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Monday, September 06, 2021

Bill James Online: Tanking

      My point is, there are different ways to think about how to compete with limited resources. Some teams are well run; other teams are not as well run.  THIS IS NOT THE PROBLEM.  The problem is that the current economic structure of baseball makes it difficult for many teams to compete.

      This has been the case through most of baseball history.  How do you think the Yankees got Babe Ruth?  They bought him.  How do you think they got Joe DiMaggio?  There was a bidding war, and they won.  They had more money than the other teams.  Economic inequality leads to unequal results.  It has always been that way.

      The problem of teams having greatly unequal opportunity to win has always been there.  Sometimes it gets better; sometimes it gets worse.  Right now it is pretty bad.

      The fact that this problem is ground into the history of the game does not mean that we have to accept it.  There is a simple principle that would help greatly.  The principle is:  when two teams play a baseball game—or any sporting event.  When two teams arrange a sporting event and the rights to broadcast that event are sold, both teams share equally in the profits.

      That doesn’t mean that the Yankees and the Royals come out even.  Let us say that the broadcast rights for Team A generate $1 billion a year, and the broadcast rights for Team B generate $10 million a year, a hundred-to-one ratio. Team A keeps $500 million, and puts $500 million into a fund to be divided among the teams they have played, proportional to the games played.  Team B keeps $5 million, and puts the other $5 million into a fund to be divided among the opposition.  Team A still comes out far ahead, but the ratio changes from 100 to 1 to something more like 5 to 1.

      An inequitable allocation of resources among competing teams is not a good thing.  It is a inevitable nuisance.  It’s a problem.  Baseball should mitigate that problem to the extent that it can be done.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 06, 2021 at 12:44 PM | 52 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. sanny manguillen Posted: September 06, 2021 at 01:59 PM (#6038475)
From the article:

And there is a fourth category, semi-included here, which is teams which lose on purpose today in order to improve their chances of winning in some future year, years from now. But nobody is going to do that, for a simple reason. You’ll get fired before you win. Nobody wants to get fired.


Can't speak about other teams, but I think that the Pirates are doing exactly this. I think that ownership and upper management set out to lose 110 games this season, and that failure will be measured by how many fewer they lose than that. I'm late in middle age now, I've seen many crappy teams and many youth movements. This is a different thing.
   2. villageidiom Posted: September 06, 2021 at 02:41 PM (#6038477)
I've no doubt that the Pirates were not trying to compete this year. In my (probably wrong) opinion I think they saw the results of 2018 - just above .500 got them 4th place in the division - and rightly recognized they wouldn't be able to compete in the division in that window. But the question for them is always, like, when can they compete? Competing with the Cardinals is always a pretty big challenge, and the Cubs' ascension just meant they were vying for 3rd place no matter what they did. What they need is a period when those teams are on the downswing, and the Pirates' prospects are ready for prime time.

I don't think they're too far off, in all honesty. The Pirates' minor league affiliates at AA and AAA aren't doing all that great, but they're doing fantastic compared to the affiliates of some of their MLB divisional foes. I'll tentatively say the Pirates will be division champs in 2024, and playoff contenders in 2023. (Mind you, my definition of "contender" is pretty expansive - like, the Blue Jays are likely to finish 4th in the AL East this year, but I'd absolutely say they've been contenders all year long. They likely won't get eliminated from playoff contention until the last week of the season.)

In the meantime, they have to fill out a roster in order to play the games, and they put together a roster that says "we had to hire someone". The MLB roster, save a handful of players, is not representative of the next great Pirates team, nor need it be.
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 06, 2021 at 03:19 PM (#6038479)
I don't think they're too far off, in all honesty. The Pirates' minor league affiliates at AA and AAA aren't doing all that great, but they're doing fantastic compared to the affiliates of some of their MLB divisional foes. I'll tentatively say the Pirates will be division champs in 2024, and playoff contenders in 2023.

They apparently have a good farm system (#4 per MLB.com). The question remains; will they spend to augment the farm products when their window comes? History suggests, no. They'll develop enough prospects to get to 80-85 wins for 3-4 years, but never add the talent needed to break through. Then when those prospects start costing money, they'll trade them and start over again.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: September 06, 2021 at 05:46 PM (#6038490)
Let us say that the broadcast rights for Team A generate $1 billion a year, and the broadcast rights for Team B generate $10 million a year, a hundred-to-one ratio. Team A keeps $500 million, and puts $500 million into a fund to be divided among the teams they have played, proportional to the games played.

Does James know how financing currently works? It's actually quite close to this. The Yankees take half their local revenue -- that's gate and TV revenue -- and put it into a pool. So do the Rays. The common revenue (national broadcasts, merch, licensing, etc.) is put into that pool. This pool is then divided up equally among all 30 MLB teams. That comes out to over $200 M per team, an amount slightly higher than the lux tax threshold last time I looked.

No the Yanks contribution is not divided up only among the teams the Yankees play -- because that would be ####### stupid. Yes, the Yanks get back a sizable chunk of what they put in which could be made more equitable but MLB revenue was around $10-11 B in 2019 and over $6 B of that was divided equally among teams. And assuming the Rays can cover their administrative costs from half their local revenue, they can run a $200 M payroll as long as the owners are OK with making no profit. Short of implementing Comrade Rob's Glorious Five-Year Plan (tm), I don't know how much more equitable you can realistically make it.

Then there's the lux tax. No doubt many teams could blow past it but the reality is that, this season (per Cots), only the Dodgers are over the threshold at $262 M. He can fantasize about 100 to 1 ratios but the actual high/low payroll ratio this year is about 4.5 to 1 (Dodgers to Pirates/Guardians -- yes, per Cots, Cleveland's payroll is as minuscule as Pitt's). It could be different but in practice that $4 B floating around is almost entirely going into the richest owners' pockets.

The rules also make it difficult to use the revenue advantage to corner the market on young players. The draft most obviously, even moreso with slotted bonuses. The international market is still unfair in that the Yanks can blow past their limits to get a Jasson Dominguez whenever one is available, so they'll still get the occasional DiMaggio born outside the US/Canada/Japan. And they can still take on the contract of a Stanton so they might get their occasional superstar via raw $ ... but it won't necessarily help much if they're not willing to go over threshold.

There are many issues with baseball today but, possibly for the first time in its history, an inequitable distribution of baseball-related revenues is way down the list. That could change overnight if the Yanks, Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, Mets and a few other teams decide they're tired of playing nice ... but for now, take advantage of that and fix some of the other problems while enjoying the Rays, Braves, Brewers, Giants, A's and Ms (what are they doing here?) ... and, yes, Dodgers who might be the best-run team of my lifetime.
   5. The Duke Posted: September 06, 2021 at 05:58 PM (#6038491)
I actually think the Pirates had a decent team this year. They had Hayes, Moran, Frazier, stallings and Reynolds and the dead husk of Polanco they were trying to revive. Their pitching has been weak. Dumping Frazier made all the sense in the world. Doesn’t feel to me like they’ve been trying to lose. Of course they cardinals have not been able to solve them lately so my view is colored.
   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 06, 2021 at 06:40 PM (#6038502)
I actually think the Pirates had a decent team this year.

Wait, what? They're 48-89 with a -209 run differential. 81 team OPS+, 82 team ERA+.

That's awful.
   7. Bad Fish Posted: September 06, 2021 at 07:54 PM (#6038509)
If you don't win and you don't have a reasonable payroll you, as an organization, are not trying to win and as a result there should be ramifications for purposeful non-competitiveness, a tactic that both disrespects fans and erodes the integrity of the sport. I would like to see teams that don't spend to a certain threshold, perhaps 75% of the cap, and also lose at say a sup .400 level, forfeit part of their revenue share.
   8. Walt Davis Posted: September 06, 2021 at 08:30 PM (#6038510)
At least two key issues with ideas like #7. Any team can have a disappointing year, injuries, make good dealine trades that sink their Aug/Sept record, etc. Also how much your payroll is in year X depends on what players were available (and not bought by richer teams) in that year along with things like where in the cycle your arb players are. Any payroll-performance based scheme has to be based on multiple years -- deciding on how many isn't easy.

Secondly, "punishing" such teams isn't likely to help. So maybe the Pirates are forced to repay $50 M at the end of this year -- how is that an incentive for them to increase payroll next year? Where will the money to increase payroll come from? Whatever the increase, it would be under $50 M. In general, depriving unsuccessful teams of resources increases the risk of perpetual suckitude.

Arguably positive incentives would be better. Teams that qualify for a competitive balance pick (I think that's the right one) get a $20 M bonus if they make the playoffs and a $10 M bonus if they are over 500. That's not justification for much of a payroll boost but it at least points in the right direction. If you want to get extra creative, make it a "trust" held by MLB that the team can dip into whenever they want to sign a FA or extend one of their own beyond 6 years service time.

But in both cases, probaby just easier to cut to the chase and put in a salary floor (again, multiple years).
   9. Random Transaction Generator Posted: September 06, 2021 at 08:58 PM (#6038512)
I actually think the Pirates had a decent team this year.

Wait, what? They're 48-89 with a -209 run differential. 81 team OPS+, 82 team ERA+.

That's awful.


It's not just that they lost a lot of games, but they also have committed some of the most mind-bendingly stupid plays of the season.

The Javier Baez 1B run down.

Missing first base on a home run trot.

Losing on a walk-off infield pop fly.

   10. John Northey Posted: September 06, 2021 at 09:36 PM (#6038513)
I get a laugh out of 'teams can't compete' crap.
Exhibit A: Tampa Bay Rays AL Champs 2020, best record in AL by a big margin 2021.

Ah, you say, that is a fluke.
Milwaukee Brewers: 3rd best record in the NL, winning their division by 11 games - the biggest margin in baseball.

Hmm... OK, but rich teams are winning everywhere.
#1 in payroll - Dodgers: 2nd in their division (yeah, nuclear division this year and a lock for the top wild card)
#2 - Yankees: 2nd in division by 8 1/2 games to those Rays with the Jays (#11) charging hard at them
#3 - Mets: 500 team and looking worse lately

So of the top 3 teams in payroll, it is possible only 1 makes the playoffs. As a wild card.

What about the bottom 3?
#30: Cleveland: #2 in their division but well back of the ChiSox
#29: Pittsburgh: Very bad, by choice this year
#28: Baltimore: Have been close to hopeless for a long time - terribly run.
Rays are #26.

None of the bottom 3 are there, but a bottom 5 is a lock and might even be favorites to get to the WS again after being there last year. I think the disparity is due to teams being encouraged to dump by the current rules - minimize payroll for 3-5 years and build up draft picks/IFA's then hope for a good run. The Rays haven't done that since they removed 'Devil' from their name though so it isn't needed to win.
   11. The Duke Posted: September 06, 2021 at 10:08 PM (#6038518)
The Pirates team batting is terrible but they don’t have the usual issues of a bad hitting team. They basically have a barbell model where they have 6-7 pretty good major leaguers but some godawful filler. They’ve generated -6 WAR from a bunch of bodies. Just swap them out for replacement level and the core team is ok

On the pitching side, they simply have no good pitchers. And again here they have -3 fWAR of players taking up roster space for them. This is their real long term problem.

