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Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Why the Mariners rebuild is mostly beneficial to GM Jerry Dipoto’s job security and ownership - CBSSports.com

Is it really true teams don’t have to worry about winning? I don’t buy it.

Now, Dipoto is in a somewhat enviable position: He doesn’t have to show results to keep his job. The old saying was teams had to sell fans on wins or hope. In this post-“Process” era, fans seem more open than ever to buying hope—that their organizations can build a so-called sustainable winner that has many shots at a championship rather than one or two. Not coincidentally, the sustainable strategy aligns with the best business practices from an owner’s perspective.

Rebuilding teams are less likely to spend on the big-league roster—all the good players will be traded or will be too early in their careers to make significant coin. The spending caps on amateur talent ensure that teams can still secure top prospects without entering massive bidding wars. If and when those prospects develop into good players, they’ll have to wade through six seasons before they can make their market’s worth; again, a positive for owners’ wallets. And heck, the revenue model has even shifted in favor of rebuilds as smart business. Teams don’t have to worry about coercing fans through the turnstiles to make a dime—they can bank on billion-dollar television deals paying out whether they win 102 or lose 102.[Emphasis added.]

Jim Furtado Posted: December 05, 2018 at 08:18 AM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: jerry dipoto, mariners

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   1. aberg Posted: December 05, 2018 at 01:23 PM (#5794186)
Teams don’t have to worry about coercing fans through the turnstiles to make a dime—they can bank on billion-dollar television deals paying out whether they win 102 or lose 102.


The Mariners own their TV network, so I'm not sure that their income is really so insulated from their performance. Also, since when is finding alternate, stable revenue streams bad business? Dipoto chased 85 wins for his first few years because he came into a team with a bunch of 8 and 9-figure commitments to 30+ year old players. It was a rational way to approach team building and he wsa almost certainly encouaged to do it that way by ownership. Naturally, the more time that passes, the less tenable it becomes to build around those same aging stars. If the alternative is to keep being a little worse than the year before season over season while Cruz leaves, Cano degrades, Felix remains washed up, and the supporting players become more expensive, how does that serve anyone?

   2. JL72 Posted: December 05, 2018 at 01:55 PM (#5794207)
Lot's of dreck in this article. Beyond aberg's point above, the author misunderstands or is just plain wrong on some key issues:

Now, Dipoto is in a somewhat enviable position: He doesn't have to show results to keep his job.


This is pretty clearly wrong. Dipoto does not have a lifetime job just because he is rebuilding. He may have more time, because ownership agrees that they need to fix things, but this statement is just dumb.

Teams don't have to worry about coercing fans through the turnstiles to make a dime -- they can bank on billion-dollar television deals paying out whether they win 102 or lose 102.


This ignores that the whole point of a rebuild is to eventually create a winner that ... wait for it ... draws in a bunch of fans.

The really stupid thing is that the author recognizes that the Mariners are in a tough position:

To be clear: Dipoto was in a tough spot coming into the offseason. The Mariners overachieved in 2018, winning 89 games despite a run differential befitting a 77-win club. Their core was old and their farm system bad, leaving them without room to improve internally. Ownership appeared unwilling to support a payroll nearing $200 million, leaving Dipoto without a means to improve other than through challenge trades. Question the timing and the returns, but a full-fledged rebuild in Seattle was defensible, understandable, and inevitable.


I agree you can question the return Dipoto has gotten in these trades. But to claim that he is doing that to save his job is pretty cynical, even for me.
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 05, 2018 at 02:04 PM (#5794211)
This ignores that the whole point of a rebuild is to eventually create a winner that ... wait for it ... draws in a bunch of fans.

The 2018 defending WS Champion Astros drew about the same as the 73 win 2007 Astros. The 102 win, 2017 defending AL Champion, Indians drew about the same as the 78 win 2006 team.

Boom bust may be great for the bottom line, but it's bad for the top line, and hurts MLB as a whole.
   4. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 05, 2018 at 02:15 PM (#5794216)
Is YR trapped under something heavy? I'm starting to get worried.
   5. Rusty Priske Posted: December 05, 2018 at 02:23 PM (#5794220)
He misapplies the term 'show results' when he really means 'win games'.

I guarantee ownership is expecting results. They will just be using a different measuring stick than what this guy thinks they should. (For a little while, anyway.)

