of college age, and within that parameter you are still watching the best in the world.
   80. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: November 08, 2018 at 11:35 PM (#5784717)
Speaking of Tyler Chatwood, he just won World Series MVP in my OOTP sim of the league minus its best 750 players. For the Cardinals, natch.

Maikel Franco had a 9 WAR season (the game likes his defense) to lead the majors. Big years from fellow rookies Joey Gallo, Gary Sanchez, Carlos Correa, Peter O'Brien, Blake Swihart, David Dahl, etc. Also big years for AAAA players such as Eric Campbell, Clint Robinson, Caleb Gindl, Kyle Blanks, Jordany Valdespin. This year, the former group doesn't have markedly better scouting ratings than the latter. If I simmed for another few years, I think a huge gulf would open up between the limited number of players with actual MLB ability and the guys that are true scabs. The top 5 in WAR averaged about 22 years, and they all have potential to get a lot better.

Among pitchers, the standouts were rookies Archie Bradley and Robbie Erlin and crafty back-ender Odrisamer Despaigne. OD went 217 IP, 142 ERA+, 5.1 WAR. Perhaps a realistic result.

None of the first round draftees, who included guys like Bregman and Benintendi and Swanson, played in the majors. By scouting ratings, they were all good enough to be MLB bench-warmers on the day they were drafted, but the teams brought them along super slow.

Regarding increased/decreased domination ... there was extreme parity in the standings, for what it's worth. And I don't have a way to quantify it, but the leaderboards look more even than they usually do. Franco was a outlier at 9 WAR, but everyone else was tightly clustered. Franco was the equivalent of what would happen if you did this in 2019 but Vlad Guerrero Jr wasn't among the players that lost their jobs


FWIW - if you didn't rejigger the league gen settings - you're going to get some weird stuff going forward.

I did the experiment - more as a lark - some editions back, and the core game engine does seek to push sims towards standard distribution.... but it's not really good at dealing with extreme outliers (like suddenly deleting the top 750 players).

So - what's going to happen is that you're going to get some wild swings in ratings plus some really weird draft classes (i.e., like future drafts with what looks like a 3 full rounds of superstars).

Missed your OOTP what-if earlier - but I did this several versions ago (OOTP14ish, IIRC) - and yeah... you get some REALLY weird results for a couple years. Then you get some bonzo draftees. Then it goes dry. Etc.

I should look up the thread on OOTP boards - but someone provided ideal settings to make this work and get a more linear player set.

Granted, this was like 5 versions ago... I'm betting you also got some truly awful performances? That was the flipside - you get some 160 IP 10.09 ERA dreck.... some 140/190/210 players...
   81. PreservedFish Posted: November 08, 2018 at 11:44 PM (#5784719)
The results didn't seem weird to me at all. If you retire the top 750 players, guys like Odrisamer Despaigne and Kyle Blanks are indeed going to be among the most productive players in the new MLB. And the hot prospects that survived the cut will get promoted and dominate much faster than in real life.

I simmed another year and, as expected, the hot prospect types played better, and separated themselves from the pack of AAAA types. Beyond that I'm not much interested ... it was more a question of what the Second Best 750 MLB would look like.
   82. SoSH U at work Posted: November 08, 2018 at 11:53 PM (#5784721)
I don't think modern minor leagues can really tell us much about this hypothetical. Minor league teams don't exist for the purpose of competing for championships at their own level; they exist to develop players who, when/if they get too good, leave for greener pastures.


Not all of them. The Arena League didn't (doesn't, I don't know if it's still around). The old CBA didn't.

It's still not a great parallel, for a number of reasons, but it does show that absolute level of play is not all important.
   83. vortex of dissipation Posted: November 09, 2018 at 02:43 AM (#5784742)
...Trout's competition is pretty damn close to the best 750 players in the world.


Wouldn't say, the 50 best players in NPB be better than the 50 worst players in MLB?
   84. McCoy Posted: November 09, 2018 at 06:43 AM (#5784756)
Re 82 but they all competed in an environment in which the NFL was seen as having the best talent. That's a huge disadvantage.
   85. Stevey Posted: November 09, 2018 at 08:22 AM (#5784764)
The worst thing you could say about Bill is that he made a poorly-phrased hypothetical comment online. Full stop.


This is unequivocally false. He has made more than a few at-least “poorly phrased” twitter comments in the vein of players being overpaid. He once argued that they didnt deserve the benefits of labor law.
   86. manchestermets Posted: November 09, 2018 at 08:45 AM (#5784776)
However, the overall quality would be diminished. Here's my question: What is the baseball skill that would be most severely diminished overall if you replaced the 750 players currently in the big leagues with the next 750 players?

It wouldn't be speed, or strength of defensive throwing arms, or raw power, IMO. It would probably be pitchers' ability to throw breaking balls and off-speed pitches for strikes.