Simply putting some better quad A guys on this team would improve them 10 wins. So, the question is are they leaving those 10 wins out there because they want to lose or have they not been able to claim better players. They’ve definitely made some claims (Nogowski, tsutsugo) but probably not aggressive enough
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 06, 2021 at 10:12 PM (#6038520)
The Pirates team batting is terrible but they don’t have the usual issues of a bad hitting team. They basically have a barbell model where they have 6-7 pretty good major leaguers but some godawful filler. They’ve generated -6 WAR from a bunch of bodies. Just swap them out for replacement level and the core team is ok

On the pitching side, they simply have no good pitchers. And again here they have -3 fWAR of players taking up roster space for them. This is their real long term problem.

Simply putting some better quad A guys on this team would improve them 10 wins. So, the question is are they leaving those 10 wins out there because they want to lose or have they not been able to claim better players. They’ve definitely made some claims (Nogowski, tsutsugo) but probably not aggressive enough


So, 6-7 major leaguers out of 26 guys, and that's not awful? Please. The Pirates are terrible, and they don't care.
   13. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 06, 2021 at 10:14 PM (#6038522)
At least two key issues with ideas like #7. Any team can have a disappointing year, injuries, make good dealine trades that sink their Aug/Sept record, etc. Also how much your payroll is in year X depends on what players were available (and not bought by richer teams) in that year along with things like where in the cycle your arb players are. Any payroll-performance based scheme has to be based on multiple years -- deciding on how many isn't easy.

Secondly, "punishing" such teams isn't likely to help. So maybe the Pirates are forced to repay $50 M at the end of this year -- how is that an incentive for them to increase payroll next year? Where will the money to increase payroll come from? Whatever the increase, it would be under $50 M. In general, depriving unsuccessful teams of resources increases the risk of perpetual suckitude.


The punishments would mean no team ever spends less than 75% of the cap. That's the goal. You can suck if you want to, but you won't be wildly profitable doing so.

The Marlins/Pirates/Indians model is a $50M payroll, while you get $200M in central fund revenue, guaranteeing $100M in profit. Make them spend $150M and they make no money when awful, so they might as well try and compete.
   14. JRVJ Posted: September 06, 2021 at 10:17 PM (#6038524)
Ultimately, "Tanking" is one of those terms (like EBITDA) that needs to be defined in every transaction or article. It means different things to different people.

We can argue whether the Pirates or Orioles are or aren't "Tanking", but there's a big difference between being a low revenue market while running a crappy organization (Pirates) and being a low revenue market while running an elite organization (Rays).

And there is no universe in which the Orioles are a low revenue market. They're very much a mid-to-high revenue market organization, which has been very, very badly run for at least a decade, and which until recently, was simply not ploughing the necessary resources into improving their organization (e.g., the abandoned argument about being a contract clearing house from the early to mid 2010s is very much applicable to the Orioles... but they don't do that at all. And they were absent from Latin America for a long time, up to and including trading away international signing money).

So are the Orioles "tanking"? Again, it depends on your definition of "tanking", and it may just be that they're an extremely badly run organization. But I certainly don't think that the Orioles are "trying".

Same with the Pirates, with less available financial resources.

   15. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 06, 2021 at 10:26 PM (#6038528)
We can argue whether the Pirates or Orioles are or aren't "Tanking", but there's a big difference between being a low revenue market while running a crappy organization (Pirates) and being a low revenue market while running an elite organization (Rays).

See [8]. There are no "low revenue" markets anymore. Everyone gets $200M for showing up. Running an $50M payroll when you get $200M in free money is a disgrace, and should be punished.
   16. JRVJ Posted: September 06, 2021 at 10:32 PM (#6038529)
15, Of course there are "low revenue" markets.

"Low revenue", "mid revenue" and "high revenue" are relative terms, not absolute terms. And it would be nuts to deny that certain organizations tap into much bigger markets than others (though a good chunk of those revenues are shifted to the RSNs).


Having said that, I don't have a problem with teams running a $50MM payroll while getting $200MM in revenues, IF THEY CAN PULL IT OFF COMPETITIVELY (e.g., the Rays, and to a certain extent, the A's).

The problem is that there are some franchises that are very, very far away from pulling it off, be it due to incompetence, greed or some combination thereof.
   17. Bad Fish Posted: September 06, 2021 at 10:47 PM (#6038530)
Baseball is protected by the antitrust exemption, this give cover to teams to behave in a fashion that wouldn't be successful in a normal economy. I could give a rats behind about providing positive incentive to owners who should have the resources to try to field a competitive team but prefer to treat their baseball asset like any other business entity. Baseball will never have the guts to force perennially noncompetitive owners to sell, but they can punish their bottom line. If you don't want to play to win, you should have no place in the MLB. Besides, winning is profitable, more profitable than hind-teat sucking and soaking up whatever largess gets tossed your direction.
   18. Brian C Posted: September 06, 2021 at 11:31 PM (#6038534)
"Low revenue", "mid revenue" and "high revenue" are relative terms, not absolute terms.

Yes and no. To snapper's point, I do think it's true that there are no longer "low revenue" teams in the sense that no franchise is forced to field a $50 million payroll due to revenue constraints - any team can run out a $150 million payroll if they feel like it.

Obviously the Dodgers bring in more revenue than the Pirates, that's not debatable. But it's not really the point, either.
   19. Space Force fan Posted: September 07, 2021 at 12:53 AM (#6038536)
The punishments would mean no team ever spends less than 75% of the cap. That's the goal. You can suck if you want to, but you won't be wildly profitable doing so.

The Marlins/Pirates/Indians model is a $50M payroll, while you get $200M in central fund revenue, guaranteeing $100M in profit. Make them spend $150M and they make no money when awful, so they might as well try and compete.


This is a knee jerk, bad reaction. It potentially screws up roster creation for teams trying to improve. If you have a bad team with a good farm system like the Pirates evidently do, then this kind of rule really screws them. The only way to see if your MLers are ready, need more time in the ML, or likely to be busts, is to bring them up and play them. For a team like the Pirates, that probably means a bunch of high end MLers coming up at once. By definition a team like this will have a roster with a bunch of minimum salaried players that need to play. If you force them to now go out and overpay for a bunch of fungible nobodies just to get to an arbitrary salary figure, where are you going to play them while not crowding out the MLers you want to get the experience? You only have so many roster slots and can only play so many people at a time.

You can't spend the money on one or two stars since nobody good wants to go to Pittsburg at this point in the cycle. The useful role players that might help an inexperienced team like our theoretical Pirates are valuable to contenders, so they won't go to Pittsburg either. The only players that are left are the fungible ones that you can get for not too much money (since if they want too much, you get a different fungible player). In order to get to your arbitrary salary, you have to pay these guys more than they are worth and you likely need several to make the money work since they won't be payed that much money (because they aren't worth it). The end affect is that the fungible players, who are making the most money on the team, play too much and take needed bats/innings away from the young players who might actually be on the next winning Pirate team, or you sunk a bunch of money into people you don't play solely because you need to meet a salary floor.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: September 07, 2021 at 01:00 AM (#6038537)
Snapper -- now you're docking a team $100 M if they don't perform?

$200 M plus half of whatever you can generate locally -- a $50 M payroll on that is very fine profit indeed. So it's obvious why the teams who are net losers in that arrangement (i.e. the rich teams) would want to change it.

So ... we'll force you to run a $150 M payroll? That's a salary floor. As I said, rather than some punitive structure, just put in a salary floor. Anyway, with a guaranteed $200 M (plus half local revenue, that's $50 M plus half extra.

So ... no we won't force them to spend $150 M but if they spend $50 M and stink we're only going to give them $100 M ... which is still $50 M + half extra.

OK, so the half extra will be a lot less at $50 and stink than at $150 and maybe not stink. Maybe that's true but teams are already facing that sort of choice and are still choosing low payrolls anyway. It might also depend on things like how long does your TV contract run for and what kind of stadium deal do you have.

Now what happens to a team that's honestly trying (or rebuilding) but just stinks? The Rangers are a very bad team but that's a new thing -- they won 78 in 2019. Cots puts them at about $100 M this year but next year they only have $26 M guaranteed and apparently nothing guaranteed after that. Of that $26 M next year, $20 M of it is Odor and Andrus. So ... we're gonna penalize them $50 M for stinking on a $100 M payroll leaving them with a $150 M payout next year on which ... they'll maybe run a $100 M payroll. If the $100 M payroll is the problem, how is that going to help? Or we want them to front up with a payroll of at least $150 M next year ... not likely if they're only given $150 M plus they need to find about $125 M of stuff to buy. They've even only got 6 arb guys and none of them is getting a big award. Their two FAs are Jordan Lyles (77 ERA+) and Mike Foltyniwiecz (78 ERA+ and hurt again).
   21. Hank Gillette Posted: September 07, 2021 at 06:40 AM (#6038542)
Does James know how financing currently works? It's actually quite close to this. The Yankees take half their local revenue -- that's gate and TV revenue -- and put it into a pool.


The Yankees signed a sweetheart deal with the YES network (of which they own 30%). YES is paying them $5.7 billion over 30 years, starting in 2013. By contrast, the Dodgers network (whatever it is named) is paying the Dodgers $8.35 billion over 25 years, starting in 2014 (the Dodgers own 50% of their network).

In 2020, the Yankees received $115 million from YES, while the Dodgers received $239 million from their network. The Yankees are obviously diverting a lot more of their television revenue to YES. The 30% of YES’s profits is not shared. Of course, the same thing for the Dodgers: they get 50% of the profits of their network, but their network is paying a much higher carry fee to the Dodgers, so the Dodgers’ 50% from their network could be less than the Yankees’ 30% from YES.

It’s also possible that the Dodgers’ network badly overpaid for the rights to show the Dodgers game, I suppose, and they will losing money every year. However, the television revenues are not as straightforward as they might appear at first glance.
   22. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: September 07, 2021 at 07:30 AM (#6038543)
To what extent has the new wild card system induced teams to hang on to players, such as the aforementioned role players or even just expensive but still decent veterans, who would otherwise been used as trade bait or been allowed to test the market? In other words, are the top 50% of teams hoarding more players than before because 1) they can afford to and 2) they feel competitive for longer in the season?
   23. Nasty Nate Posted: September 07, 2021 at 07:45 AM (#6038545)
The only way to see if your MLers are ready, need more time in the ML, or likely to be busts, is to bring them up and play them. For a team like the Pirates, that probably means a bunch of high end MLers coming up at once. By definition a team like this will have a roster with a bunch of minimum salaried players that need to play. If you force them to now go out and overpay for a bunch of fungible nobodies just to get to an arbitrary salary figure, where are you going to play them while not crowding out the MLers you want to get the experience?
They are allowed to pay the "minimum salaried players" more than the minimum!
   24. Walt Davis Posted: September 07, 2021 at 08:21 AM (#6038547)
#21 ... sure those sorts of shenanigans might still be going on ... James doesn't present anything to address that. And let's not get excited. OK, the Yanks are skimming about $115 M in TV rights. That would result in about $55 M more put into the pool which would result in about $1.8 M more per team. Maybe all the big teams are skimming $50-$100 M which might add up to $10 M more per team. Not exactly rounding error but really more an issue for the union than a source of great inequity in the game.

As to ownership stakes -- never going to come under the umbrella of baseball-generated revenue anymore than owning real estate near the ballpark (or owning the ballpark) is going to count as baseball generated revenue.

All of that could be a really important issue to address if the Yanks and Dodgers had payrolls of $500 M or something. But the Dodgers look like the only team over the cap or at least the only over the cap by enough to matter and that's by about $50-55 M. Again the high/low ratio is only about 6.5 to 1 and that's because the Pirates and Cleveland are being super cheap. Given every team can afford a $100 M payroll, it's more like a 2.5 to 1 advantage. The Yanks, etc. hide money not to keep it away from other teams' payrolls but to keep it in their pockets and not other owners' pockets.

Seriously I have a hard time seeing how MLB can come up with a more equitable way of dividing revenue among teams unless you want the NFL where, for a decade or two, you can somehow have a competitive team in Green Bay and no team at all in LA. Even I'm not that much of a socialist.

#19 (the quote in #23) ... that's true enough but that's not what the Pirates are up to at the moment.

C 31 yo
1B 28 yo
2B 29 yo (good player, traded)
SS 27 yo
3B Hayes, a legit prospect
LF 29 yo
CF a good player, 26
RF 29 yo (DFAd)

Bench: 28, 29, 29, 28, 28, 27. 3 weeks ago they picked up 29-yo Tsutsugo.

Rotation: 27, 31, 26, 25, 28, 27
Bullpen: 31, 30, 26, 30, 28, 26, 33, 28 (they have since brought up a couple of genuine kids

The only player under 25 who was expected/intended to get much playing time was Hayes. Reynolds and what his name were good arb players. Otherwise it's a team of AAAA types who already have 2-3+ years service time. No doubt one or two of the two dozen will actually turn out to be a decent player just in time for the Pirates to trade them before they become FA.

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume they won't exercise their option on Vazquez. In which case they have $0 committed for next year. They have 8 arb players who might total about $30 M.

#23: Sure but that won't make them a better team.
   25. villageidiom Posted: September 07, 2021 at 09:02 AM (#6038549)
If you don't win and you don't have a reasonable payroll you, as an organization, are not trying to win and as a result there should be ramifications for purposeful non-competitiveness, a tactic that both disrespects fans and erodes the integrity of the sport.
The Pirates would have the same roster they have now, except paying everyone more, and still have the same record. If integrity of the sport and not disrespecting fans is what you want, then bravo, you've accomplished none of your goals.

I mean, think about it for a second. Do you think there are some unicorn free agent mashers out there, prancing about in a field, that would be on the Pirates if only they were willing to spend? The roughly 800 MLB players we have today would be the MLB players tomorrow if the Pirates could spend more. They'd have bid on, let's say, George Springer, and then Toronto would have had to bid more for Springer, and Springer still ends up on the Jays. Or maybe he ends up on the Yankees. Whatever, he's still not going to the Pirates in this scenario. There is no scenario where Springer looks at the Pirates' roster, or the city of Pittsburgh, and states a preference for it that doesn't have to do with being paid outlandishly more than other teams would spend. And if the Pirates are being forced to spend more, well, it's not like the rich teams are unprofitable, and it's not like the Blue Jays would say, welp, guess we're not trying to compete this year because the Pirates are. If the Pirates are forced to spend more, other teams will also spend more. And while that's a great result for the players - and there's nothing wrong with that! - the Pirates will be forced to spend on players they can actually get, which isn't materially far off from the players they have right now. If this idea is about integrity of the sport and forcing teams to compete, it will accomplish almost nothing. The Pirates will become... the Orioles, paying Chris Davis a lot of money for value he isn't going to deliver.

Why is purposeful non-competitiveness a problem? Like, I get why it's no fun for a fan. It used to be said about the A's, and the Twins, and the Brewers, and the Astros, and the Indians, and the Marlins, and the Orioles, and the Royals, and the Cubs, and the Rays. I've been following MLB for 45 years, and never have any of these teams been given incentive to compete other than that it's more profitable than not competing. I think all of them have won their division after those complaints, and some have won championships or at least been in the World Series. That's why purposeful non-competitiveness is a laughable concept. Oh look, this poker player keeps folding. He's purposefully non-competitive. Or maybe he knows it's better to fold early than to bid up the hand and then fold.
   26. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 07, 2021 at 09:42 AM (#6038553)
The Pirates would have the same roster they have now, except paying everyone more, and still have the same record.

Except they wouldn't. If they knew they had to spend $150M a year, they probably lock up Gerrit Cole before FA. They keep Starling Marte. They don't trade Jameson Taillon to the Yankees for some magic beans.

The whole cycle of purging all talent as soon as it makes any money would stop, so the team would have some actual talent.
   27. The Duke Posted: September 07, 2021 at 10:18 AM (#6038559)
Given how much money the big markets have to share why not just buy out the 3-4 teams that don’t contribute money to the pool and then their annual take would be much higher. How many teams are permanent leeches to the central fund? Why do they need so many teams anyhow ? Just contract back to four team divisions.

Let say each crappy team is worth 500 million. 26 owners kick in 80 million. Then, forever, they get an increase in tv revenue and central fund sharing equal to X. Is X worth it ?

If you want to expand then you can force some new rules on spending and only into markets that will get decent tv deals. If you want to have 30 teams put 4 teams in London or 4 teams in Japan.
   28. Greg Pope Posted: September 07, 2021 at 12:15 PM (#6038567)
The Pirates would have the same roster they have now, except paying everyone more, and still have the same record.

Except they wouldn't. If they knew they had to spend $150M a year, they probably lock up Gerrit Cole before FA. They keep Starling Marte. They don't trade Jameson Taillon to the Yankees for some magic beans.

If the worst case is no different than now, but there's a strong possibility that things would be better, then what's the harm?

Also, teams could get creative. Ke'Bryan Hayes is the only good young player? Buy out his arbitration years with this year's money. Lock him into a contract that pays him $70M this year and the league minimum through his arbitration years. Or whatever the numbers are, I have no idea what he's likely to make. Do that with 3-4 young players and then when the team actually looks good, you're flush with cash to bring in free agents.
   29. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 07, 2021 at 12:28 PM (#6038568)

If the worst case is no different than now, but there's a strong possibility that things would be better, then what's the harm?


Absolutely.

Also, teams could get creative. Ke'Bryan Hayes is the only good young player? Buy out his arbitration years with this year's money. Lock him into a contract that pays him $70M this year and the league minimum through his arbitration years. Or whatever the numbers are, I have no idea what he's likely to make. Do that with 3-4 young players and then when the team actually looks good, you're flush with cash to bring in free agents.

How about taking Albert Pujols off the Angels hands for an A prospect?
   30. SoSH U at work Posted: September 07, 2021 at 01:12 PM (#6038571)

How about taking Albert Pujols off the Angels hands for an A prospect?


That could be an awkward conversation for Andrew Friedman.
   31. villageidiom Posted: September 07, 2021 at 02:03 PM (#6038572)
Except they wouldn't. If they knew they had to spend $150M a year, they probably lock up Gerrit Cole before FA.
Is that seriously what you think Gerrit Cole would have done? Like, the Astros are spending on their team, and are competitive, and they didn't lock up Gerrit Cole before FA. Why would Pittsburgh have been successful where the Astros were not? If Cole could have been locked before FA, and his options (at different points) were the Astros and the Pirates, and he chose not to with the Astros, you seriously think Cole would have done so with the Pirates?

If the Pirates knew they had to spend $150m a year, then they're still paying $15 million a year to James McDonald, and $18 million to Joel Hanrahan, and $16 million to Juan Cruz, in 2021 because they extended all of them back in 2012 to 10-year contracts. Something like $80 million of their money in 2015 to 2021 would be dead-weight contracts. Maybe they still have McCutcheon, but at $30 million per year. And they'd still suck.
   32. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 07, 2021 at 02:11 PM (#6038573)
Is that seriously what you think Gerrit Cole would have done? Like, the Astros are spending on their team, and are competitive, and they didn't lock up Gerrit Cole before FA. Why would Pittsburgh have been successful where the Astros were not?

If they had offered him big bucks in 2015 he would have. The picture looks a lot different when you're four years from FA.
   33. Greg Pope Posted: September 07, 2021 at 02:15 PM (#6038574)
Something like $80 million of their money in 2015 to 2021 would be dead-weight contracts. Maybe they still have McCutcheon, but at $30 million per year. And they'd still suck.

So... stupid organization is no better or worse off.

Even granting your points, some organizations will be better off and others will be the same. I don't see the problem.
   34. Nasty Nate Posted: September 07, 2021 at 02:15 PM (#6038575)
Is that seriously what you think Gerrit Cole would have done? Like, the Astros are spending on their team, and are competitive, and they didn't lock up Gerrit Cole before FA. Why would Pittsburgh have been successful where the Astros were not? If Cole could have been locked before FA, and his options (at different points) were the Astros and the Pirates, and he chose not to with the Astros, you seriously think Cole would have done so with the Pirates?

If the Pirates knew they had to spend $150m a year, then they're still paying $15 million a year to James McDonald, and $18 million to Joel Hanrahan, and $16 million to Juan Cruz, in 2021 because they extended all of them back in 2012 to 10-year contracts. Something like $80 million of their money in 2015 to 2021 would be dead-weight contracts. Maybe they still have McCutcheon, but at $30 million per year. And they'd still suck.
This is a weird post. If the Pirates had been forced to spend more money all these years they almost certainly would have more major leaguers (figuratively speaking) on their team now. I don't know why this concept is off-putting. Cruz? Hanrahan? Why couldn't it be Morton or Marte?
   35. cookiedabookie Posted: September 07, 2021 at 02:38 PM (#6038576)
Just have a $100 million salary floor, use a five year average, so teams have the ability to reduce salaries for 1-2 years with the knowledge they're spending much more than the floor in other years to boost the rolling average
   36. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 07, 2021 at 03:06 PM (#6038578)
Just have a $100 million salary floor, use a five year average, so teams have the ability to reduce salaries for 1-2 years with the knowledge they're spending much more than the floor in other years to boost the rolling average

I think the floor needs to be a little higher, maybe $125M, the rolling 5 year average makes sense.
   37. donlock Posted: September 07, 2021 at 03:35 PM (#6038580)
Just don't see where the talented players are going to come from. Should salaries go way up to pay mediocrity? The bad teams now have the rule 5 draft, the waiver wire and the MLB draft to get new players. A few come that way but most are not worth the investment.

If a few good players come up through the system as happened in Chicago and Baltimore and Washington, and some free agents sign, then you might have a contender. It hasnt really worked well for many years.

Should we contract the leagues instead of expand? Many young studs prefer football or basketball. Play fewer games for bigger crowds? Develop a national TV market? Restrict the minors to a two or three year stay instead of 3-8 years? Would cut expenses and make MLB more appealing for young athletes.
   38. Zach Posted: September 07, 2021 at 04:20 PM (#6038582)
And there is a fourth category, semi-included here, which is teams which lose on purpose today in order to improve their chances of winning in some future year, years from now. But nobody is going to do that, for a simple reason. You’ll get fired before you win. Nobody wants to get fired.

Narrator: Lots of teams are doing that.

The problem with this reasoning is that there is much lower fan resistance to losing on purpose these days. Especially if it's sold as being part of a multiyear plan. There is a sizeable contingent (on the internet, at least) that thinks any win in a season where you're not a threat to win the championship is a win wasted.

GMs stay around for longer than their record justifies, because the standard for success isn't this year's record, it's this year's contribution to The Process.
   39. bfan Posted: September 07, 2021 at 04:25 PM (#6038585)
#38 is spot on and it is surprising that a guy as smart as Bill James would miss that point.
   40. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 07, 2021 at 04:25 PM (#6038586)
Just don't see where the talented players are going to come from.

They should be starting for PIT and BAL instead of providing ridiculous depth for LAD and TBR.
   41. Buck Coats Posted: September 07, 2021 at 04:51 PM (#6038594)
Right, like do you guys just think it's a coincidence that all the Pirates players were "tough signs" who couldn't have been locked up before FA? Or is it more likely that the Pirates just didn't offer them enough money?
   42. BDC Posted: September 07, 2021 at 05:16 PM (#6038597)
People often suggest greatly increasing the minimum salary, for various reasons. It already functions as a true "floor"; you cannot field an active roster for less than about $15M (approximate because roster sizes fluctuate). What if it went up to $100M (as suggested), incrementally but as fast as practical, by raising the minimum to ~$4M? (Do I have my numbers right?)

There must be problems with that but I will let others point them out. One appealing thing is that everybody who plays gets what seems a decent share of the team's income. One unappealing thing is that paying one guy $30M seems out of the question. To that one guy, anyway. One appealing thing is that paying Mitch Moreland $6M while actual good players make $600K is also out of the question.

EDIT: I realize I am not the players' union and that they might not appreciate this plan. This is just theoretical.
   43. Tom Nawrocki Posted: September 07, 2021 at 05:44 PM (#6038600)
The problem with this reasoning is that there is much lower fan resistance to losing on purpose these days. Especially if it's sold as being part of a multiyear plan. There is a sizeable contingent (on the internet, at least) that thinks any win in a season where you're not a threat to win the championship is a win wasted.


There's a distinction to be made between not caring how many games you win this year and "losing on purpose." I don't think there are any MLB teams that are trying to lose, as the 76ers did for several years in the NBA and the Astros were accused of doing a decade ago.

The Orioles clearly don't care how many games they win this year, because they'd rather focus on putting together a team that is ready to compete in a few years. But that doesn't mean they want to lose. Nobody in Baltimore is hoping that they win 50 games rather than 60.
   44. Buck Coats Posted: September 07, 2021 at 07:20 PM (#6038604)
I'm not sure that's true - I think Baltimore very much wants to win fewer games than Arizona. (This is why I think draft order should be randomized among non-playoff teams)
   45. Space Force fan Posted: September 07, 2021 at 09:30 PM (#6038619)
They should be starting for PIT and BAL instead of providing ridiculous depth for LAD and TBR.


Because they are trying to get a ring?

We don't bat an eye when a decent NFL or NBA role player takes less money (and playing time) to play on a championship caliber team. Why do we expect that wouldn't happen in MLB? Pit and Bal would still need to overpay to get useful players to come until they show some promise.
   46. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 07, 2021 at 09:40 PM (#6038621)
Because they are trying to get a ring?

We don't bat an eye when a decent NFL or NBA role player takes less money (and playing time) to play on a championship caliber team. Why do we expect that wouldn't happen in MLB? Pit and Bal would still need to overpay to get useful players to come until they show some promise.


No one in baseball ever choose to be a bench player on a contender rather than a starter. I can't remember a single example. The difference in future earnings is too huge. Once you're not good enough to start, sure, you sign with a contender, but that's old players who've made a bunch of money. The guys on the bench in LA and TB are there b/c of the reserve clause.

Also, in MLB, the best team has maybe a 1 in 10 chance of a ring. In the NBA it's like 1 in 3. Huge difference.

If you shortened team control of players (or escalated their salaries rapidly), and forced teams to spend (so that the rich poor salary gap was ($125M to $225M), you'd see a lot more talent on poor teams.

   47. cardsfanboy Posted: September 07, 2021 at 10:04 PM (#6038624)
I don't think it's an either or for the players though. Between equal or nearly equal offers between a team with a reputation of being competitive or trying vs a team not, they are going to take the team trying.

Heck look at things like Arenado who signed a big contract with the Rockies, and did it partially because he thought the organization was going to try to win, but the gm gave him an opt (some say he forced it on him in a Qanon level of conspiracy type of rant, but the reality is that he was probably trying to prove to Arenado that the team is truly trying to win going forward and gave it as proof of his future intentions) The team then ended up basically making bad decisions and failing to win, creating a situation where they knew that their big contract was going to want out, so they were forced to trade him.

When Arenado signed, the Rockies weren't really a powerhouse or any guarantee of being competitive, but they were showing willingness to try, and that is what a player wants. It's nice to be competitive every year, but it's also nice to be thought of as a building block to future success etc. No player is going to cut their options short by only willing to sign with an already competitive team, but instead they look at the bigger picture and see what chance that the team has going forward. I think that is what led to Yelich with the Brewers, and I think it's what has happened with other players in he past.

At the same time, you very rarely see a prime player signing with a team that doesn't have a good reputation for leadership in their front office. It's a chicken egg type of thing maybe, bad front offices probably don't spend money anyway so it's not like there are a lot of bad front offices making big offers for in their prime players.
   48. Brian C Posted: September 07, 2021 at 10:32 PM (#6038629)
It really just depends on the individual players though, right? Some are going to value geography or long-term security. Some are going to prioritize money. Some are going to be willing to sacrifice other considerations for a better chance at winning. Like anything else, generalizing is a bad idea.

If Pittsburgh has a hard time signing this or that player, then that's one thing. Not everyone's going to want to play in Pittsburgh for whatever reasons; that's true for any franchise, and it's probably fair to say more true for Pittsburgh than some other markets (although I think Pittsburgh is perfectly nice, for the record). But if they can't sign anyone, then that's a major fault of the organization.
   49. cardsfanboy Posted: September 07, 2021 at 10:43 PM (#6038630)
It really just depends on the individual players though, right?


Absolutely, there is a whole host of factors, but generally speaking any time a premier player enters the market, they are going to consider all the factors but leave enough available teams to get a good contract. I think the nature of the other sports (NBA, NFL NHL) makes it easier to choose to join a team strictly because of 1. competitiveness 2. money. Their schedules aren't as tough on the homelife as MLB.

But this is the point that really matters.

But if they can't sign anyone, then that's a major fault of the organization.


That is the issue, if you tank, you create a reputation about your organization, now tanking is generally designed to clear out dead weight at the major league level, move people up and focus on a youth movement, and use that movement to motivate cogs/elites to join your organization based upon the expected upswing. But if nobody trusts you as an organization to actually fulfill that potential, you won't be able to get free agents, nor will you have great success with keeping your youth. (to me it's the ability to convince the talent you have developed to sign contracts that will ultimately result in the goodwill needed to sign cogs/elites)
   50. villageidiom Posted: September 08, 2021 at 11:27 AM (#6038665)
But if nobody trusts you as an organization to actually fulfill that potential, you won't be able to get free agents, nor will you have great success with keeping your youth.
Nobody trusted KC in that way, and yet they made the WS two straight years, winning one championship. Nobody trusted the Rays - and nobody trusts the Rays even now, in that way - yet they are now perennial WS contenders.

Like, getting top free agents to come to you isn't the only path to success, and for these teams isn't a viable path to success. Let's look at the Royals as an example. They had a string of 90-loss seasons, and then in 2013 they pulled off a winning season, followed by a pennant (as a WC team) in 2014 and a championship in 2015. Here's how they acquired the 2014 players who had positive 2014 WAR:

DRAFTED & DEVELOPED
+6.1 Alex Gordon
+3.8 Danny Duffy
+2.6 Greg Holland
+2.3 Jarrod Dyson
+0.8 Eric Hosmer
+0.8 Christian Colon
+0.2 Brandon Finnegan
+0.1 Mike Moustakas

TRADE
+4.4 Lorenzo Cain *
+3.8 Wade Davis *
+3.8 James Shields *
+2.7 Alcides Escobar *
+1.3 Jeremy Guthrie
+1.1 Nori Aoki *
+0.6 Jason Frasor
+0.3 Danny Valencia
+0.2 Josh Willingham
+0.2 Tim Collins
+0.1 Erik Kratz

AMATEUR FREE AGENT
+3.6 Salvador Perez
+3.4 Yordano Ventura
+2.9 Kelvin Herrera

FREE AGENT
+2.7 Jason Vargas
+0.5 Omar Infante
+0.1 Francisco Pena
+0.1 Wilking Rodriguez

* Three of those trades combine to be the following:

GAVE UP
Zach Greinke (2 years of control)
Yuniesky Betancourt (1 year)
Wil Myers (6 years)
Mike Montgomery (6 years)
Will Smith (6 years)

RECEIVED
James Shields (2 years)
Wade Davis (5 years)
Alcides Escobar (3 years of arb, which KC bought out with 6 year deal)
Lorenzo Cain (5 years)
Nori Aoki (1 year)
Jeremy Jeffress

So when we look back on the 2014 Royals we see a load of prospects who had developed and retained, though it's really "Alex Gordon + others"; we see a bunch of prospects who would pay off down the road (Myers, Montgomery, Smith) and a developed player who was starting to get expensive (Greinke) traded for people who could contribute in the 2014-15 window; amateur players who were overlooked by other teams; and a handful of mid-tier (at best) free agents. And, like, some of those things are what people are complaining about the Pirates *right now*. They traded away a great pitcher because they didn't want to pay him, and aren't signing free agents! They're not even trying to compete! It is the same thing; it has always been the same thing.

When things go wrong for large-revenue teams it often takes the form of "spent a quarter of a billion dollars on someone who got hurt or otherwise didn't deliver that level of value". If a free agent craters, he hurts the team by taking up a roster spot and a huge chunk of the budget, but he also becomes problematic to trade away for something better. For small-revenue teams when things go wrong it often takes the form of "we aimed for a particular window to be competitive and the timing didn't work out". When a set of prospects have a setback, they either shift the window when they are ready, or they can't easily be traded for someone who fits the window better. For our purposes the big free agent busts are very public, while the window-timing thing is essentially happening in private. I mean, prospect setbacks are public but they're pretty low-profile compared to top free agent developments, and the window-timing thing requires many moving parts that are not always obvious. The Pirates did it in the McCutcheon prime years; the Royals did it in the latter part of Alex Gordon's prime years; the Rays are doing it by constant meddling with all the moving parts.
   51. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: September 08, 2021 at 01:12 PM (#6038696)
Baseball will never have the guts to force perennially noncompetitive owners to sell, but they can punish their bottom line.


I don't know that they'd want to. Marginal wins are worth more to the Yankees than they are to the Indians. In order to get those wins, the Yankees need someone to beat up on. Paying the Indians to let them beat up on them seems like a good idea. (Whether paying them as much as they do is worth it is another question, but in principle the idea works.) Baseball teams probably need some degree of competitive balance, but not too much - you want most of the wins to go to the teams to whom they are most valuable.

More generally, there really isn't any problem here. Some fans don't like it when organizations don't field competitive teams, and they complain about it. But it's just fans complaining. Some teams, like the Marlins, have decided that turning fans off doesn't matter - revenue sharing gives them profits with zero risk. If you're a risk-averse business owner, that's a great deal! Others have decided that losing revenue now, and whatever decreased residual fan interest there may be, is worth it in order for increased revenue later (when the team has a better chance to be competitive). Whether that decision is a good one or not doesn't depend on whether not caring about your wins this year is a "disgrace" (that's just a fan's complaint), it depends on whether or not the team expects to bring in enough revenue in the future to make up for what it's losing now (together with time-value of money considerations and the like). And the teams are in much better positions to make those judgments than we are.
   52. Zach Posted: September 08, 2021 at 08:13 PM (#6038800)
#50 -- KC spent a long time signing mediocre veterans to make losing seasons slightly better before the first wave of prospects came up in 2012.

Greinke forced his way out of town; if he wanted to stay they would have kept him.

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