It is like a business analyst who thinks the only possible goal for a CEO is high profits.
   6. bbmck Posted: December 05, 2018 at 02:34 PM (#5794231)
If I wanted to do a rebuild and replace the GM, I would do the rebuild first. I don't want to bring in the new guy (or gal) and have them ship players out of town. Ross Atkins in Toronto can wash his hands as often as Lady Macbeth but he's always going to be the corporate hatchet man, not that Rogers had a choice in this case as Alex Anthopoulos wasn't staying another year without a long term contract.

No reason to think Dipoto is safe, he's quite possibly absorbing blame on his way out the door.
   7. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: December 05, 2018 at 02:43 PM (#5794234)
I guarantee ownership is expecting results. They will just be using a different measuring stick than what this guy thinks they should. (For a little while, anyway.)


For example, the 2018 Phillies did not show results, in that their young players did not establish themselves as MLB regulars. Winning more games than expected was not considered a good result.
   8. JL72 Posted: December 05, 2018 at 02:47 PM (#5794236)
The 2018 defending WS Champion Astros drew about the same as the 73 win 2007 Astros. The 102 win, 2017 defending AL Champion, Indians drew about the same as the 78 win 2006 team.

Boom bust may be great for the bottom line, but it's bad for the top line, and hurts MLB as a whole.


Except that ignores that the Astros were second in the NL Central in both 2004 and 2005, with 89-73 and 90-72 records, respectively, and then had a 82-80 record in 2006. There average attendance per game dropped by 3,000 in 2008 and continued downward as the team got worse.

My understanding is that attendance typically lags the teams record by about a year. It is part of why Houston's attendance jumped almost 8,000 fans a game after winning the World Series.

So I don't think you can just compare random years as say that winning seasons (and losing seasons) don't make a different.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: December 05, 2018 at 03:00 PM (#5794250)
I agree that this does not give DiPoto any kind of job security. He's probably out the door once the contract expires (unless they start winning before then). But I'll disagree in that, if I'm going to rebuild, I want the new GM in charge ASAP if only because he's the guy I want deciding which prospect package to take. New GMs have a way of getting rid of the old GM's acquisitions too so I'd rather not run the risk that I traded off my vets for guys the fans may not ever get to see. Granted, that would be a tough situation for a new, young GM to walk into.

And put me down with Snapper on the question of what fans do or don't mind. A proper study is needed, but I haven't seen any evidence yet that the "it worked" boost outweighs the attendance losses during the terrible years. And just wait till we see what it looks like when some of these teams fails in their rebuild. One Marlins is bad enough, it won't be good for baseball if there are 4 of them.
   10. BrianBrianson Posted: December 05, 2018 at 03:08 PM (#5794254)
So I don't think you can just compare random years as say that winning seasons (and losing seasons) don't make a different.


You can if you don't care what you're saying at all corresponds to reality. Selective endpoint abuse is one of the first lessons in Lying with Statistics 101. The Astros teardown was brutal on their bottom line, and their rise was great for it - but attendance lags performance, in both directions.
   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 05, 2018 at 03:56 PM (#5794280)
So I don't think you can just compare random years as say that winning seasons (and losing seasons) don't make a different.

That's not what I meant to show.

What I'm trying to say is that boom bust does not build long-term fan loyalty. The Indians fans don't care anymore when the team is good b/c they don't think it will last. The Astros required a World Series win just to get back to where they started.

Tear downs "work" b/c so much of team revenue is fixed that the owners reap huge profits in the down years. But, in terms of building long term fan loyalty, and revenue, they are not a good solution.

That's why the league should care. To maximize league revenue, you need to maximize the number of competitive teams.
   12. Commissioner Bud Black Beltre Hillman Fred Posted: December 05, 2018 at 04:33 PM (#5794295)
Isn't there a massive revenue boost for making the postseason? I'd amend snapper's 11 to:

Tear downs "work" b/c so much of potential/variable team revenue is based on playoff participation, so team owners reap huge profits in the boom years; but enough of team revenue is fixed that the owners still reap huge profits in the down years.
   13. JL72 Posted: December 05, 2018 at 04:46 PM (#5794305)
What I'm trying to say is that boom bust does not build long-term fan loyalty. The Indians fans don't care anymore when the team is good b/c they don't think it will last. The Astros required a World Series win just to get back to where they started.