Would those pitchers' decreased ability not be offset by the hitters' decreased ability to correctly identify the pitches as balls/strikes though? I wonder would you see as many strikes thrown, but a shift from strikes looking to strikes swinging?

It's not a direct comparison, but it's noticeable in cricket that moving down the ladder fielding quality is the thing that most visibly decreases. Which makes sense - if you assume that the balance of the [batter|hitter]/[bowler|pitcher] contest will still be about the same as both are lower quality, once the ball is in play then it's a different story - it's just the fielder against the ball, and the ball hasn't changed.
   87. villageidiom Posted: November 09, 2018 at 10:01 AM (#5784809)
This is unequivocally false. He has made more than a few at-least “poorly phrased” twitter comments in the vein of players being overpaid. He once argued that they didnt deserve the benefits of labor law.
Not sure if this was his rationale, but I'd say either the antitrust exemption should apply fully, or it should not apply at all. It shouldn't be "the antitrust exemption is problematic for X and Y so let's say it doesn't apply to those, but let's have it apply to everything else. Oh, and Z." If the antitrust exemption is problematic, and it shouldn't apply, then it shouldn't apply at all. (The last phrase being what I'd argue for.)

That aside, most of the arguments about players being underpaid are rooted not in the notion of $ per WAR, or anything like that. Those are the tools but not the blueprint. The blueprint, the fundamental design, of these arguments is that either (a) nobody except the players should make money because nobody but the players are delivering value, or (b) everyone except the owners should make money because the owners deliver no value. If I asked you in 1970, or 1980, or 1990, or 2000, or 2010, or today, how much should players be paid you'd have given completely different answers, each amount being drastically higher than the last. Each of those years you'd also have complained about ticket prices being too high. Well, you can't simultaneously say MLB should collect less revenue and that teams should be spending more on salary, without the money to do both coming from somewhere. There's really only one somewhere that people would identify, and that's the owners. And I suggest that as long as the owners make any money people will say the players are underpaid and the ticket prices are too high.

So let's try another thought experiment. Instead of today's players vanishing overnight, let's have all MLB teams and their stadiums vanish overnight. No contracts, no broadcasting, nothing. The corporate entity known as MLB, and their franchises, and those franchises' affiliates, and the team-owned networks - ALL of it, gone. The sport of baseball still exists, and the players still exist, and they still have skills. Three years from now, will it all be basically back to normal? How would that happen? There really is no path to MLB2 existing without multiple people or entities ponying up a billion dollars each for the start-up costs of stadium, equipment, staff, travel costs, etc. And they're not going to do that without the opportunity to profit. To get enough people to do it, the initial cost would probably have to be much lower than a billion. And that means initial expenses would have to be lower. Less scouting, inferior equipment, cheaper travel, lower salaries. There will be some players who won't play for those salaries because "that's not what they're worth", right? Wrong. They'll play because they want to play, and it pays a lot better than their alternatives.
   88. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: November 09, 2018 at 10:02 AM (#5784812)
It’s imperfect but look at the USFL.


Jeff Pearlman's recently released look at that league is very much worth reading, BTW.
   89. GGC Posted: November 09, 2018 at 10:10 AM (#5784817)
Forget the USFL. Let's mention the AFL. I talked to a WWII vet why ditched the football Giants for the Jets.

Regarding college sports, I think some of their appeal is more heteropraxis when it comes to styles of play.
   90. Tom Nawrocki Posted: November 09, 2018 at 10:18 AM (#5784821)
I think laundry has more of a pull than you and others are suggesting.


I think calling it "laundry" misses the point to a certain extent. The players on the team in your hometown, or the team you follow, become familiar to you over a period of time. I began following the Rockies because I lived in Colorado, but it wasn't like I felt an obligation to do so - it was because I liked watching Aaron Cook and Matt Holliday and Troy Tulowitzki (and Byung-Hyun Kim!). Their familiarity and likability led me to build up an affection for them.

At this point, I've been following Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez since they were very young players - I distinctly remember where I was when Kyle Freeland made his first major league start. If all those guys disappeared from the 2019 Rockies, I would have vastly less interest in following the team, although it might return in three or five years, when I built up affection for the new guys.
   91. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 09, 2018 at 10:26 AM (#5784824)
How about this, what if we had both at the same time?

League 1:
All the current franchises, with replacements

League 2:
The best 750 players in the world, redrafted and with new branding.

Running concurrently, Who wins? I think it's pretty clear


The only way that League 1 would have a prayer would be if League 2 were frozen out of MLB cities and its players were somehow forced to play anonymously with wholesale face lifts. As Tom says, "laundry" encompasses a lot more than a uniform.
   92. SoSH U at work Posted: November 09, 2018 at 10:44 AM (#5784839)
The only way that League 1 would have a prayer would be if League 2 were frozen out of MLB cities and its players were somehow forced to play anonymously with wholesale face lifts. As Tom says, "laundry" encompasses a lot more than a uniform.


