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Monday, December 16, 2019

Why some MLB executives think a leaner minor-league system is best for baseball

SAN DIEGO — Baseball’s minor leagues are a bloated and antiquated system that does not adequately serve either the player or his development, according to several Major League Baseball executives, who support a proposal to eliminate a quarter of minor-league teams and a movement to rethink how the sport may better prepare its next generation.

“The system has been around for a long time,” Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said. “We have a lot of great partners. A lot of great relationships. There’s a great history within the game for the minor leagues. It’s part of the fabric of what we’re doing. But, it’s been a while since we talked about what’s the optimal way for us to develop players.”

MLB and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues are negotiating a contract that would replace the current agreement, which expires after the 2020 season. As part of that negotiation, MLB submitted a proposal that would pare the number of affiliated minor-league teams by 42, most of those in Class A or below. The remaining teams would be realigned, primarily by geography.

In response, Pat O’Conner, president and CEO of Minor League Baseball, the communities of the teams that could lose their affiliations, and various politicians — including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — have vowed a fight to maintain the status quo. A slew of lawsuits from eliminated teams and their fans have been predicted. Sanders appeared to threaten the standing of baseball’s antitrust exemption. In a recent address that opened the minor-league version of baseball’s winter meetings, O’Conner said, “Big storm clouds loom on the horizon.”

Mind you, this would mean more if I had any belief that any general manager could publicly defy the interests of ownership today and still have a job tomorrow….

 

QLE Posted: December 16, 2019 at 01:04 AM | 111 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bad ideas, contraction, minor leagues

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   1. Rennie's Tenet Posted: December 16, 2019 at 09:55 AM (#5908920)
I'm very doubtful that these teams are net pluses for their communities. The towns borrow money for construction/renovation, some of the ownership are corporations owning multiple teams in different cities. Just looking at the full season teams on the contraction list, it appears that about half have moved from somewhere else since 1990. It seems like a franchise might just be a license to throw good money after bad.
   2. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 16, 2019 at 10:07 AM (#5908924)
Shapiro and Hazen, among others, have come to believe a smaller pool of players afforded greater attention is preferable to employing many more players who, given the numbers, are living near poverty, are spread over a limited number of coaches and advisers, and may work in conditions that would be unacceptable in most other lines of work.


Ah, yes, that is clearly the fault of "the numbers," rather than the baseball executives who for decades made the conscious choice to maintain inadequate wages and unacceptable working conditions for their employees, in the interest of slightly larger profits.

Shapiro, Hazen and two other executives, one a general manager whose organization insisted he speak anonymously, said organizational budgets for player development already are stretched thin, so simply pouring more money into ballparks that don’t belong to them and cutting checks for more meal money and salaries is not an option.


MLB's gross revenue in 2018 was $10.3 billion, plus another $2.58 billion from the sale of a majority stake in BAMTech, but sure, I bet they're being 100% honest when they say that there's simply not enough money to treat minor league players like human beings without shuttering a whole bunch of minor league teams.
   3. Sunday silence Posted: December 16, 2019 at 10:59 AM (#5908949)
Its true what you say about the working conditions; but its sort of tangential to the main issue: Do MLB really need this many levels of prospects? Like what is it? 5 minor teams for each?
   4. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 16, 2019 at 11:03 AM (#5908952)
It's all bullshit. If teams really though improved wages and living conditions would help player development, they'd spend the money on their own. It would be a competitive advantage.

For profit businesses don't need incentives or collusion to do things that improve their business.
   5. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: December 16, 2019 at 11:35 AM (#5908968)
I think there's a few issue here, which are
- (1) What's best for a given MLB organization?
IMO, more minor league teams as opposed to less, though some smart clubs seem to disagree here - more available competitive opportunities likely means the discovery and development of useful assets. This is mitigated, somewhat, by the inability to expand opportunities at high levels (you can only have one full season team at each level).
There likely are also benefits to small increases in player benefits and compensation (health and diet; hit poverty level wages) but those fall short of what I, as a consumer, would like to see.
- (2) What's best for MLB in the short term?
Coordination among clubs to reduce the number of levels of the minors. Ultimately, it's a zero-sum game in the short run - no matter how many minor leaguers there are, there will be more or less the same number of innings and PAs to be filled. Cut costs, reduce hassle. Shift more costs to minor league operators - you, in most instances, are their only game in town (affiliated ball is a better investment than indy ball)
- (3) What's best for MLB in the long term?
More baseball. The more people watch other levels of baseball, the more eyeballs there ultimately will be on its top level - these are complements as much as they are substitutes in most markets.

So, (2) supersedes (1) and that's what we're seeing now. I wish (3) superseded (2).
Increasing benefits is largely a justification here (and, separately, a possible PR and legal necessity) - this is mostly about strong arming minor league operators and reducing some waste.

--

For profit businesses don't need incentives or collusion to do things that improve their business.
I don't think that's completely true. There are a lot of forces that cause business to make choices that aren't in their best interest.
Beyond that, we're back to the zero-sum issue - a team could see benefits if they are the only one to increase standards that are washed out if others team follow suit, then you're just left with the new costs.
   6. Rally Posted: December 16, 2019 at 11:36 AM (#5908970)
Do MLB really need this many levels of prospects? Like what is it? 5 minor teams for each?


Either 6.6 (US/Canada) or 8.1 (also including Dominican Summer League). Last year their were 199 minor league teams from rookie to AAA, plus 45 DSL teams.

If you cut the number of teams down then every organization cuts about a team and a half worth of players. Obviously they try to cut the non-prospects and keep the ones who might amount to something at the MLB level, but the question is how good will they be at making these decisions?

You could try and estimate the impact by looking at the draft, players take below a certain round would under the new system never get a chance to play. MLB will lose a few players that way.


   7. JJ1986 Posted: December 16, 2019 at 11:43 AM (#5908973)
I'm not sure a leaner minor league system isn't better. Teams could at least cut to 6 domestic teams each and they could probably lose one more by moving the draft later and shortening the number of rounds. But MLB's dishonesty and Manfred's whining put me firmly on the other side of the issue this time.
   8. PreservedFish Posted: December 16, 2019 at 11:47 AM (#5908975)
#7 precisely my opinion. I'm sure that if I were trying to make things more efficient, I'd be looking to cut MiLB teams. But I don't want baseball to be efficient.
   9. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: December 16, 2019 at 11:56 AM (#5908978)
But MLB's dishonesty and Manfred's whining put me firmly on the other side of the issue this time.


The new normal for MLB. And most businesses.
   10. Greg Pope Posted: December 16, 2019 at 12:35 PM (#5908991)
Sanders appeared to threaten the standing of baseball’s antitrust exemption.


I know most of the lawyers choose to spend their time on off-site OTP, but can someone explain to me what tangible benefit MLB receives from its exemption? No other leagues have it and they all have been able to negotiate CBA's with their players and the unions.
   11. RJ in TO Posted: December 16, 2019 at 12:49 PM (#5908994)
Obviously they try to cut the non-prospects and keep the ones who might amount to something at the MLB level, but the question is how good will they be at making these decisions?
Probably pretty good. How many players from the last five rounds of the draft make it to the majors, compared to those from the first five rounds? There may be the occasional oddity, where some last round chump magically figures it out in the minors, but the massive, massive majority of the guys who begin by stinking in the minors will end by stinking in the minors.
   12. Starring RMc as Bradley Scotchman Posted: December 16, 2019 at 01:00 PM (#5908996)
Because money, you filthy peasant.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: December 16, 2019 at 04:06 PM (#5909067)
I know most of the lawyers choose to spend their time on off-site OTP, but can someone explain to me what tangible benefit MLB receives from its exemption? No other leagues have it and they all have been able to negotiate CBA's with their players and the unions.

The anti-trust exemption doesn't apply to labor anyway (the Curt Flood Act). Basically the ATE would allow them to do just about anything they wanted to defeat a rival league, should one ever arise. That seems almost unthinkable now but the NFL had to come to terms with the AFL, the NBA with the ABA and the NHL with the WHA. (Not a lawyer) I assume it also gives them great "flexibility" in dealing with the minor leagues -- e.g. to my knowledge there's nothing legally to keep them from owning the entirety of the minors.

Given the labor exemption, iIt's not clear to me that the ATE is all that valuable these days or likely to be in the future but they won't want to just give it up.
   14. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 16, 2019 at 04:40 PM (#5909078)

I'm not sure a leaner minor league system isn't better.


From a fan perspective, I don't get what upside there is at all.
   15. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 16, 2019 at 04:44 PM (#5909081)

I know most of the lawyers choose to spend their time on off-site OTP, but can someone explain to me what tangible benefit MLB receives from its exemption? No other leagues have it and they all have been able to negotiate CBA's with their players and the unions.


The ability to have territorial rights and control where franchises go. The NFL can't keep the Raiders from moving every other decade, but MLB has blocked teams from moving (Giants to Tampa). They can also collude to set standard wages for non union players (i.e. minor leaguers) and other staff (i.e. scouts), as well as collude to determine where amateur players go (i.e. the draft).
   16. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 16, 2019 at 04:50 PM (#5909082)
How many players from the last five rounds of the draft make it to the majors, compared to those from the first five rounds?


There are obviously more high-quality players taken at the top of the draft, rather than the bottom, but there are a surprising number of ML-caliber players who were signed out of the late rounds. Mike Piazza, for example, was a 62nd-round pick.

And I, for one, think that MLB was a much better product with Mike Piazza than it would have been without him.
   17. Rennie's Tenet Posted: December 16, 2019 at 06:33 PM (#5909126)
I'm not sure if Mike Piazza is the best example of a late-round success who would be lost by a changed system. He got a spot because he was well-connected to the Dodgers, and such connections are pretty resistant to changes in circumstances.
   18. Walt Davis Posted: December 16, 2019 at 07:06 PM (#5909132)
And, in theory, the young Piazza signs on with an indy league team, rakes, then has his choice of which MLB team to sign with to continue his development. There's also the chance that Piazza goes to a 4-year college program, playing two more years of college ball, then gets drafted higher. (I'm sure MLB would love it if college baseball became more like football and basketball as an even bigger free source of development.) Piazza's draft history is a bit odd -- he apparently went to U Miami for a year then to Miami-Dade (Raul Ibanez career MLB PA leader) and then signed as a 62nd rounder when I might have expected he could play at a 4-year school.

   19. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 16, 2019 at 07:12 PM (#5909134)
Well, here, let's do a representative sampling. 2010 draft (chosen at random), rounds 26+ (i.e. the rounds that MLB's proposal would remove), significant contributors (counting only players who signed):

* Scott Schebler
* Alex Claudio
* Josh Edgin
* Shawn Tolleson
* Kevin Kiermaier
* Danny Barnes
* J.T. Riddle

So, on the one hand, that's not a ton of players with substantial careers. On the other hand, Kiermaier has been good for 26.2 bWAR in his first six seasons in the league, which is one hell of a return on investment for a 31st-round pick. That could probably pay for the development costs of a significant portion of those late-round draft classes in and of itself.
   20. Sunday silence Posted: December 16, 2019 at 10:33 PM (#5909163)
I know baseball would not be the same for me if Shawn Tolleson had never played.
   21. base ball chick Posted: December 16, 2019 at 10:54 PM (#5909166)
a leaner system would be good for baseball???

pls

they can pay a lot fewer people a couple dollars more and proudly show how they are "caring" about wages - after all the bad pub showig that pro ballplayers are earning less than a mcdonalds worker - and basically spending the same thing

mlb has regionalized baseball to the point of not caring about stuff like national interest or national audiences.

they don't CARE about any place not large enough to have a ML team. why would they? it doesn't get them any $$$. they have no interest in the future

the other day MLB was threatening to have their own minor league - am sure it would be one of those buscone/academy type situations, hopefully with the ballplayers having to sign some kind of indentured servant for life type contract

just when i think i can't be any more surprised/disgusted/shocked by billionaire greed and soul knawing lust for even more of everyone else's small bit, i get overwhelmed
   22. Howie Menckel Posted: December 16, 2019 at 11:38 PM (#5909168)
the Mike Piazza story

pretty much anytime you are curious about the background of a MLB player, just google "[player] SABR bio" - and enjoy.
   23. Walt Davis Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:12 AM (#5909173)
So, on the one hand, that's not a ton of players with substantial careers. On the other hand, Kiermaier has been good for 26.2 bWAR in his first six seasons in the league, which is one hell of a return on investment for a 31st-round pick. That could probably pay for the development costs of a significant portion of those late-round draft classes in and of itself.

On the 3rd hand, similar to Piazza, Kiermaier was drafted in his age 20 season out of what I assume is a junior college. The undrafted Kiermaier probably goes on to play a couple of years of DI college ball at which point he probably moves up a few rounds in the draft. Alternatively possibly he goes to indy ball, Japan or Korea and shows some promise there. It's distinctly possible that things work out better for Kiermaier in the alternate universe (better bonus? choice of team?)

I had actually intended to check Piazza's SABR bio but forgot somewhere along the way. But it doesn't really answer any of my questions. He transferred out of Miami because he got no playing time. It doesn't say whether he had any other 4-year offers after that or why he chose to sign after being drafted so low (though I suppose the $15,000 signing bonus wasn't nothing in the late 80s). (Or maybe Miami-Dade is 4-year) Anyway, I'd still think the standard path of a successful JC player drafted in the 62nd round would be to continue playing college ball hoping to raise his profile.

EDIT: A late draftee who's used up his college eligibility who goes on to be useful might be an example of somebody we probably would never have seen without a very long draft. Personally I'd like to see baseball keep all the minor-league teams and cut the draft rounds substantially so that all those late-round guys are still needed but can choose their employer.
   24. Walt Davis Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:41 AM (#5909175)
By the way, I was doing a similar exercise to 19 but chose 2003 since those guys would have pretty well finished their productive careers by now. On the other hand, I was originally too lazy to screen out the unsigned but now the signed guys are bolded. Guys with 1+ WAR

David Hernandez 5 (29th round)
Melancon 11 (30)
Ottavino 11 (30)
Scott Feldman 8 (30)
Jonny Venters 4 (30) -- heck of a 30th round
Wade LeBlanc 5.5 (36)
Medlen 8 (37)
Jesse Litsch 4 (37)
Brandon Morrow 11 (40)
Scherzer 60 (43)
Steve Pearce 10 (45)
Lincecum 20 (48)
Fister 20 (49)
Casey Janssen 7 (49)

There were heaps more that made the majors but were under 1 WAR. Among the unsigned ...

Janssen stayed at UCLA and moved up to the 4th round.
Fister transferred to CSU-Fresno where he was drafted in the 6th and 7th rounds.
Lincecum, drafted out of HS, went to college, drafted in the 42nd round in 2005 then the 1st round in 2006
Pearce transferred to S Carolina where he was drafted in the 10th and 8th rounds
Scherzer shunned the Cards thank god, then 1st round in 2006
Morrow unsigned, 1st round in 2006
Medlen went in 10th round in 2006
Litsch went to JC and drafted 24th round in 2004
LeBlacn went to Alabama, 2nd round in 2006
Ottavino went to Northeastern, 1st round in 2006
Melancon went to Arizona, 9th round in 2006
Hernandez 34 round in 2004, 16th round in 2005

So the closest we come to a guy we might have missed was Feldman and he was only 20 when drafted so might have had the 4-year college option left. Since many years later the Cubs traded Feldman for future CYA-winner Arrieta and Pedro Strop, I fully support rounds 26 through 50! Still, the two guys who signed and had reasonable success amounted to 12 WAR and both probably would have moved up the draft if they'd gone another route.

Those success stories, signed or unsigned, were nearly all pitchers which I assume is a bit flukish.

One distinct possibility is that some of these guys couldn't even achieve the academic heights required for DI baseball.
   25. greenback used to say live and let live Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:54 AM (#5909176)
- (3) What's best for MLB in the long term?
More baseball. The more people watch other levels of baseball, the more eyeballs there ultimately will be on its top level - these are complements as much as they are substitutes in most markets.

I'm skeptical of this marketing argument in the age of the Internet. And you do need guys to play there. I remember reading something from Joe Magrane, a first round pick who was born in Iowa and went to high school in eastern Kentucky. He hated Johnson City, couldn't wait to get the hell out, and this was a guy who presumably had friends not that far away and had some money so he wasn't living like a character from Les Mis. The 20th round pick from Huntington Beach or (probably more importantly) the generic signee from the Dominican who doesn't speak the language isn't going to want to live in Johnson City, TN, or Davenport, IA. These are kids, who if they have any other options, just give up and go home, rather than spend three years in Hooterville -- and the vast majority of sites on the hit list are Hootervilles -- trying to convert their 1-in-1000 chance at more than a cup of MLB coffee.
   26. Rally Posted: December 17, 2019 at 07:39 AM (#5909181)
One thing about Piazza, his decisions were based 100% on what he thought were best for his baseball career, not about money. His family was loaded.
   27. KronicFatigue Posted: December 17, 2019 at 08:01 AM (#5909182)
Let's say all MLB franchises were capped at 6 minor league teams, but one team secretly had a pass to run as many as they wanted. They'd definitely run more, right? If the draft was shortened several rounds, but that one team could then sign any and all players that weren't drafted, they would gobble some of those players up. Has a team ever "passed" on drafting someone in the later rounds. Said "no thanks, it's not worth the money?".

Maybe minor league teams lose money in a vacuum. But those teams aren't getting the benefit of the occasional lottery ticket that provides MLB value.
   28. Rally Posted: December 17, 2019 at 08:08 AM (#5909183)
Piazza’s dad tried to become a team owner at one point. Don’t remember the details but I think he tried to buy the Giants. This would have been before the last expansion, and the rumor was that the Giants would leave SF to play in the giant trash can the Rays now call home. To a person seeing this in 2019 it seems bizarre beyond credulity, but I swear it was considered possible at the time. I don’t know how far Vince Piazza got, but there was some slander about him being mafia connected, a baseless accusation that came down to Italian American stereotyping. I don’t remember the source of the slander but I think he ended up suing somebody.

The truth about his source of wealth was a bit more nefarious - he was a car dealer.

I should add that I don’t remember if Vince was trying to move the Giants to Florida or trying to keep them in SF.
   29. Rally Posted: December 17, 2019 at 08:18 AM (#5909185)
They'd definitely run more, right? If the draft was shortened several rounds, but that one team could then sign any and all players that weren't drafted, they would gobble some of those players up. Has a team ever "passed" on drafting someone in the later rounds. Said "no thanks, it's not worth the money?".


Years ago the draft didn't have a limit, teams kept drafting until they all decided the cupboard was bare. In 1985 every team drafted in the 25th round. By the 30th, 20 teams were left. By the 35, 6 teams were left. Indians picked in rounds 38-39, but they were the only team left. They finally called it quits instead of taking a 40th.
   30. KronicFatigue Posted: December 17, 2019 at 08:32 AM (#5909187)
Years ago the draft didn't have a limit, teams kept drafting until they all decided the cupboard was bare. In 1985 every team drafted in the 25th round. By the 30th, 20 teams were left. By the 35, 6 teams were left. Indians picked in rounds 38-39, but they were the only team left. They finally called it quits instead of taking a 40th.


So...the exact opposite of what I was presuming? That today's draft is a floor, not a ceiling and if left to their own devices, teams would draft less players??
   31. Starring RMc as Bradley Scotchman Posted: December 17, 2019 at 08:59 AM (#5909191)
And, in theory, the young Piazza signs on with an indy league team

Except this was 1988, and there were no indy leagues before 1994. College? Japan, maybe?

I'm not sure a leaner minor league system isn't better.

From a fan perspective, I don't get what upside there is at all.


MOAR BASEBALL = GOOD

   32. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 09:11 AM (#5909195)
It really doesn't matter if the next Piazza or Kiermaier gets lost. Sure, baseball is better with them, but if they had never existed, we would never have noted their absence. Today there's probably a guy working as an HVAC repairman or substitute teacher or something that would have become a true unforgettable Hall of Famer if he'd been given the opportunity. But he didn't, and we don't know who he is, and it doesn't make the game substantially worse. In fact that guy's absence incrementally contributes to the apparent greatness of the players that we do have.
   33. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: December 17, 2019 at 09:19 AM (#5909197)
Kronic - you had it right before.
Teams can still pass on making picks today and no longer do - and the average (median or median) number of picks made was higher when there were more rounds.
   34. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 09:21 AM (#5909198)
People keep missing that all the MLB teams are coordinated in this decision. So, sure, a Kiermaier in the 30th round probably allows the bloated minor league system of one team to pay for itself for several years. But if you take the perspective of the league as a whole, Kiermaier adds very little value. Sure, he makes the league marginally more fun to watch, because he's more entertaining than the AAAA scrub that would replace him, but most of the value the Rays enjoy is harvested at the expense of the other teams (his wins contribute to their losses).

To be clear, I hate that this is true, and I love the bloated MiLB system. I just fear that the teams are right to economize here. If it were my bottom line, I'd have to consider the same choices here.
   35. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: December 17, 2019 at 09:29 AM (#5909202)
32/PF: I think that's more or less correct. I, as a fan, just want more baseball.
--
I'm skeptical of this marketing argument in the age of the Internet. And you do need guys to play there.

"you need guys to play there" is not an issue - there's essentially infinite supply.

Skeptical of the marketing argument is reasonable, I think - and I suspect we'd both be leaning on conjecture here. But:

I live in a mid-sized (AAA) market and, living in the age of the internet, my kids have a seemingly endless array of entertainment options available to them on which they can spend money. So, they like various gamers, and they buy book series, and then there's sports. Football? Football is everywhere, you can't escape it. Basketball? I live in the Triangle, it's more omnipresent than football. As for baseball -- if you're going to end up a baseball fan around here, it's because either: your parents brainwashed you into liking it or you went to Bulls or Mudcats games and liked the mascot and bought the swag and eventually started to pay attention to what was going on on the field. In person lower-caliber baseball is a far better advertisement for in-person (on TV) MLB ball than TV MLB ball is. For that matter, there's not that much baseball on TV anymore if you don't spring for MLBTv, whereas it's easy to find basketball or football games.

Now, when it comes to some of the individual markets impacted? That's a different story. I don't think there's a good reason for the Appalachian League to still exist, for example (though I'm concerned for, among others, the municipal governments that were strong armed into making stadium improvements). But I do believe that minor league baseball is an important gateway feeder to sticking with the sport, unique to baseball.
   36. Rally Posted: December 17, 2019 at 09:45 AM (#5909208)
People keep missing that all the MLB teams are coordinated in this decision. So, sure, a Kiermaier in the 30th round probably allows the bloated minor league system of one team to pay for itself for several years. But if you take the perspective of the league as a whole, Kiermaier adds very little value. Sure, he makes the league marginally more fun to watch, because he's more entertaining than the AAAA scrub that would replace him, but most of the value the Rays enjoy is harvested at the expense of the other teams (his wins contribute to their losses).


The players excluded will be the ones who didn't get a big bonus anyway, and all the proposed losses are at the lower levels of the minors, where the pay is lowest. 42 fewer teams, say 30 fewer players per team (assuming some injured players plus the active roster), at 15k per year. That works out to 18.9 million per season.

By Fangraphs, Kiermaier has been worth 138.9 million over 6 years. By BBref it should be even more since the defensive metrics are even higher using their numbers. He's actually been paid a bit under 20 million during that time.

It's true that if he never existed, league WAR would be the same. In this case, players all over the AL would have higher batting averages. Other CF would have higher UZR/DRS, since they would not be held in (partial) comparison to Kiermaier. Still, that's just one player, and all by himself he approximately justifies the entire leaguewide investment in additional marginal prospects.
   37. Rally Posted: December 17, 2019 at 09:48 AM (#5909210)
I don't think there's a good reason for the Appalachian League to still exist, for example (though I'm concerned for, among others, the municipal governments that were strong armed into making stadium improvements).


I can think of many reasons for the Appalachian league to exist. Sadly though, those are not economic reasons.
   38. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:00 AM (#5909219)
To be clear, I hate that this is true, and I love the bloated MiLB system. I just fear that the teams are right to economize here. If it were my bottom line, I'd have to consider the same choices here.

They could make a lot more money, collectively, if they eliminated the incentives for tanking. That's probably costing them hundreds of millions of dollars.
   39. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:09 AM (#5909223)
By Fangraphs, Kiermaier has been worth 138.9 million over 6 years. By BBref it should be even more since the defensive metrics are even higher using their numbers. He's actually been paid a bit under 20 million during that time.

It's true that if he never existed, league WAR would be the same. In this case, players all over the AL would have higher batting averages. Other CF would have higher UZR/DRS, since they would not be held in (partial) comparison to Kiermaier. Still, that's just one player, and all by himself he approximately justifies the entire leaguewide investment in additional marginal prospects.


No, you're missing my point. Kiermaier has been worth 138.9 million to the Rays, but in this form of accounting, literally every penny of that value is directly subtracted from the other 29 teams. (That's even accepting the $/WAR number at face value, which is itself absurd, because the number is wildly inflated due to the strange economics of free agency and the fact that salaries of young players are artificially depressed. If all players were free agents, $/WAR would be far far far lower, and it would give us a more realistic estimate of the dollar value of a win) Basically, this $/WAR math is completely inappropriate here, it is entirely irrelevant.

As far as the league is concerned, Kiermaier is only worth whatever entertainment value he brings to the game - driving ticket sales, merch sales, MLBtv subscriptions, etc - above and beyond what the league would enjoy had Guillermo Heredia been promoted from 4th OF to starting CF, and some other scrub promoted from AAA. I don't know how much that is, but it's probably a lot closer to zero than it is to $138.9 million. Remember, every new Rays loss turns into a win for another team to drive excitement, sales, etc. Subtract $8M from Tampa, but add it to Boston and NY and so on.

Obviously a good player is not valueless to the league as a whole, good players are necessary for marketing the game, but we have no ability to conclude that Kiermaier justifies the expenditure on MiLB bloat. And I'm sure he does not.
   40. . Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:26 AM (#5909228)
It's really impossible to tease out the relevant variables because of the MLB monopoly, subsidies, affiliation agreements, etc. I can't imagine that there's much of a market for truly independent baseball, free of the MLB tie-in and subsidy, in a wide swath of them. What's the market for baseball in Bluefield, WV or Chattanooga, TN if the players are strictly and only Bluefield's or Chattanooga's?(*) Probably zero or the functional equivalent of zero, right?

(*) In, among other senses, once a player becomes Chattanooga's, he can't be promoted or traded away by another market's team or management as they can now. And in exchange, Chattanooga and Chattanooga alone has to acquire, pay, train, and support him.
   41. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:27 AM (#5909229)
It really doesn't matter if the next Piazza or Kiermaier gets lost. Sure, baseball is better with them, but if they had never existed, we would never have noted their absence. Today there's probably a guy working as an HVAC repairman or substitute teacher or something that would have become a true unforgettable Hall of Famer if he'd been given the opportunity. But he didn't, and we don't know who he is, and it doesn't make the game substantially worse. In fact that guy's absence incrementally contributes to the apparent greatness of the players that we do have.


It absolutely makes the game worse - it just does so in a way that you aren't in the position to notice. But that doesn't make it any less tragic, on a meta level.
   42. . Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:30 AM (#5909231)
There's no "tragedy" in taking 22 and 23 year old men out of the arrested development they're in while they're baseball players and requiring them to become fully-developed people. That's actually a positive thing; in other words, pretty much the exact opposite of a tragedy. Sports, unfortunately, have become something close to a net negative to the culture if not an actual negative.
   43. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:32 AM (#5909232)
I know baseball would not be the same for me if Shawn Tolleson had never played.


You can say that, but Shawn Tolleson was absolutely 100% a ML-caliber talent. He put up an above-average ERA+ in 218 ML innings. He pitched high-leverage scoreless innings in playoff games. He even got a few down-ballot Cy Young votes!

As a baseball fan, I want to see baseball played by the best available baseball players, and a system that does not prioritize that is a system that is not furthering my interests.
   44. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:33 AM (#5909233)
Sports, unfortunately, have become something close to a net negative to the culture


Well, you'd know all about being "a net negative to the culture," wouldn't you?
   45. . Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:34 AM (#5909234)
As a baseball fan, I want to see baseball played by the best available baseball players, and a system that does not prioritize that is a system that is not furthering my interests.


Plenty of consumer wants aren't fully satisfied by the marketplace. The ones you've cited are far down the list of ones the culture at large should be concerned about.
   46. . Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:35 AM (#5909235)
Well, you'd know all about being "a net negative to the culture," wouldn't you?


I know all about not expecting any kind of substantive response to an insightful substantive observation. Honestly, it's kind of ... odd ... that a grown man would refer to the possible ending of subsidized baseball in Bluefield, WV as a "tragedy." I'll be charitable and chalk up the excessive language to the demands the internet places on attention-seekers.

   47. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:37 AM (#5909236)
It absolutely makes the game worse - it just does so in a way that you aren't in the position to notice. But that doesn't make it any less tragic, on a meta level.


Tragic is an overbid, I think. It's a shame that my HVAC repairman never got to strut his stuff on the big stage - and it may be tragic for him - but MLB is very very good at finding and fostering the amateur talent out there. It'll never be perfect, even if we double the number of MiLB teams.

But the important point is that an imperceptible tragedy isn't really a tragedy.
   48. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:40 AM (#5909237)
Vlad, just consider how much better MLB is at finding and growing amateur talent than, say, the film industry or the publishing industry, where there are so few opportunities, and such a high percentage of them go to young kids with money and family connections. MLB probably finds 98% of the most talented potential baseball players in the country. Hollywood probably finds like 10%. If they were to subtract these MiLB teams, MLB's score would probably drop from 98% to 97%. I think it would take an MLB scouting director about 3 minutes to nominate the 60 players in his system that he'd cut, and there would be very few mistakes.
   49. . Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:45 AM (#5909238)
The perceptive observer also can't help but recognize the rhapsodic waxing about the recession in subsidized small-town and heartland baseball is carried out by many of the same people who cheer on the decades-long recession in manufacturing in that very same demographic and geography, often times ridiculing the affected as "racists" and the like.

The auto companies and the steel companies and all the rest can move out and it's crickets if not cheers; the baseball teams move out and the pearl clutching commences apace. The triviality of that perspective speaks for itself.

   50. . Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:52 AM (#5909241)
In the mid-70s, the Tigers spotted Ron LeFlore in Jackson State Prison, signed him, and he turned out to be a starting CF for a number of years and an All-Star. As Snapper said already, it's in the interest of major league teams to find and develop talent and that self-interest will drive them to do so.
   51. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:55 AM (#5909243)
Tragic is an overbid, I think.


I don't. If someone has an elite level of skill at something, but never gets the opportunity to cultivate or demonstrate that skill, then yes, I think that's tragic. The fact that it's an extremely common scenario doesn't make it any less sad.

MLB probably finds 98% of the most talented potential baseball players in the country.


What makes you so sure of that? You yourself noted in #32 that if we missed out on seeing a Hall of Fame-caliber player, we'd never know about it.

   52. . Posted: December 17, 2019 at 11:11 AM (#5909252)
I don't. If someone has an elite level of skill at something, but never gets the opportunity to cultivate or demonstrate that skill, then yes, I think that's tragic.


It's no more tragic for a talented baseball player to get hit by a bus at 12 or 16 or 21 than it is for any kid to get hit by a bus at 12 or 16 or 21. I say this only because it might give me better perspective, but it's not really a stretch to argue that I have elite skills (*), and even I'm not so trivial as to think they make me special.

It's hard to exaggerate how silly and fanboy a notion that is. Over a baseball player.

(*) I'll never make that argument and this is the last I will say about it, though objectively it could be made.
   53. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 11:11 AM (#5909253)
What makes you so sure of that? You yourself noted in #32 that if we missed out on seeing a Hall of Fame-caliber player, we'd never know about it.


True. Good response. It's also my position that it doesn't matter to our enjoyment, except in a very abstract way. If you want to call the lost would-be late-blooming 64th-round pick a tragedy, I won't quibble. I'll just note that there are so many other bigger and unavoidable tragedies in the world that I don't have too much time to worry about the unknown potential baseball players that never got their chances. It would be great if every human had the opportunity to fully self-actualize. As it is, billions don't have the luxury to even consider that as a possibility.
   54. base ball chick Posted: December 17, 2019 at 11:15 AM (#5909256)
. Posted: December 17, 2019 at 10:30 AM (#5909231)

There's no "tragedy" in taking 22 and 23 year old men out of the arrested development they're in while they're baseball players and requiring them to become fully-developed people. That's actually a positive thing; in other words, pretty much the exact opposite of a tragedy. Sports, unfortunately, have become something close to a net negative to the culture if not an actual negative


- let me see if i got this - so HOW is it that the same group of rich entitled american males do not have arrested development at age 22/23 - their last year of college when they are still fully supported by mommie and daddie, who makes sure they get their uber eats, pays for their car and car insurance, and any other things these fully developed, responsible young males want to spend $$$ on - and don't let me forget about parents complaining to the professor if pwesshhus oodwums widdo boy doesn't get an A on the paper mommie/daddie basically did - while parents apply for unpaid jobs for the kid and make sure he's got nice comfy digs while he "works" for nothing. that's about the "maturity" of a 10 year old, unless you count that pweshuus oodwums is now old enough to drink, vape and do drugs easily

- and let me see if i got this straight too - so sports are a "net negative". so you want to dismantle sports from little kids kicking/hitting balls to the pros and this will be replaced with what and a "net positive" WHAT? and HOW? remembering that the vast majority of people in this country live in large urban areas and playing outside with other kids, all unsupervised, is no longer an option.
you just want everyone on the phone and ipad self absorbed with video games about killing people/stealing stuff?

and, um, the days of putting kidz to work in factories/farms as soon as they are potty trained are LONG gone
   55. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: December 17, 2019 at 11:17 AM (#5909257)
I can think of many reasons for the Appalachian league to exist. Sadly though, those are not economic reasons.

Important correction, thank you. I, for one, am very glad that there's an Appy League park within half an hour of my work...
   56. Rally Posted: December 17, 2019 at 11:35 AM (#5909268)
The auto companies and the steel companies and all the rest can move out and it's crickets if not cheers; the baseball teams move out and the pearl clutching commences apace. The triviality of that perspective speaks for itself.


Well if you want to know why many here consider you a "a net negative to the culture", there's a good example. You are conjuring up a perceived hypocrisy that we mourn the loss of baseball in small towns but cheer the loss of manufacturing jobs in the same towns.

My silence on the latter here should be taken as one thing only: This is a baseball discussion website, and I will respect the wishes of our host to keep the topics to baseball.
   57. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 11:40 AM (#5909269)
Well if you want to know why many here consider you a "a net negative to the culture", there's a good example. You are conjuring up a perceived hypocrisy that we mourn the loss of baseball in small towns but cheer the loss of manufacturing jobs in the same towns.


Not to mention complaining about the "arrested development" of professional athletes and their alleged reluctance "to become fully-developed people" at the same time that he's trolling on a message board at 11:00 in the morning, in spite of the fact that he's ostensibly a grown-ass man.

Does he not realize how sad and pathetic that kind of behavior looks from the outside? Or is he just so lonely that even negative attention is better than none at all?
   58. . Posted: December 17, 2019 at 11:40 AM (#5909270)
- let me see if i got this - so HOW is it that the same group of rich entitled american males do not have arrested development at age 22/23 - their last year of college when they are still fully supported by mommie and daddie, who makes sure they get their uber eats, pays for their car and car insurance,


Many do. And then they go out into the real world and the real world fixes it.

and let me see if i got this straight too - so sports are a "net negative". so you want to dismantle sports from little kids kicking/hitting balls to the pros and this will be replaced with what and a "net positive" WHAT? and HOW? remembering that the vast majority of people in this country live in large urban areas and playing outside with other kids, all unsupervised, is no longer an option.
you just want everyone on the phone and ipad self absorbed with video games about killing people/stealing stuff?


I meant organized professional and quasi-professional sports. And some lower level sports. Sports without adults and adult concerns entering into them are fantastic and a massive net plus. Organized professional sports -- and their close cousin, major college sports -- are barely a positive and quite likely a net negative. Net-net, they're more of a corrupting influence on the population and the participants. I still enjoy them a lot, but there's no need to fanboy our way around that reality.

   59. . Posted: December 17, 2019 at 11:43 AM (#5909273)
Not to mention complaining about the "arrested development" of professional athletes


There's no need for the scare quotes.

Does he not realize how sad and pathetic that kind of behavior looks from the outside?


That's just your defense mechanism at work. There's nothing "sad" or "pathetic" about commenting on the events of the day and the culture. It only looks that way to you because your ox at present happens to be the one being gored. And then so, in lieu of responding substantively, you resort to name calling.
   60. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 11:56 AM (#5909280)
Another excellent contribution, SBB. Well done.
   61. DL from MN Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:01 PM (#5909281)
MLB probably finds 98% of the most talented potential baseball players in the country.


I'm not so sure about that either and part of the problem is the crappy minor league pay. What star athlete wants to risk playing baseball for nothing when they can play basketball and make much more in Europe if the NBA dream falls through? I'm certain that other sports are attracting a large portion of the most talented potential baseball players on earth.
   62. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:07 PM (#5909282)
I'm not so sure about that either and part of the problem is the crappy minor league pay. What star athlete wants to risk playing baseball for nothing when they can play basketball and make much more in Europe if the NBA dream falls through? I'm certain that other sports are attracting a large portion of the most talented potential baseball players on earth.


I really doubt this, if only because of the body size and shape differences, but also because of how specialized the sports have become. There are so few 18 year old that have the talent and technique to choose between different team sports at a pro level. Anyway it's not germane because the would-be NBA star that can also hack it at baseball was never going to be the surprise 40th rounder that makes good. Cutting these teams doesn't suddenly make it even less likely for Russell Wilson to choose baseball.

Look, if you want to assign every infant a baseball potential - including kids that are born in Asia etc - then yeah, no duh, baseball doesn't get 98% of the good ones. But among, say, 16 year old that have the natural talent and have already demonstrated dedication to the sport, yes, I think baseball (and other team sports) is able to identify and acquire an amazingly high percentage of them, probably much higher than any other industry. Lots of reasons for this, including the high pay and high stature, and the fact that compared to almost every other industry these sports really are a meritocracy.

Consider all of the would-be novelists that never get their shot. There must be Joyces and Woolfs and Pynchons and Austens and Rushdies that never once had their work considered by real editor. That's a much bigger tragedy! And literature isn't a zero sum game, like baseball is, so their absence actually makes a material difference. If there were more great books, more people would read great books. But Mike Piazza's homeruns mostly just serve to diminish Tom Glavine's pitching and Ivan Rodriguez's prominence. They don't grow the whole pie *that* much.
   63. Sunday silence Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:09 PM (#5909284)
They could make a lot more money, collectively, if they eliminated the incentives for tanking. That's probably costing them hundreds of millions of dollars.


Here we go again with the same meme. If teams were more competitive more people would come to ball parks. How you know this? Is there any study that suggests, I dunno, the 1984 season had 26 teams playing .400 ball or better and ticket sales increased 10%. Is there any study like that?

Plus as obviously noted, there are issues with the pace of play, the high cost of tickets, domestic violence hypocrisy, etc. These things also keep people from ball parks. BUt you think if we make the Tigers a .400 team then more people will come. I dunno, I doubt MLB thinks so but as we said, they may not be the best people to consult on this either.
   64. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:21 PM (#5909287)
There are so few 18 year old that have the talent and technique to choose between different team sports at a pro level.


That almost certainly isn't true, if you restrict it to kids who are athletic enough to play at least one pro sport. Just look at a list of BA's top 200 pre-draft rankings and take note of how many kids are mentioned as also being football or basketball stars.
   65. JJ1986 Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:26 PM (#5909289)
I think there are probably a huge number of kids who stop playing baseball to focus on football early in high school who could make it as professional baseball players under different circumstances.
   66. Sunday silence Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:28 PM (#5909291)
Sure, baseball is better with them, but if they had never existed, we would never have noted their absence. Today there's probably a guy working as an HVAC repairman or substitute teacher or something that would have become a true unforgettable Hall of Famer if he'd been given the opportunity.


I basically agree. People are bemoaning the loss of potential Mike PIazzas, but OTOH wouldnt it be even more of a story if a guy comes from the sandlots or indy leagues. Such as Ron LeFlore as already noted, or say Johnny Unitas who was playing amateur football.

Or to put another way: what if hypothetically baseball had 300 MiL teams? And there were potentially 3 or 4 more PIazzas. Are you upset about this? That there are tons of stories out there that we'll never get to hear about cause baseball doesnt have 300 minor teams? Why arent you wringing your hands over these?
   67. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:29 PM (#5909292)
Consider all of the would-be novelists that never get their shot. There must be Joyces and Woolfs and Pynchons and Austens and Rushdies that never once had their work considered by real editor. That's a much bigger tragedy!


The one thing being sad doesn't mean that the other thing isn't also sad. They can both be sad at the same time.
   68. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:33 PM (#5909293)
That almost certainly isn't true, if you restrict it to kids who are athletic enough to play at least one pro sport. Just look at a list of BA's top 200 pre-draft rankings and take note of how many kids are mentioned as also being football or basketball stars.


I think there are probably a huge number of kids who stop playing baseball to focus on football early in high school who could make it as professional baseball players under different circumstances.


Ok guys. But if you're right about this, does it matter for this topic? Baseball does not attract more multi-sport athletes by drafting hundreds of hopeless players to labor for #### wages in empty stadiums in one-horse Appalachian villages.
   69. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:35 PM (#5909295)
Here we go again with the same meme. If teams were more competitive more people would come to ball parks. How you know this?

When teams are truly terrible they draw less than mediocre teams. 55 win teams draw much less than 75 win teams. We've seen tanking teams drop 0.5-1.0 in attendance.

When teams are truly excellent, they don't draw much more than simply very good teams. A 105 win team won't draw much more than a 95 win team. The 103 win 2019 Yankees drew only 150K more than the 91 win 2017 Yankees. The 106 win 2019 Dodgers drew only 125K more than the 92 win 2018 team. Stadium capacity is a huge factor here. You can't draw more than a sell-out.

So, if the league has fewer 55 win teams and fewer 105 win teams, total attendance is going to rise.
   70. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:35 PM (#5909296)
Why arent you wringing your hands over these?


What makes you think that I'm not?

For example, there are in all likelihood TONS of MLB-caliber athletes in Haiti. The Dominican Republic exports huge numbers of high-quality ballplayers, and Haiti is part of the same island, so you wouldn't expect the talent pools to be all that dissimilar. But kids in Haiti are mostly poor and malnourished, and even the ones who are able to overcome that are almost never signable due to a lack of the documentation necessary to secure a visa. They have a world-class skill that could elevate their quality of life and bring entertainment to millions, and instead they have to settle for much less and scramble just to get by.

I think that's a shame.
   71. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:37 PM (#5909297)
Baseball does not attract more multi-sport athletes by drafting hundreds of hopeless players to labor for #### wages in empty stadiums in one-horse Appalachian villages.


You're assuming up-front that they're hopeless, when all available evidence suggests that at least some of them aren't, and there's nothing about the situation that forces baseball to pay them #### wages other than baseball's unwillingness to pay them better ones.
   72. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:43 PM (#5909298)
#70 - It is definitely a shame.

I do think, however, that many in the game would argue that the superfluous MiLB teams actually add to the world's shame/tragedy more than they detract from it. For every Mike Piazza who uses this chance to achieve untold wealth and maximize his human potential, there are thousands of guys chasing unrealistic dreams. Lots of them probably cherish those years and go on to do fine things in other careers. But lots of others rack up debts, deal with a lot of personal havoc, and when they get cut they look up to realize they're years behind their peers and have no goddam idea what to do with their lives. These kids are employed primarily to allow the small handful of legit prospects to play full 9-on-9 ballgames, and only secondarily on the off chance that they surprise and develop into MLB quality.

You're assuming up-front that they're hopeless


Almost all of them are.

and there's nothing about the situation that forces baseball to pay them #### wages other than baseball's unwillingness to pay them better ones


True. Well, it's not just baseball being mean. Capitalism has decided that they're not worth more. I wish it were otherwise.
   73. Lassus Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:46 PM (#5909299)
It really doesn't matter if the next Piazza or Kiermaier gets lost. Sure, baseball is better with them, but if they had never existed, we would never have noted their absence. Today there's probably a guy working as an HVAC repairman or substitute teacher or something that would have become a true unforgettable Hall of Famer if he'd been given the opportunity. But he didn't, and we don't know who he is, and it doesn't make the game substantially worse. In fact that guy's absence incrementally contributes to the apparent greatness of the players that we do have.


This philosophy is a little to broadly DiPernian for me to consider accurate or worthwhile.
   74. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:47 PM (#5909300)
Ooof. That smarts.
   75. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:50 PM (#5909302)
they look up to realize they're years behind their peers and have no goddam idea what to do with their lives
Isn't that what law school is for?
   76. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 12:51 PM (#5909303)
But lots of others rack up debts, deal with a lot of personal havoc, and when they get cut they look up to realize they're years behind their peers and have no goddam idea what to do with their lives.


Which is, again, not some inherent quality of baseball itself, but the consequence of a decision made by MLB not to pay its minor league players a living wage or provide them with health benefits.

Capitalism has decided that they're not worth more. I wish it were otherwise.


As do I, and pushing back against MLB when it tries to handwave that kind of stuff away is part of the process behind getting us there as a society. Just saying, "Oh well, that's capitalism!" is learned helplessness.
   77. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 01:05 PM (#5909306)
I don't do much agitating for MiLB players out in the real world, do you? But here on this website, the one place in my life where I discuss the politics and economics of baseball with any detail, I've said many times, including on this thread, that I wished baseball's plutocrats treated our sport less like a business and more like a public cultural trust. I don't care if MiLB is inefficient, I think it's terrific, and don't want them to McKinsey it all to hell. I also wish they paid better wages to the MiLB players. MLB will still make more than enough money to make the fat cats even fatter.

But saying "it's capitalism" isn't just handwaving it away - that's the real problem, that the market doesn't think that the 7000th best baseball player deserves very much money. We can advocate for MLB's owners to be magnanimous, and I'll join your crusade to do so, but there's no good argument for it other than a pure appeal to charity.
   78. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 01:06 PM (#5909307)
For example, there are in all likelihood TONS of MLB-caliber athletes in Haiti. The Dominican Republic exports huge numbers of high-quality ballplayers, and Haiti is part of the same island

I would doubt it. The Dominican Republic is a huge outlier. Does Haiti have anything like the baseball culture of the Dom. Rep.? Colombia has 5 times the population and doesn't product even a fraction of the players. Mexico has 12 times the population and produces a fraction of the MLB talent. There's nothing magic about the dirt on the island of Hispaniola.
   79. Stevey Posted: December 17, 2019 at 01:07 PM (#5909308)
That's even accepting the $/WAR number at face value, which is itself absurd, because the number is wildly inflated due to the strange economics of free agency and the fact that salaries of young players are artificially depressed. If all players were free agents, $/WAR would be far far far lower, and it would give us a more realistic estimate of the dollar value of a win


I'm not sure this is accurate unless a bunch of teams are willing to take a loss on the vast majority of FAs they pay for. If a guy brings in $5M/WAR, bidding isn't going to consistently get up to $8-10M/WAR. Bidding should only get to the point where marginal cost = marginal revenue. We also know there are about 1,000 WAR available each year, and teams just brought in $10B in revenue, or about $10M/WAR.



And y'all are missing the biggest thing about cutting the minor leagues. Just as the MLBPA is threatening to strike, MLB is going to create a large number of unemployed baseball players who will have no problem crossing picket lines.
   80. DL from MN Posted: December 17, 2019 at 01:07 PM (#5909309)
Baseball does not attract more multi-sport athletes by drafting hundreds of hopeless players to labor for #### wages in empty stadiums in one-horse Appalachian villages.


Agreed 100%. I think the compelling argument about eliminating the rookie leagues is it actually stunting the development of good players to send them to play for nothing against nobodies in the middle of nowhere when they could be improving their skills at the spring training facilities using the latest development tools.
   81. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 01:16 PM (#5909310)
I'm not sure this is accurate unless a bunch of teams were willing to take a loss on the vast majority of FAs they pay for. If a guy brings in $5M/WAR, bidding isn't going to consistently get up to $8-10M/WAR. Bidding should only get to the point where marginal cost = marginal revenue. '


Simple thought experiment: if all players were declared FAs tomorrow, would payrolls explode? Would the Rays and Marlins and Indians suddenly be happy to spend $120 or $150 or $200 million? Would the Red Sox and Cubs blow past the luxury tax?

I say no. I think they'd inevitably go up a little bit, as it's natural for some teams to get a bit greedy in that candy store, but they would not explode. The $/WAR factor would come down, a lot.

We also know there are about 1,000 WAR available each year, and teams just brought in $10B in revenue, or about $10M/WAR.


This type of math is never really going to work.
   82. Sunday silence Posted: December 17, 2019 at 01:31 PM (#5909315)

And y'all are missing the biggest thing about cutting the minor leagues. Just as the MLBPA is threatening to strike, MLB is going to create a large number of unemployed baseball players who will have no problem crossing picket lines.


I think this is part of it, yes. But also the frenzied number of signings and trades. Are teams entrenching themselves for the long haul?
   83. Rally Posted: December 17, 2019 at 01:34 PM (#5909316)
No, you're missing my point. Kiermaier has been worth 138.9 million to the Rays, but in this form of accounting, literally every penny of that value is directly subtracted from the other 29 teams. (That's even accepting the $/WAR number at face value, which is itself absurd, because the number is wildly inflated due to the strange economics of free agency and the fact that salaries of young players are artificially depressed. If all players were free agents, $/WAR would be far far far lower, and it would give us a more realistic estimate of the dollar value of a win) Basically, this $/WAR math is completely inappropriate here, it is entirely irrelevant.


1. The Rays are the team that reaped the value of Kiermaier, but essentially its a lottery. Some teams will reap the benefits of the extra 20 million or so spent on extra minor league teams in 2019. At this point we have no way of knowing what players will provide that value and for what teams.

2. OK, free agent dollars per WAR is probably too high, but there is some figure that applies here. Kiermaier is the best of that group, but there are others providing MLB value.

3. Cutting the number of minor league teams only helps MLB teams if they act in concert to do this. If 29 teams fall in line and one team decides to spend the cost of a half season of Strasburg or Cole and instead invests in running 42 extra farm teams, Branch Rickey style, I think it's very likely that such an investment would pay off.
   84. Sunday silence Posted: December 17, 2019 at 01:36 PM (#5909317)

This type of math is never really going to work.


i dont think he's saying what you think he's saying. He's saying the MAXIMUM amount of dollars available per WAR is $10M. BUt of course there's profits to be made and thats going to cut into a huge part of it.

I think that is what he's saying. so netting out maybe $5M/WAR if the market was to suddenly be flooded with free agents.
   85. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 01:39 PM (#5909319)
The value Kiermaier provides to the Rays is extracted, stolen, from the other teams. It's a net zero from the perspective of the league.

Not quite net zero. From the perspective of MLB as a whole, the only value that Kiermaier produces that matters is how much he lifts the league as a whole. If MLB sold 60,000,000 tickets with Kiermaier, how many do they sell without him? 59,999,900? It might still be 60,000,000. That's the only value that matters if the teams are acting in concert...

Cutting the number of minor league teams only helps MLB teams if they act in concert to do this.


... which they are.
   86. bbmck Posted: December 17, 2019 at 01:40 PM (#5909320)
One franchise with 42 farm teams would just be paying the costs and dividing up the rewards throughout the league by the Rule 5 draft.
   87. