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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Verducci: Game’s shifting strategies leaves Beane, sage of Moneyball, behind

Proof, that much like The Super-Moby Dick of Space…The Yallof Effect, will indeed consume all in its path!

It’s a far cry from a decade ago, when whip-smart GMs such as Beane and Theo Epstein could pluck undervalued players out from under aging GMs whose generation still cherished flawed measurements such as batting average. Now, Beane found only frustration with the kind of homogenous, risk-averse thinking of the industry.

“What you’ll find is that the window for a small market team will grow smaller and eventually go away completely,” Beane said. “We had seven years. Tampa Bay—and they are very, very smart—has made it to the playoffs two out of the past three years, and may not make it this year, and then what? To have any kind of window will take building a team organically, having to have something like 80 percent of your roster [homegrown]. That is extremely hard.

“Eventually it becomes like Premier League soccer, where the teams that spend the most money are the teams that win every year. They’ll all come from the top quartile in payroll.”

...Moneyball has become such a period piece it might as well have cast Helen Mirren or deployed the Ken Burns Effect on sepia-tinged photographs. The foundation of Beane’s success actually was in giving the ball to Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito about 100 times a year. (Oakland, which made the playoffs five times in seven years from 2000-06, hasn’t had a winning season since the last of them, Zito, left.) Beane did, however, maximize Oakland’s window by finding value in players others missed.

As Beane’s “advantage” became neutralized by the availability of information—and now the herd mentality of overvaluing young players—Oakland did not find the next so-called “market inefficiency.” Worse, the Athletics whiffed in two emergent areas where ballclubs could carve out propriety advantages: “prehabilitation” (the nexus of medical and baseball information; identifying and reducing injury risks) and—this is the real Moneyball story—stadium revenue.

Repoz Posted: August 02, 2011 at 09:10 PM | 235 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: announcers, athletics, business, media, television

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   1. The Piehole of David Wells Posted: August 02, 2011 at 10:00 PM (#3891382)
Bart: Teamwork is overrated.
Homer: Huh?
Bart: Think about it. I mean, what team was Babe Ruth on? Who knows.
Lisa+Marge: Yankees.
Bart: Moneyball is a bunch of bull, too. And helping others. And what's all this crap I've been hearing about tolerance?
Homer: Hmm. Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
   2. Nasty Nate Posted: August 02, 2011 at 10:06 PM (#3891387)
“What you’ll find is that the window for a small market team will grow smaller and eventually go away completely,” Beane said. “We had seven years. Tampa Bay—and they are very, very smart—has made it to the playoffs two out of the past three years, and may not make it this year, and then what?


This seems very whiny. And then what, you ask? And then Tampa looks like they'll be good for the foreseeable future, with a strong core of Longoria, Zobrist, Price, Hellickson, Moore etc etc
   3. Sam M. Posted: August 02, 2011 at 10:16 PM (#3891390)
Worse, the Athletics whiffed in two emergent areas where ballclubs could carve out propriety advantages: “prehabilitation” (the nexus of medical and baseball information; identifying and reducing injury risks) and—this is the real Moneyball story—stadium revenue.


I think these are very good points. Being ahead of the curve in keeping your best players on the field and performing closer to their peak would be a huge advantage -- and yet how much data do we have on whether there is a consistent pattern of certain teams having this edge? Call it the Phoenix Suns Syndrome. If Sandy Alderson accomplished nothing else as Mets' GM, if he made the Mets a cutting-edge team when it came to training methods and injury avoidance (as well as the best at bringing players back reliably and effectively, balancing speed against getting the rehab right), that would be an enormous step forward for the organization. Maybe the occurrence of injuries is mostly all a wash over time -- but maybe it's not.
   4. cardsfanboy Posted: August 02, 2011 at 10:21 PM (#3891392)
I don't fully disagree with Beane on the window theory, but I think that there is still some validity in the success cycle theory of teams being able to contend for a few years and rebuild themselves in a few down years, at least when it comes to teams with less money to spend. Teams with lots of money and smart management should be able to contend most years, but poorer teams are going to have to cut bait at a sooner date than other teams and work on rebuilding.
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: August 02, 2011 at 10:24 PM (#3891393)
I think these are very good points. Being ahead of the curve in keeping your best players on the field and performing closer to their peak would be a huge advantage -- and yet how much data do we have on whether there is a consistent pattern of certain teams having this edge? Call it the Phoenix Suns Syndrome. If Sandy Alderson accomplished nothing else as Mets' GM, if he made the Mets a cutting-edge team when it came to training methods and injury avoidance (as well as the best at bringing players back reliably and effectively, balancing speed against getting the rehab right), that would be an enormous step forward for the organization. Maybe the occurrence of injuries is mostly all a wash over time -- but maybe it's not.


Wasn't part of the reason that the Mariners were the sixth best organization was because they were going to invest(or already did) in health issues(both rehab and exercise rooms)?
   6. PreservedFish Posted: August 02, 2011 at 10:30 PM (#3891396)
The article seems reasonable to me. At least the excerpt. Verducci understands the issues better than whoever writes those "death of Moneyball" articles that pop up every once in a while.

Beane does sound whiny. It's not the first time. It's probably reasonable for him to feel annoyed at the state of things - it must have been nice to breezily scan the PCL league leaders and find a Phelpsy type to plug that hole - but he does sound whiny.

And I don't know if the window is shrinking with inevitable rapidity. There's no reason Beane can't go out and draft Hudson/Mulder/Zito/Giambi/Chavez/Tejada again, and if he did, he would have just as much control over them before bigger teams eventually stole them away. The rise of the saberhip GM has a greater effect on availability of Frank Menechino and Jeff Tam than it does the ability to find another Tim Hudson.
   7. Gamingboy Posted: August 02, 2011 at 10:37 PM (#3891398)
Wait, the "window" is shrinking?


Is that why the Twins have won six Central titles in the last ten years, came within a playoff of winning a seventh and would be in good position to win it this year if they didn't have a crap-awful start to the year? Is that why the Rays continue to be a thorn in the side of the Yanks and Sawx? Is this why the St. Louis Cardinals (who are, admittedly, essentially the Green Bay of Baseball) are one of the sport's keystone franchises and always seem to be good, and would be good even if they foolishly let Pujols get away?

Eventually it becomes like Premier League soccer, where the teams that spend the most money are the teams that win every year. They’ll all come from the top quartile in payroll.

Beane, get your head out of your soccer-loving ass. The Premiership doesn't have divisions, wild cards, revenue sharing, a true American-style farm system or a draft. David not only can't beat Goliath in the UK for the Premier championship, they can't even face him (since the Premiership doesn't have any playoffs like we know it) and they can't even buy the damn sling (draft, minor leagues, etc.) Baseball has all of those things.
   8. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 02, 2011 at 10:37 PM (#3891399)
Wasn't part of the reason that the Mariners were the sixth best organization was because they were going to invest(or already did) in health issues(both rehab and exercise rooms)?

That and their laserlike focus on defense-first players which led observers to assume they had special top secret defensive stats.
   9. SteveF Posted: August 02, 2011 at 10:47 PM (#3891405)
There's no draft in soccer. MLB probably would look more like EPL if the draft were abolished.

Though baseball is a different sport. Is identifying who is going to be a good soccer player at age 14-16 easier or harder than identifying who will be a good baseball player at age 14-16? I suspect it's easier to identify the soccer player since top running speed is so important (and projectable). It's harder to look at a 16 year old and see if, in the 5000 at bats he'll get before he's 20, he'll learn to turn on a 95 mph inside fastball and learn to lay off a curveball in the dirt.
   10. Nasty Nate Posted: August 02, 2011 at 10:59 PM (#3891408)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember the A's or other small-spending teams speaking out against the 1998 expansion. It seems like it would have been a lot easier to go cheap on payroll lo these dozen years with the supply of players increased to include the likes of Randy Johnson, Schilling, Webb, Longoria, Crawford, Luis Gonzalez, David Price, Justin Upton etc and with 2 less buyers.
   11. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: August 02, 2011 at 11:06 PM (#3891412)
Beane whines while Milwaukee is running away with the division.
   12. Swedish Chef Posted: August 02, 2011 at 11:09 PM (#3891415)
I suspect it's easier to identify the soccer player since top running speed is so important (and projectable)

Top running speed isn't that important in soccer. Acceleration is important, but a kid than can accelerate has shown about 10% of what a pro player needs. And there are no reliable stats except goals scored, and that means little when switching tiers.

The big talent farms like Atalanta has hundreds of youth players in each age bracket; from that they expect to get a handful of players for the senior team.
   13. phredbird Posted: August 02, 2011 at 11:27 PM (#3891422)
Milwaukee is running away with the division


*throws chair*
   14. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: August 02, 2011 at 11:31 PM (#3891424)
Wow, it's so impressive that teams can remain competitive in ass-awful divisions...
   15. McCoy Posted: August 02, 2011 at 11:37 PM (#3891427)
Is that why the Twins have won six Central titles in the last ten years, came within a playoff of winning a seventh and would be in good position to win it this year if they didn't have a crap-awful start to the year

Beane whines while Milwaukee is running away with the division.


Put the A's in the NL or AL Central over the last 15 years and the A's would become a "large market team" with a brand new stadium. They would get all this after about 10 years of going to the playoffs and winning a couple of WS.

Is that why the Rays continue to be a thorn in the side of the Yanks and Sawx?

Let's see them do it for as long as the A's did it before we say that Beane is wrong on this point.

Is this why the St. Louis Cardinals (who are, admittedly, essentially the Green Bay of Baseball)

Come again? STL plays in the NL central, in a good size market, making good revenue, with a brand new park.
   16. Srul Itza Posted: August 02, 2011 at 11:56 PM (#3891435)
Come again? STL plays in the NL central, in a good size market, making good revenue, with a brand new park.


There is all that, but I think he may be alluding to the "best fans in baseball", "people want to play for the Cardinals" propaganda that gets trotted out -- and which does seem to assist them in getting and/or retaining players.
   17. McCoy Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:03 AM (#3891442)
Green Bay gets a lot of FA?
   18. Chicago Joe Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:04 AM (#3891443)
5000 at bats he'll get before he's 20

1250/year? Wow, those schools must play some heavy schedules.
   19. SteveF Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:23 AM (#3891448)
1250/year? Wow, those schools must play some heavy schedules.


My assumption here was a Dominican like baseball academy, which is presumably what you'd see in the US if the draft were abolished and teams started signing 14-16 year olds in the US. 1250 at bats a year is probably on the low end.
   20. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:28 AM (#3891452)
6 - I agree but will caveat that hudson was a very sabery draft pick (undersized 2 way guy w/ great stats and killer gb #s). Immaterial to your point, just sayin'...
   21. Srul Itza Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:36 AM (#3891453)
Green Bay gets a lot of FA?


You're the big football fan, you tell me.

In any event, I was trying to figure out what he meant by comparing Green Bay to St. Louis -- I don't know that he was right about it.


Beane whines while Milwaukee is running away with the division.


Not with Beane's division. And this is only the second time since they joined the NL Central in 1998 that they would make the playoffs, and there is nothing to indicate that they will keep their stars long enough to make several runs at it. So I don't see how this is yet a counterfactual, since Beane did not say a small market team could never make the play-offs, only that the window is smaller for them than for the big money teams.
   22. cardsfanboy Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:51 AM (#3891463)
In any event, I was trying to figure out what he meant by comparing Green Bay to St. Louis -- I don't know that he was right about it.


To me it sounds like he's saying a city that lives and breathes it's particular sport(baseball for St Louis, football for Green Bay) who perform better than you would expect a city of that size to perform over a number of years.
   23. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:58 AM (#3891466)
To me what's killed Beane recently is hyper-activity. He never seems to want to wait and see what exactly it is he's built. He's also dealing away his home grown guys after they hit arbitration instead of when they're about to hit free agency. So Haren and Swisher and Street and Scutaro and now Ziegler all left a couple of years before they'd actually have become free agents. Guys like Zito, Giambi and Tejada got all of their years in, while Hudson and Mulder got all but one in (and they got a good return for Mulder).

That's not even to mention trading away Carlos Gonzalez a year after he got him. I realize he wants to get something back before losing these players and in many cases (like the Swisher deal) he's ultimately gotten more than his pound of flesh but at some point the churn has to stop if you want to actually compete.
   24. smileyy Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:58 AM (#3891467)
Beane's point is apt -- every tool that the small market team can use to be efficient and/or effective, the large-market team can do as well, in spades.
   25. JRVJ Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:07 AM (#3891476)
The article I'd really like to read, is for somebody who is neutral about Sabermetrics (understands the concepts, does not have an ideological commitment to the concepts and is certainly not a Joe Morgan fan) look into whether Billy Beane is actually a good GM.

He clearly was successful some years ago, but to what extent was that because of Hudson/Mulder/Zito (i.e., being very, very luck that those pitchers developed and were healthy at the same time) and to what extent was it because of Beane's strategies remains to be determined (*)

(*) I've read Moneyball, and I understand what Michael Lewis was getting at (I've read everything from Lewis other than the Football player book, so I even understand how Moneyball fits into Lewis' ouvre): Beane had found a different way to run a business which allowed him to be very successful for a while. But does that a good GM make? What I'm saying is that maybe Beane was very good in that unique situation, but not in others.

P.S. In re: the above quote by Beane, I think he's wrong on one point, which is that teams which crappy stadium situations are playing with a loaded deck to a large extent because of the crappy stadium. South Florida is a pretty large market (though with some flaws), but Joe Robbie stadium scks. Ditto for the Trop and Oakland, but heck, even the Phillies (which have recently shown that they had huge untapped potential) were underachieving when they played at the Vet.
   26. Gamingboy Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:19 AM (#3891486)
To me it sounds like he's saying a city that lives and breathes it's particular sport(baseball for St Louis, football for Green Bay) who perform better than you would expect a city of that size to perform over a number of years.


That is roughly what I meant.

....

And as to the whole talk about how the Twins have won some crap-ass divisions, that is true. But that leads to fact that having some "crappy" divisions (in addition to the wild cards to rescue the second place team of a good division) is in some ways is Baseball's great equalizer, what allows the smaller market teams to compete with the biggest markets. Once you reach the playoffs, anything can happen.
   27. cardsfanboy Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:25 AM (#3891494)
The article I'd really like to read, is for somebody who is neutral about Sabermetrics (understands the concepts, does not have an ideological commitment to the concepts and is certainly not a Joe Morgan fan) look into whether Billy Beane is actually a good GM.


How do you actually do something like that though? I mean the first part of determing whether a person is a good gm or not is to just look at their record, but of course that isn't fair in that teams have different payrolls. Another method is to look at wins per dollar spent, but that also isn't fair because nobody is going to say that Cashman is a bad GM because he probably spent the most amount of money per win, his bosses allowed that, so it would be a horrible methodology to rate GM's by that method. More or less you would need to do a bunch of ratings and come up with an aggregate score. And you would have to do it in comparison to other GM's, not just based upon good or bad, which is what a lot of haters/supporters prefer to argue.

This should be Dag's next project :).
   28. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:25 AM (#3891495)
He clearly was successful some years ago, but to what extent was that because of Hudson/Mulder/Zito

Well his pitching really hasn't gotten much worse and to whatever extent it has, it's because he's getting rid of it quicker than he was before because he's not competing.

His last playoff team in 2006 had worse pitching than the current group. But they could hit.
   29. JRVJ Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:36 AM (#3891504)
27, I have no idea how to write the article I'd like to read. But it seems to me that Billy Beane's image is either that of a genius/guru on one end (mostly the Sabermetric side) and a poseur and a failure on the other (the traditionalist Joe Morganites).

And I think both sides are inaccurate, but I certainly don't have the talent to frame my point of view correctly.
   30. MM1f Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:40 AM (#3891506)
There's no reason Beane can't go out and draft Hudson/Mulder/Zito/Giambi/Chavez/Tejada again, and if he did, he would have just as much control over them before bigger teams eventually stole them away. The rise of the saberhip GM has a greater effect on availability of Frank Menechino and Jeff Tam than it does the ability to find another Tim Hudson.


That is essentially the Rays' plan, develop lots of front of the rotation caliber starting pitchers, find some good relievers off the scrap heap (Grant Balfour and the rest of their 2010 pen), anchor the line up with a cornerstone bat or two and find unheralded guys (the Rays never get enough credit for discovering that Ben Zobrist might turn into something more than a glove-first IF) to support them.
   31. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:43 AM (#3891507)

That's not even to mention trading away Carlos Gonzalez a year after he got him.


That's a big part of it, isn't it? Beane talks about the window, but he's shown very little sense of whether that window is opening or closing. He traded Dan Haren for a bunch of prospects, then traded a bunch of young players (including one of those prospects) for Matt Holliday, then traded Holliday for a bunch of prospects, all within a year and a half.

Based on what A's fans around here have said, Beane seems to have been more focused on whether he had a winnable division than on building a good team for the long haul.

Plus, their player development on the offensive side of the ball has been very poor.
   32. MM1f Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:44 AM (#3891508)
How much time does an average GM get without making the playoffs, or even having a winning season, before he is shown the door? That is a serious question, not a rhetorical stab at Beane. Each GM's employment situation is different, and Beane's mid-00s success has earned him a long least but it will be five years now without a winning season and Beane freely admits that the next few years don't look bright. Does Beane get fired if the A's have 7 losing, or at least non-playoff, years... 8? 9?
   33. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:47 AM (#3891510)
27, I have no idea how to write the article I'd like to read. But it seems to me that Billy Beane's image is either that of a genius/guru on one end (mostly the Sabermetric side) and a poseur and a failure on the other (the traditionalist Joe Morganites).


Mike Leach reminds me of Beane. Lewis has profiled both, They have both challenged conventional wisdom and are both polarizing figures. Leach just wrote a book about himself that Chris Brown reviewed. Chris wrote: "There are some downsides to Leach’s personality, which the book doesn’t really hide but also doesn’t play up." Beane isn't in the postion to write a book right now, but I suppose someone could write another bio. If there's a market for a Mike Leach book, there might be one for Moneyball2: The Euroing.
   34. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:55 AM (#3891513)
I realize he wants to get something back before losing these players and in many cases (like the Swisher deal) he's ultimately gotten more than his pound of flesh but at some point the churn has to stop if you want to actually compete.


This is what's most frustrating as an A's fan, the sense that the deal's are being made in a vacuum, with no long term agenda to hold them all together.
   35. PreservedFish Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:12 AM (#3891524)
That's not even to mention trading away Carlos Gonzalez a year after he got him. I realize he wants to get something back before losing these players and in many cases (like the Swisher deal) he's ultimately gotten more than his pound of flesh but at some point the churn has to stop if you want to actually compete.


A few years ago, when I was still paying close attention to Beane, the best possible explanation I came up for this is the following: Beane decided that his team could never win a WS without another exceptional crop of homegrown talent. In the late 90s they developed, what, 6 players that were producing on an All-Star or HOF level? His next crop had some good players (Street, Swisher, Haren), but nothing nearly good enough. So instead of getting his 6 years out of those guys, and letting them lead the A's to a respectable but ultimately pennantless record, he decided to cut bait quickly and start the cycle over again.

So perhaps his current strategy is to constantly recycle his farm system. If he ever gets another crop that he thinks is good enough to go to war with, it'll be interesting to see what he does to maximize his "window."
   36. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:24 AM (#3891565)
Beane did not say a small market team could never make the play-offs, only that the window is smaller for them than for the big money teams.


Small market teams have always had a smaller window of opportunity than large market teams. Nothing new here and this won't be changing.
   37. Srul Itza Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:38 AM (#3891573)
Then what was the point of your comment about Milwaukee?

Oh yeah, I forgot. You never have a point to your comments. Just blather.
   38. Squash Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:54 AM (#3891587)
The A's are still getting some good stuff out of the system and prospect trades, the problem is that it's all been on the pitching side for the last 5-6 years. And that the AL West has sucked for the last few years and seemed winnable didn't help. They're stuck now in a position where they're a mediocrely bad team, but it still would be hard for them to really bottom out because they have a bunch of terrible players and then a few really good young ones. There's no point in trading Cahill, he costs nothing. Anderson, if he ever gets healthy again, costs nothing. Gonzalez costs nothing. Bailey costs nothing (that being said, I would have moved him at the deadline). If you trade these guys, you're just trading them for guys who you hope then turn back into these guys - you're really just kicking the can down the road, only with risk added, all in the hopes of moving up a few slots in the draft. And nobody else is worth anything. Tough position.

In the end, they just have to draft better - if all the other small market teams who have "proven" that money doesn't matter have proven anything, it's that you need a constant influx of young cheap talent. The Twins built their early 2000s core with homegrown guys (Hunter, Radke, Jones, Santana was a Rule 5 pick), then reloaded with Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, etc. Now that everyone's getting older/injured, they look like they're in trouble. The Rays built their core on homegrown guys - their story is incomplete. We'll see whether they reload or whether we're accusing Andrew Friedman of getting old/dumb/not caring in a few years.
   39. Justin T., Director of Somethin Posted: August 03, 2011 at 04:05 AM (#3891595)
Seems to me that the issue is more development than drafting. I do think they have missed some chances for impact bats and gone the safe route in the draft, but there are also a handful of guys they acquired who were on track to be useful or better and just stopped as soon as they got to the org.

Maybe somebody like Scott Sizemore was already developed enough by the Tigers for it to be too late for the A's to ruin him through neglect.
   40. rr Posted: August 03, 2011 at 05:07 AM (#3891616)
What I'm about to say is an oversimplification, but I think there's a lot of truth in it. The meme is that the big-market teams have the money to outspend their mistakes, but I think the more relevant truth is that big-market teams can buy stars, whereas small-market teams have to grow them. Almost all the small-market teams that have had some success and/or at least gotten off the deck short-term have done so when they have had homegrown elite players. The Reds finally did something last year, when Votto played at an elite level. Milwaukee has been relevant with Fielder and Braun. Tampa Bay has Longoria, plus Price and Shields. Minnesota has had Mauer, Morneau, Santana, and Liriano. The Padres had a pretty good year in 2010 with Adrian Gonzalez; they traded him to Boston for minor leaguers, and are back in last place. Houston had Bagwell, whom they got as a MiLer, Biggio, and then Berkman. Colorado had Helton, Tulowitzki, and Holliday. Pujols has anchored St. Louis for ten years. McCutchen may be that guy for Pittsburgh.

Having an elite player or two does not guarantee success, of course, but it's hard to have much success without at least one. So if you look at Oakland, they had Hudson, Mulder, Zito, Giambi, and Tejada. Beane then gave a big contract to Eric Chavez, seeing him as a good-fielding LH 3b who could hit in the middle of the lineup and anchor the team. We know how that worked out. There was some talk that Daric Barton could be an elite hitter; it didn't happen. They had Carlos Gonzalez, who had one year at an elite level and is now paid like a star in Colorado, but as noted, Beane moved him very quickly.

The Yankees and Boston (and some other teams)OTOH, of course, can buy elite players when they need them. Giambi, Rodriguez, Teixeira, Sabathia, AGonzalez. Boston also went for that with Matsuzaka and Crawford, but it is not working out. But they had the money to do it.

Again, I get there much more to it than this: management, international scouting, coaching, training, drafting, medical issues, understanding of advanced evaluation tools etc. But about 25 years ago, Bill James, talking about his Royals, wrote that "No matter how smart you are, getting a George Brett (Brett being the example in this case of an elite player) takes some luck."

I agree with a lot of the stuff said here about Beane, particularly the "churn" line. But really, I think Beane simply has not been able to get a couple of guys on the Longoria/Mauer/Votto level in his lineup through his system or in a trade for one when he is still cheap. And that is a big issue.
   41. Squash Posted: August 03, 2011 at 06:35 AM (#3891624)
What I'm about to say is an oversimplification, but I think there's a lot of truth in it. The meme is that the big-market teams have the money to outspend their mistakes, but I think the more relevant truth is that big-market teams can buy stars, whereas small-market teams have to grow them. Almost all the small-market teams that have had some success and/or at least gotten off the deck short-term have done so when they have had homegrown elite players.

The advantage there is when you're buying stars you get to "use" the resources of all the other teams - when you have to homegrow your players you only get to use the resources of one (your own), which creates much greater variance. If you go on a five year development cold streak, which is only to expected to occur at times (and hey, given the stream of talent that came through the A's system from 98-05, regression to the mean enthusiasts should love the A's), it's less of a problem because you have 29 other teams to cherry pick.

I agree with a lot of the stuff said here about Beane, particularly the "churn" line. But really, I think Beane simply has not been able to get a couple of guys on the Longoria/Mauer/Votto level in his lineup through his system or in a trade for one when he is still cheap. And that is a big issue.

People talk about basketball being the ultimate star-driven game, but baseball is too. It's not a system game - there isn't (much of) an advantage from a superior gametime system or out strategizing your opponent. Over the long haul you simply have to have better players.
   42. joker24 Posted: August 03, 2011 at 07:23 AM (#3891629)
People talk about basketball being the ultimate star-driven game, but baseball is too. It's not a system game - there isn't (much of) an advantage from a superior gametime system or out strategizing your opponent. Over the long haul you simply have to have better players.


I know what you are saying, but basketball is "star driven" because it's incredibly difficult to win the title if you don't have one of the 5-10 best players in the league. It's star (singular) driven. The only team in the last 20 years that I can think of in the past 20 years is the Pistons, and I'd still say the Lakers win that series many more times than not if it got played 100 times.

The current estimates are that the best players can be worth up to 20ish wins in an 82 game season which is obviously ridiculous more than baseball.
   43. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: August 03, 2011 at 09:58 AM (#3891641)
"..the teams that spend the most money are the teams that win every year. They’ll all come from the top quartile in payroll.”"

What's this, an article from 1976???
   44. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 03, 2011 at 10:57 AM (#3891643)
I know--this seems to be one of those things that everyone always seems to believe is about to happen, but it never actually does happen, and nobody seems to realize that people always thought it would happen and it never did.

The payroll spread wasn't very big before the '90s, of course, but since then, it seems like payroll has come to matter less, not more; at least, it seems like it has mattered less since the early '00s than it did in the '90s. Teams adjusted, figured out what strategies would work given their budget levels, and life went on. I'm not sure why the window for smaller payroll teams would get smaller unless arbitration awards get higher in relation to revenue than they have been, and pretty much every team has been able to buy out their stars' arb years recently, anyway. If they're doing it, they obviously can afford to do it.
   45. OlePerfesser Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:38 PM (#3891653)
I think it was President Coolidge who wanted to shut down the Patent Office because "everything had already been invented."

Verducci/Beane seem to be channeling Coolidge here.

Sure, a lot of teams have caught on to some of the market inefficiencies Beane (and others) exploited for a while. But the idea that the baseball labor market is perfectly efficient is just nuts. There are inefficiencies in most markets -- but people rarely see their causes until well after the fact.

So, young statheads, take heart and keep looking for new truths about baseball (or reasons old truths aren't really truths). Just because Billy Beane doesn't know what they are doesn't mean they're not out there.
   46. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:52 PM (#3891654)
I agree 100% with #40. The Orioles are a good example of this phenomenon. It looked like they were finally assembling a good young core with Jones, Wieters, Markakis, and Matusz, but they've continued to suck largely because none of those players have turned into a genuine star. And of course Angelos hasn't been willing to sign top tier FAs over the last five years.
   47. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 03, 2011 at 12:53 PM (#3891655)
Beane's point is apt -- every tool that the small market team can use to be efficient and/or effective, the large-market team can do as well, in spades.


The payroll spread wasn't very big before the '90s, of course, but since then, it seems like payroll has come to matter less, not more; at least, it seems like it has mattered less since the early '00s than it did in the '90s.


These points don't contradict each other at all. The two teams with the consistently two biggest payrolls have been in the postseason or in strong contention nearly every year since 1995, and it's hard to imagine that this would have been possible without the FA talent that their payrolls were able to acquire. And the teams that consistently hover near the bottom of the payroll list are seldom if ever in contention for more than a year or two. It's hard not see some cause and effect there.

But OTOH aside from these extremes, there isn't a huge amount of correlation between payroll and success, as we can see from the examples of the Mets, the late 90's Orioles, the A's, the Marlins, the Twins**, and the Rays, etc. Much of the lack of correlation has to do with randomness, but much of it has to do with what Beane is saying, and what some of us were saying 10 years ago: Smart teams with lots of money will wear down smart teams with much less money, and leave those lesser teams to fight over the scraps.*** The fact that stupid teams with lots of money consistently squander large parts of it doesn't negate that point in the slightest, because to make a proper comparison you have to compare apples to apples, not the Yankees to the Mets or the Rays to the Orioles.

**And in the case of the Twins, their success is in great part due to their fortuitous placement in the AL Central rather than the AL East. Put them in the same division with the Yankees and the Red Sox and their record wouldn't look nearly so impressive, as their postseason record might suggest.

***And there's nothing to prevent smart teams with lots of money from hiring the next wave of Billy Beanes, instead of the next generation of Sandy Aldersons.
   48. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:13 PM (#3891660)
The fundamental problem is that the A's, Royals, Pirates, Rays, and several other teams can't be the Yankees or Red Sox and until the early 90s they could have been and were. All the rest is just noise, and Andy made the point well enough.

When these teams are able to realistically retain two home-grown free agent eligible stars at market prices, there won't be a problem. Until then, there remains a major problem.

I know what you are saying, but basketball is "star driven" because it's incredibly difficult to win the title if you don't have one of the 5-10 best players in the league. It's star (singular) driven. The only team in the last 20 years that I can think of in the past 20 years is the Pistons, and I'd still say the Lakers win that series many more times than not if it got played 100 times.

Isiah was one of the top 5-10 players in the league.
   49. Famous Original Joe C Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:25 PM (#3891663)
Isiah was one of the top 5-10 players in the league.

The 2004 Pistons.
   50. ColonelTom Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:27 PM (#3891664)
All of these bastards have taken his place
He's forgotten but not yet gone

And I'm sorry, Mr. Beane - it's time.
   51. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:40 PM (#3891667)
The fact that stupid teams with lots of money consistently squander large parts of it doesn't negate that point in the slightest

QFT. The Cubs spend money, but they're not smart. This does not mean that spending money isn't an advantage.
   52. Ron J Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:41 PM (#3891668)
#23 Now that you mention it, it kind of reminds me of the Indians of the late 80s. An awful lot of talent went through those teams, but because of constant churn the talent never really lined up well.
   53. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:49 PM (#3891671)
The fact that stupid teams with lots of money consistently squander large parts of it doesn't negate that point in the slightest

QFT. The Cubs spend money, but they're not smart. This does not mean that spending money isn't an advantage.


Then obviously the solution isn't revenue sharing, it's a front office intelligence draft.
   54. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 03, 2011 at 01:58 PM (#3891673)
Then obviously the solution isn't revenue sharing, it's a front office intelligence draft.

The solution is salary caps, franchise players, rights of first refusal, and maximum salaries -- the tools used by the three major North American sports devoted to honest competition among all their teams, and who provide such honest competition to their fans.
   55. AROM Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:02 PM (#3891675)
Speaking of the Indians, they weren't always a low payroll team. 10 years ago BB-Ref has them at 93 million, which is 50% more than they are spending this year in nominal dollars. They were third in the league, and the distance between them and the Yankees (112) and Red Sox (110) doesn't look like much at all. To keep the same payroll relative to the Yankees today they'd have to spend 180 million.

That same year the Phillies spent 41 million - 4th lowest in the NL, and only 6 million more than the lowest (Expos).

I remember somebody back then, when talking about revenue sharing, making a case for the absurdity of the Phillies collecting revenue sharing money from the Indians. Fortunes have certainly reversed.

Some markets are so big that you'll have big revenue no matter what you do - LA, Boston, NY, Chicago. A few are so weak that even with a successful team they can't move to the middle or upper levels of payroll - both Florida teams, maybe Oakland but don't forget about the late 1980's. Most are somewhere in the middle, where if you put an interesting team together, pay to keep it, and win consistently you can act like a reasonably big market team.
   56. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:07 PM (#3891676)
The Indians had a flukish run of attendance based on a great team, a marketplace temporarily free of the Browns, and a sparkling new stadium. Nothing about that seemed permanent or even long-term, and it wasn't.
   57. ??'s Biggest Fan! Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:12 PM (#3891679)
the tools used by the three major North American sports devoted to honest competition among all their teams, and who provide such honest competition to their fans.

1 league you can't find anywhere on TV. 1 league whose owners are losing money. And 1 league whose major side attraction is sports betting and whose competitive balance is way over-rated. Using a template from the other professional leagues for problems specific to MLB is shortsighted and myopic.
   58. Dan Szymborski Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:12 PM (#3891680)
Well, revenue-sharing could be the start of a solution if the revenue-sharing design subsidized marginal wins rather than subsidized low revenue.
   59. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:15 PM (#3891681)
1 league you can't find anywhere on TV.

NBC, Versus, CBC -- it's easy to find. And unlike MLB, hockey's TV ratings and overall popularity are growing very fast.

1 league whose owners are losing money.

Maybe, and so what?

And 1 league whose major side attraction is sports betting and whose competitive balance is way over-rated.

[Eye roll].
   60. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:20 PM (#3891683)
Well, revenue-sharing could be the start of a solution if the revenue-sharing design subsidized marginal wins rather than subsidized low revenue.

Very few fans care about these sabery concepts. The general and entirely correct perception is that competition in baseball is rigged in favor of the Yankees and Red Sox and against the Royals and Pirates and Rays and A's and their brethren.(**) That perception is a key factor in explaining baseball's declining popularity.

(**) God bless the Pirates, but there was more than a little pathos in the giddiness which befell their three days atop the standings of a very mediocre division.
   61. Joey B. "disrespects the A" Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:22 PM (#3891685)
"My sh*t doesn't work in the regular season any longer."

Beane is whiny. He also seems rather thin-skinned and a tad insecure to boot. Perhaps there's a tinge of latent guilt there.
   62. BDC Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:23 PM (#3891687)
The Rangers – the only team I know anything about :) – won a pennant last year with a very low (relative) payroll, highlighted by just the sort of smart deals that should make for front-office legend. Key players included Elvis Andrus (prospect in the Teixeira deadline trade), Neftali Feliz (same trade), Darren O'Day (claimed off waivers), David Murphy (prospect in a deadline trade), Colby Lewis (inexpensive wandering free agent), Darren Oliver (ditto), Nelson Cruz (apparent throw-in in a deadline trade where the Rangers gave up other prospects to get Carlos Lee), Josh Hamilton (trade of top pitching prospect), and Michael Young (eventually signed for too much money, but originally a prospect in a deadline trade himself). They had a few "home-grown" (ie drafted by them) stars (Kinsler, Wilson), and a single important deadline acquisition (Cliff Lee; I don't really count Bengie Molina as much more than a replacement player, though Bengie is certainly a mensch).

IOW if everything goes right you can assemble a winner out of bits and pieces, and basically try to get a killer deadline-trade guy while the iron is hot. This is a much different thing than the kind of slow, stable assembling of a "mini-dynasty" that apparently prevailed from the mid-60s through the early 90s, but it's still very viable. I do agree that it's somewhat boring that the Yankees and Red Sox can basically start a season 75% or 90% of the way to making the playoffs already. (Will the Phillies join them in that status, or evaporate over the next few years?) But the current situation is unique, has its own interest, and is somewhat different from the situation that prevailed before the free-agent draft, when the Yankees and to a lesser extent the Dodgers had a stranglehold on the development of talent nationally.
   63. Swoboda is freedom Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:30 PM (#3891690)
The only team in the last 20 years that I can think of in the past 20 years is the Pistons, and I'd still say the Lakers win that series many more times than not if it got played 100 times.

Chauncey Billups was probably a top ten player. At least top 15. They also had really good team. No superstars, but no holes in the lineup. Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton, and Prince were all borderline stars. They also had solid support from Rasheed Wallace and Okur.

The made the Eastern conference finals 6 times in a row. Won it all once, and lost in the finals once.
   64. AROM Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:31 PM (#3891692)
The Indians had a flukish run of attendance based on a great team, a marketplace temporarily free of the Browns, and a sparkling new stadium. Nothing about that seemed permanent or even long-term, and it wasn't.


New stadium novelty will wear off, and that will decrease the team's earning potential. The Browns? First of all, get back to me when Cleveland actually gets a real NFL team. Second, their season doesn't start until September. Do people in Cleveland really say "sorry, I'd love to go to that April Indians game with you, but I'd better not. The Browns season starts in only 5 months!".
   65. zack Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:34 PM (#3891693)
The solution is salary caps, franchise players, rights of first refusal, and maximum salaries -- the tools used by the three major North American sports devoted to honest competition among all their teams, and who provide such honest competition to their fans.


The following isn't an ideologue rant, I don't particularly care about tradition and though I'm a unionist, I started thinking about your comment in a fair light, just wondering what those efforts would produce. In the end, I have to disagree strongly.

A) A salary cap in baseball would have to be combined with the most revolutionary revenue sharing system ever implemented. The payroll spread in MLB is currently $200 million to $35 million. Where could you put a salary cap and floor in there that would would work? Unless you dragged it down to $60 - $80, which I can never, ever see happening, it would have no effect. And that would still require the Royals, Rays, Padres, Pirates and Indians to bump their payrolls over $10 million dollar.

B) Franchise players - depending on how they're implemented may keep a few homegrown stars in a small markets. But if the small markets could afford to match top 5 salaries, they wouldn't be losing their stars anyway. It's not the poaching that is the huge problem so much as an unwillingness (or inability) to spend.

C) Rights of first refusal, see above.

D) On maximum salaries I disagree the strongest, I think that would have the exact opposite effect. The big market teams would be offering lots of max salaries, the small markets none. All you're doing is cutting A-Rod's salary a few million and giving it to the Steinbrenners.
   66. ColonelTom Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:35 PM (#3891694)
The Rangers – the only team I know anything about :) – won a pennant last year with a very low (relative) payroll, highlighted by just the sort of smart deals that should make for front-office legend.

The Rangers were the first team I thought of as the current "Moneyballers" - a team that thinks outside the box to maximize the return on its resources. Many of their best recent moves were unconventional - signing a major-league retread (Colby Lewis) out of Japan to a multi-year deal, converting effective 75 IP/year relievers (C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando) into effective 200 IP/year starters, trading a top pitching prospect for a very high-risk, high-reward young hitter (Josh Hamilton), and moving a good-hit, bad-glove All-Star (Michael Young) from "premium" defensive positions to a 1B/DH/utility role to maximize his value.
   67. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:36 PM (#3891695)
The solution is salary caps,


For executives? For owners? General managers? For all staff from President down to towel manager? Or only for the untermenschen on the field?

franchise players


A reserve clause based on bribery and coercion instead of fiat? Can we apply the same standards to front office employees? If Billy Beane could only get half his current salary from any other team in baseball, that would be good for Oakland assuming they like Beane's contributions, wouldn't it?

rights of first refusal


For whom?

and maximum salaries


For owners? Executives? Front office personnel? Or only for the sweaty, greedy wogs down on the field?

Why stop with the caps? How about a cap on ticket prices (since we'll be capping all forms compensation to players and ownership alike, so the added revenue isn't really needed)? And a cap on scouting budgets, so that teams can't take unfair advantage in the draft? A talent cap would certainly help teams floundering for lack of young players - should we cut a couple of years off the Rule 5 draft, just to be fair?

the tools used by the three major North American sports devoted to honest competition among all their teams


Nothing says "honest competition" like the NBA's different standards for referees depending on the star status of a player. Honestly I wasn't aware there were three other major North American sports. Basketball (aren't half the owners whining about losing money), football (non-guaranteed contracts, that's the ticket), what's the third? NASCAR? Pro-wrestling?

and who provide such honest competition to their fans.


Actually I'm looking at a list of the most recent 20 NBA champions, and boy, I'm amazed at the fair and honest competition that keeps churning out the same handful of teams every year. Chicago, Chicago, Chicago, Houston, Houston, Chicago, Chicago, Chicago, San Antonio, Lakers, Lakers, Lakers, San Antonio, Detroit, San Antonio, Miami, San Antonio, Boston, Lakers, Lakers, Dallas. So the summary is Chicago 6, Houston 2, San Antonio 4, LA Lakers 5, 1 each for Boston, Dallas, and Miami. 7 different teams winning over 20 years. How can the competition be honest if it yields such unfair outcomes? Shouldn't honest competition penalize the successful at the expense of the downtrodden?
   68. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:36 PM (#3891696)
New stadium novelty will wear off, and that will decrease the team's earning potential. The Browns? First of all, get back to me when Cleveland actually gets a real NFL team. Second, their season doesn't start until September. Do people in Cleveland really say "sorry, I'd love to go to that April Indians game with you, but I'd better not. The Browns season starts in only 5 months!".

Same thing happened in Baltimore when the Ravens came to town. Money tepidly spent lazing the day away eating and shopping and socializing at the mallpark is diverted to football -- the more popular sport qua sport. The fact that the Browns stink merely accentuates the point.
   69. Don Lock Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:37 PM (#3891698)
It looked like they were finally assembling a good young core with Jones, Wieters, Markakis, and Matusz, but they've continued to suck largely because none of those players have turned into a genuine star. And of course Angelos hasn't been willing to sign top tier FAs over the last five years.


#40 If only Angelos had let the Orioles sign Jason Werth and Carl Crawford. I can't think of any top tier free agents over the last few years who he has refused to sign. Miguel Tejada was a $12 million a year guy who the O's did sign . He did not lead the team to the promised land although he had some great years.

It is a credit to the O's that they have a core of young talent on the field. Acquiring the rest of a team is the dilemma. Is there a good example of a poor team who signed expensive free agents and became a good team by mostly doing that?
   70. Joey B. "disrespects the A" Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:47 PM (#3891706)
If only Angelos had let the Orioles sign Jason Werth and Carl Crawford. I can't think of any top tier free agents over the last few years who he has refused to sign.

Orioles fans continue to be irate that Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees instead of the hometown team, but the day that he partnered with Scott Boras was the day he made it clear he was signing with whoever offered the most money, period.

It isn't that Angelos refuses to sign top tier free agents, he's just not willing to pay the insane salaries that the Yankees can offer these guys.
   71. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:49 PM (#3891711)
The Browns? First of all, get back to me when Cleveland actually gets a real NFL team. Second, their season doesn't start until September. Do people in Cleveland really say "sorry, I'd love to go to that April Indians game with you, but I'd better not. The Browns season starts in only 5 months!".

Single game purchases, you may be correct. But there may be many people who were buying ticket packages who stopped because they spent their $4,000* on season tickets to the Browns.

As for the Browns being bad, well, have you been to Cleveland? It doesn't matter if they're bad, the Browns rule the town.

*I have no idea what season tickets cost for football.
   72. AROM Posted: August 03, 2011 at 02:50 PM (#3891712)
Same thing happened in Baltimore when the Ravens came to town. Money tepidly spent lazing the day away eating and shopping and socializing at the mallpark is diverted to football -- the more popular sport quasport. The fact that the Browns stink merely accentuates the point.


And where were the Ravens when Cleveland began their run? In Cleveland. In 1995, with a crappy football team in the city, the Indians were drawing 39,000 per game.
   73. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:04 PM (#3891722)
The solution is salary caps, franchise players, rights of first refusal, and maximum salaries -- the tools used by the three major North American sports devoted to honest competition among all their teams, and who provide such honest competition to their fans.

Oh please, what utter crap.

The NFL and NBA have decidedly LESS competitive balance than MLB. I don't know anything about Hockey.

Different Champions last 10 years: MLB 9, NFL 7, NBA 6. Last 20 years: MLB 13, NFL 13, NBA 8.

The Patriots and Steelers perpetual dynasties are no different from the Yankees and Red Sox. What you have with the Lakers in the NBA is way beyond that. Hell, in the NBA, we know at the beginning of the season which 5 teams even have a chance at the Finals.
   74. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:06 PM (#3891724)
#40 If only Angelos had let the Orioles sign Jason Werth and Carl Crawford. I can't think of any top tier free agents over the last few years who he has refused to sign. Miguel Tejada was a $12 million a year guy who the O's did sign . He did not lead the team to the promised land although he had some great years.

It is a credit to the O's that they have a core of young talent on the field. Acquiring the rest of a team is the dilemma. Is there a good example of a poor team who signed expensive free agents and became a good team by mostly doing that?


I'm not sorry the Orioles haven't signed guys like Werth or Crawford, and I generally agree with the argument that they're not in a position to invest in a top tier player right now. But the fact remains that the team isn't going anywhere without some stars, and it doesn't look like those stars are going to come from within.
   75. ColonelTom Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:10 PM (#3891731)
The NBA is a joke. I used to be a huge pro basketball fan, but it's completely unwatchable at this point if you're not one of those teams on the championship list above. The salary cap has made sure that teams can't spend their way out of bad decisions, which theoretically was a good thing - unfortunately that's turned out to be a bug, not a feature. One or two bad contracts can sink a franchise for nearly a decade and perhaps permanently. I suspect we'll see more relocations and possibly bankruptcies among the have-nots and/or contraction in the near future.
   76. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:20 PM (#3891737)
The Patriots and Steelers perpetual dynasties are no different from the Yankees and Red Sox.

Of course they are. They aren't products of huge economic and systemic advantages.

No one cares about "competitive imbalance" if it results from a fair system where everyone has a roughly equal chance. And no one cares about "competitive balance" as measured by MLB and its lackeys. The Yankees and Red Sox operate in a different system than the Pirates and Royals and Rays and A's and Padres. Those teams occasionally sneaking into the "playoffs," and MLB adding more teams to the crapshoot to provide the illusion of competition, doesn't change that.

The relevant metric isn't short-term success anyway. Even if the Rays show up in the playoffs, people know their success will be short-lived and that the Yankees can outbid them for any player, and most people know that isn't the case in football, basketball, and hockey. And, to repeat, this has been a critical factor in the cratering of baseball's national appeal.
   77. BDC Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:20 PM (#3891738)
To be fair to the NBA, it's never been a league with a huge amount of hope and faith for every club at the start of a season. The Lakers won five of the first ten championships and the Celtics nine of the next ten, and then a few more for good measure. The 70s showed a bit more variation (possibly the ABA helped disperse the talent more evenly), but then the 80s saw that Boston/LA/Philly era that is now remembered as a bit of a golden age, and then the Bulls' run; if anything, the last decade or so has seen more individual teams get a decent shot at a title. It's largely just the nature of the sport; you either have George Mikan (or whatever dominant player arrives in his stead) or you don't.
   78. AROM Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:22 PM (#3891742)
Hell, in the NBA, we know at the beginning of the season which 5 teams even have a chance at the Finals.


In Preseason you would have had the Heat at #1 (Would they go 82-0? Or just break the Bulls' record?), followed by the Lakers, and Celtics. I don't think too many people saw the Bulls as being as good as they were. How many would have put the Mavericks in the top 5? Probably some, but I doubt it was a majority. Though they were a sure lock to win 50+ games and be a tough playoff opponent.

One problem with the NBA's competitive balcance is th max salary. If you allow players to sign with the highest bidder, but keep the team cap,somebody is going to give Lebron more than 50% of their cap space. And somebody else is going to give Wade more than 50% of theirs.
   79. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:23 PM (#3891743)
Do people in Cleveland really say "sorry, I'd love to go to that April Indians game with you, but I'd better not. The Browns season starts in only 5 months!".

No, they say "Sorry, I'd love to go to that April Indians game with you, but I'd rather go to a game when it's more than 50 degrees outside."
   80. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:37 PM (#3891753)
I think five years ago, the A's were focused on developing pitching because it was SUCH a premium. But with offense deflation, its not such a premium anymore, and they've left their offense to wither and die.
   81. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:39 PM (#3891754)
Of course they are. They aren't products of huge economic and systemic advantages.

No one cares about "competitive imbalance" if it results from a fair system where everyone has a roughly equal chance. And no one cares about "competitive balance" as measured by MLB and its lackeys. The Yankees and Red Sox operate in a different system than the Pirates and Royals and Rays and A's and Padres. Those teams occasionally sneaking into the "playoffs," and MLB adding more teams to the crapshoot to provide the illusion of competition, doesn't change that.

The relevant metric isn't short-term success anyway. Even if the Rays show up in the playoffs, people know their success will be short-lived and that the Yankees can outbid them for any player, and most people know that isn't the case in football, basketball, and hockey. And, to repeat, this has been a critical factor in the cratering of baseball's national appeal.


As are the NFL dynasties. Just b/c the talent advantage is off the field rather than on the field, what difference does that make? It doesn't give Lions or Bills fans any more hope.

The Steelers have been good forever, the Bengals have been awful. How is that any different for the fans that the Yankees/O's?
   82. ??'s Biggest Fan! Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:41 PM (#3891757)
And, to repeat, this has been a critical factor in the cratering of baseball's national appeal.

Are there attendance and tv rating numbers that back this up?

The relevant metric isn't short-term success anyway.

Wait, are you arguing for or against sustained success and competitive domination? By your definition, short term success should be what all teams shoot for. You can't have Pittsburgh get into the playoffs every year without leaving out the Reds or the Astros. Nor can you have the Oakland As win every year without harming the chances of Seattle to get into the post season.
   83. ??'s Biggest Fan! Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:41 PM (#3891758)
And, to repeat, this has been a critical factor in the cratering of baseball's national appeal.

Are there attendance and tv rating numbers that back this up?

The relevant metric isn't short-term success anyway.

Wait, are you arguing for or against sustained success and competitive domination? By your definition, short term success should be what all teams shoot for. You can't have Pittsburgh get into the playoffs every year without leaving out the Reds or the Astros. Nor can you have the Oakland As win every year without harming the chances of Seattle to get into the post season.
   84. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 03, 2011 at 03:57 PM (#3891766)
By your definition, short term success should be what all teams shoot for.

My definition is I don't care what a fair system spits out; I only care whether it's a fair system. Baseball's system isn't fair. The other three major sports' are.

Are there attendance and tv rating numbers that back this up?

Have you seen baseball's historical TV ratings?(**) Baseball's appeal nationally -- as opposed to an aggregate of regional appeal -- has declined precipitiously in the last 30-35 years. The aggregate of regional appeal index has probably improved, but that's in large measure because of the new mallparks -- appealing places for tepid and non-fans to while away summer leisure time -- and the increased appeal of urban environments generally.

(**) Or baseball's decline in "most favorite sport" surveys?
   85. Eddo Posted: August 03, 2011 at 04:00 PM (#3891767)
Different Champions last 10 years: MLB 9, NFL 7, NBA 6. Last 20 years: MLB 13, NFL 13, NBA 8.

I won't disagree that baseball's competitive balance issue is overblown. However, you can't just use championships, in my opinion.

Generally, MLB's playoff system is the biggest crapshoot, even though the fewest teams make the playoffs.

Really, I think you need to aggregate a few different measures to truly figure out how the leagues compare. How many teams have won a championship in the last 10 years? How many have won their division? How many have made the playoffs? (You'd want to normalize the latter two to account for opportunity, of course.)
   86. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 03, 2011 at 04:05 PM (#3891771)
It doesn't give Lions or Bills fans any more hope.

Of course it does, which is why Lions fans had hope even after 2008's 0-16 debacle for the ages. If they draft well and evaluate talent well, they can create and keep intact a dynasty-caliber nucleus without their best guys getting poached by the Giants.

Not only can't the Royals ever keep a dynasty-caliber nucleus together under the present system, it's unlikely that they can ever develop and keep a single George Brett under the current system. Even if he didn't have to take a hometown discount, he'd have to be willing to play with a team that will have money issues putting the best other 24 around him.

There's a difference between going into a season knowing "We suck, but it's our fault," and having no hope. A big difference. One not difficult to see.
   87. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: August 03, 2011 at 04:07 PM (#3891773)
It doesn't give Lions or Bills fans any more hope.


Lions fans should have lots of hope -- they have an improving, young team. They could easily win the division this year.

The Bills are a bit of an outlier as their financial situation is woeful and they look to be headed out of town.
   88. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: August 03, 2011 at 04:07 PM (#3891774)
The Patriots and Steelers perpetual dynasties are no different from the Yankees and Red Sox.

Of course they are.


Yeah, I don't think the Patriots or the Steelers went 80 years between championships.
   89. SoSH U at work Posted: August 03, 2011 at 04:19 PM (#3891786)
Really, I think you need to aggregate a few different measures to truly figure out how the leagues compare. How many teams have won a championship in the last 10 years? How many have won their division? How many have made the playoffs? (You'd want to normalize the latter two to account for opportunity, of course.)


Baseball is a fundamentally more competitive sport than either of the other two, and not just in the playoffs. The best MLB teams generally win 60 percent of their games, the worst win 40 percent, compared to an 85-15 split in football and what, an 80-20 split in basketball. It's baseball's 162 game season that allows the best teams to sort themselves out (probably better than football's 16-gamer but not as well as basketball's) rather nicely, though that sorting is wiped out the more playoff teams that are allowed in.

The expanded playoffs help neutralize some of the structural advantages the well-run and well-financed teams have and have expanded upon. Those advantages are really all that will keep most future decades from resembling the scattershot list of champs we found in the 1980s rather than the more dynasty (big or small) friendly eras common in basebal's history.
   90. Nineto Lezcano needs to get his shit together (CW) Posted: August 03, 2011 at 04:30 PM (#3891795)
My definition is I don't care what a fair system spits out; I only care whether it's a fair system. Baseball's system isn't fair. The other three major sports' are.


Looking at results, and not at inputs, what makes the NFL and NBA fair and MLB unfair?
   91. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 03, 2011 at 04:33 PM (#3891798)

The expanded playoffs help neutralize some of the structural advantages the well-run and well-financed teams have and have expanded upon. Those advantages are really all that will keep most future decades from resembling the scattershot list of champs we found in the 1980s rather than the more dynasty (big or small) friendly eras common in basebal's history.


Sure, but expanded playoffs are the only think keeping most teams relevant in the NBA or NFL as well.
   92. McCoy Posted: August 03, 2011 at 04:41 PM (#3891799)
Lions' fans had hope after their 0-16 season because if the Lions were smart they could be good again? That is an absurd definition of hope and a very arbitrary way of picking and choosing between the two sports. If baseball teams are run well they have a chance at winning as well.
   93. Nasty Nate Posted: August 03, 2011 at 04:52 PM (#3891805)
Lions' fans had hope after their 0-16 season because if the Lions were smart they could be good again? That is an absurd definition of hope and a very arbitrary way of picking and choosing between the two sports. If baseball teams are run well they have a chance at winning as well.


Right. And was there a single Lions fan on the planet who was hopeful for the next year after the 0-16 one?
   94. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: August 03, 2011 at 05:03 PM (#3891814)
Really, I think you need to aggregate a few different measures to truly figure out how the leagues compare. How many teams have won a championship in the last 10 years? How many have won their division? How many have made the playoffs? (You'd want to normalize the latter two to account for opportunity, of course.)


Jayson Stark does this every year. MLB and NFL are fundamentally even in pretty much every measure.
   95. ecwcat Posted: August 03, 2011 at 05:03 PM (#3891816)
Great point, #31.

It's a shame this thread became focused on football and basketball. This article is actually very important and has historical significance on this site. The argument is solid. I only wish Backlasher was here to truly appreciate the Death of Moneyball due to the spread of information, and Billy Beane getting frustrated with young GM's copying his style, which he so heavily marketed.

Fantastic article by Verducci.
   96. SoSH U at work Posted: August 03, 2011 at 05:04 PM (#3891818)
Sure, but expanded playoffs are the only think keeping most teams relevant in the NBA or NFL as well.


Nah, any baseball team that makes the playoffs has a realistic chance of winning it all. By and large, the same just isn't true in the other sports.

Most NBA teams are irrelevant, regardless the size of the playoffs. Until the Mavs won the title this year, only 7 different franchises had won titles in the last 30 years. The expanded playoffs might make more franchises and their fans pretend they've accomplished something and had a shot at the title, but history indicates that the overwhelming majority of down-conference seeds are mere cannon fodder.

As for football, I'd say the salary structure/short career nature of the sport does more to keep franchises relevant than allowing 12 teams in the playoffs.
   97. rr Posted: August 03, 2011 at 05:04 PM (#3891819)
The NBA is way it is because of the nature of the sport, not because of the salary structure. There are excpetions, like the 1988-90 and 2004-2008 Pistons, but the sport revolves around superstars and 2-4 player talent concentrations, because of the way the game is played. If baseball were played in a way such that Pujols could bat 20 times a game for St. Louis and Carpenter and Wainwright could pitch every game, baseball would be the same. It is just a different kind of contest.

Like most anti-NBA comments here (other than the ones on the actual NBA Thread), these comments on this thread mostly say, "I don't know jackshit about the NBA, except that I don't like it, so I will constract a faux-argument to vent about that."
   98. Randy Jones Posted: August 03, 2011 at 05:11 PM (#3891826)
I only wish Backlasher was here to truly appreciate the Death of Moneyball due to the spread of information, and Billy Beane getting frustrated with young GM's copying his style, which he so heavily marketed.


You realize this statement makes zero sense, right? Backlasher was a clown who trolled any thread remotely related to Beane or the A's claiming that Moneyball was bullshit and Beane was a terrible GM. So now that many other GM's have copied Beane's style, that is the "Death of Moneyball" and something Backlasher should gloat about?
   99. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 03, 2011 at 05:12 PM (#3891829)
Right. And was there a single Lions fan on the planet who was hopeful for the next year after the 0-16 one?

Yes. The Lions faced no structural impediments to building a dynasty, and no organization had any better chance of building a dynasty. Elite players they drafted would remain Lions, and the Lions had a truly equal chance of buying excellent players on the free agent market.

That's hope, properly defined.

Hope improperly defined is, "Well, if everything breaks right and we catch a few breaks we may be good for a couple years with young players who aren't going to be around very long, and we have no chance of keeping elite players around to become an integral and recognized part of our community and brand."
   100. SoSH U at work Posted: August 03, 2011 at 05:14 PM (#3891832)
The NBA is way it is because of the nature of the sport, not because of the salary structure.


While I'm as anti-NBA as they come, this was the argument I was making. There's nothing the NBA can do* to change the simple fact that the best team will win at a higher rate than in a sport such as baseball, and being the best team only involves having the best colletion of just 2 or 3 players.

* Other than maybe reduce its postseason to a series of one-and-done games, but that would be pretty ridiculous.
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