Again, there's no way of knowing, and obviously everyone's motivations are different, but I think you're all dismissing the pull way too easily.

Becoming invested in the outcome of professional sporting events isn't the most rational of exercises. We're pulling for people we don't know, many of whom we wouldn't like, to succeed in a thoroughly frivolous endeavor. So we grab a favorite teams (or teams, in some cases), and we latch on to them, and many hold on pretty damn tight.

And we see that if Johnny Damon goes from World Series-winner and head idiot with the greatest team in sports history to starting centerfielder for Satan's Army, swaths of fans turn on him overnight. Fans of the Atlanta or Seattle teams sing and chant and fill the damn stadium for every home game, all while knowing the U.S. league is a distinct minor league compared to the franchises in Europe.

So, yes, I firmly believe that if you freed the 750 best baseball players and allowed them to play in whatever ideal set-up you want, a lot of fans would stick to the teams they grew up with even though they weren't the best in the world. Some would leave, particularly those who are greater fans of the sport than they are a specific team. But a whole lot would stay (I'm sure the greedy ballplayers are overpaid crowd wouldn't follow them in droves). NOw, over a long period of time, it might be a different story.
   93. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 09, 2018 at 10:44 AM (#5784841)
So let's try another thought experiment. Instead of today's players vanishing overnight, let's have all MLB teams and their stadiums vanish overnight. No contracts, no broadcasting, nothing. The corporate entity known as MLB, and their franchises, and those franchises' affiliates, and the team-owned networks - ALL of it, gone. The sport of baseball still exists, and the players still exist, and they still have skills. Three years from now, will it all be basically back to normal? How would that happen? There really is no path to MLB2 existing without multiple people or entities ponying up a billion dollars each for the start-up costs of stadium, equipment, staff, travel costs, etc. And they're not going to do that without the opportunity to profit. To get enough people to do it, the initial cost would probably have to be much lower than a billion. And that means initial expenses would have to be lower. Less scouting, inferior equipment, cheaper travel, lower salaries. There will be some players who won't play for those salaries because "that's not what they're worth", right? Wrong. They'll play because they want to play, and it pays a lot better than their alternatives.

I think that such a league would take some time to get established, and it might wind up with slightly fewer teams (sorry, Miami and St. Pete, you should've stuck with the Grapefruit League), but eventually you'd wind up with pretty much what we have today. As you say, the salaries would be lower at first, along with attendance and TV revenues, but the basic appeal of baseball is in the players and the acknowledged skill level that they represent.

Obviously all this is contingent upon the willingness of cities to help with getting these new stadiums in place, in the form of either huge infrastructure outlays and / or massive tax breaks. I'm not sure that can be safely assumed.

But whatever the problems, they'd be nothing compared to the problems that a Replacement Player MLB would face. A league like that would be facing 30 bankruptcy filings faster than you could blink.
   94. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 09, 2018 at 10:53 AM (#5784847)
Average 1987 NFL attendance before the player strike: 58,514

Average 1987 NFL attendance during the player strike: 23,626
   95. GGC Posted: November 09, 2018 at 10:55 AM (#5784848)
The NFL's a TV sport, but I'm willing to wager the TV numbers also improved post-strike.
   96. SoSH U at work Posted: November 09, 2018 at 10:56 AM (#5784850)
Average 1987 NFL attendance during the player strike: 23,626


So you're saying a whole bunch of fans still came out to watch inferior players?

I'm not saying the new MLB would go on without a hitch under this scenario (though I think it's largely true under the foolish one Bill proposed). But, yes, some fans would stay loyal to the team.
   97. McCoy Posted: November 09, 2018 at 11:06 AM (#5784855)
If everything about baseball was to disappear except for the players would baseball ever even come close to what it is nowadays? How much different would baseball be? Would it be a major sport?
   98. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: November 09, 2018 at 11:09 AM (#5784857)
But there is little justification for the degree of wealth elite athletes are able to acquire relative to the rest of society.
There is all the justification that can possibly be required in a free society: people are willing to give them that money. (See Nozick’s famous Wilt Chamberlain argument.)

In a vacuum, it is not "good" for a handful of elite jocks to wind up controlling the GDP of Burundi and fans should stop pretending that it is.
I mean, obviously it isn’t good that Burundi is poor because it doesn’t believe in free markets, but no need for pretense wrt the athletes. They deserve it because people are willing to give it to them.
   99. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 09, 2018 at 11:16 AM (#5784860)
There is all the justification that can possibly be required in a free society: people are willing to give them that money.
Again you misunderstand the concept of "society."
   100. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 09, 2018 at 11:27 AM (#5784870)
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