It is not clear to me that sustained mediocrity builds long-term fan loyalty either. I suspect the Indians attendance is less about it not lasting and more about it not leading to playoff success.

I would assume teams look at these things to try and maximize their take. But maybe not.
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 05, 2018 at 04:53 PM (#5794311)
Tear downs "work" b/c so much of potential/variable team revenue is based on playoff participation, so team owners reap huge profits in the boom years; but enough of team revenue is fixed that the owners still reap huge profits in the down years.

Edit accepted.
   15. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 05, 2018 at 04:55 PM (#5794312)
It is not clear to me that sustained mediocrity builds long-term fan loyalty either. I suspect the Indians attendance is less about it not lasting and more about it not leading to playoff success.

I would assume teams look at these things to try and maximize their take. But maybe not.


The problem is, given the structure of centralized revenue and shared revenue, every team maximizing their short to mid term profits will not lead to the league maximizing popularity and revenue.
   16. Sunday silence Posted: December 05, 2018 at 05:23 PM (#5794327)
I dont get it. Has MLB missed some great way to market teams to its fans so as to increase attendance? What is the secret formula for this that snapper is not telling us?

The only thing that seems to jump start attendance is either: A new stadium or unexpected success. At least for the mid tier and small tier teams. Ive said this a number of times: looking at attendance figures for teams like PIT 70s, CIN in the 90s PIT in the 90s and I think the recent KC team, attendance spikes when team suddenly gets real good and threatens to win a pennant or series. Continued success does not sustain this attendance rate, it will drop.

Ultimately I dont think there's much you can do to change this dynamic. I mean what did you expect? The Pirates won a world series in 1971. Are fans supposed to get equally excited about another one? I dont see how. That's the definition of excitement: something different.

Every year a handful of teams have a great chance to win it all, and those teams will spike in attendance if they havent been there before. the next year same thing. There's only so many people out there to go to games and theres only so much excitement you can build.

What other possible strategies are there? boom/bust; sustained mediocrity, or Evil Empire Perennial Contender? Are any of those going to change baseball attendance?

OH and I guess permanent cellar dweller.
   17. BrianBrianson Posted: December 05, 2018 at 05:55 PM (#5794343)
Of course maximum fan loyalty comes from being competitive to excellent every season (outside of the Toronto Maple Leafs).

But that's not realistic. Without revenue sharing, without a draft, you'd still have boom-bust cycles; they'd just be longer because once you're in a hole, it'd be harder to climb out of it.
   18. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: December 05, 2018 at 07:03 PM (#5794372)
The M's haven't won #### since I was in my early 20s, and they remain one of the most profitable teams in the game. For years they were owned by a faceless corporate entity from another country that, not surprisingly, emphasized profits over performance. Now their main owner is a cell phone jillionaire . . . but he may be under-capitalized for the market, not unlike Frank McCourt was with the Dodgers for so long. I wouldn't be surprised if ownership is perfectly content with being bad-to-okay as long as there are still butts in the seats and they have two MLB-sized markets in their cable package.
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 05, 2018 at 09:18 PM (#5794413)
I dont get it. Has MLB missed some great way to market teams to its fans so as to increase attendance? What is the secret formula for this that snapper is not telling us?


Yes. Look at the NFL. Parity.

But that's not realistic. Without revenue sharing, without a draft, you'd still have boom-bust cycles; they'd just be longer because once you're in a hole, it'd be harder to climb out of it.

I want revenue sharing, and I want an amateur acquisition system that benefits small market teams.

What I don't want is a system that rewards losing. If the Yankees (my team) somehow win 50 games next year, they should absolutely not get the #1 pick.

The draft is a competitiveness balance mechanism; the top markets should never draft #1.

   20. BrianBrianson Posted: December 05, 2018 at 09:38 PM (#5794418)
If you're concerned about overall league health, trying to force big market teams to be perennial losers is not the route I'd choose, but you do you. If the Yankees winning 50 games/year year after year is your dream ... well, I feel the same way about the Habs, only they win -10 games/year. I mean, you'd have to change the rules, but it's a dream, right?

The draft order matters very little - the real point of "tanking" is acquiring prospects in quantity. If you keep downcycling your proven guys for prospects, you can build a wave of prospects and ride it.

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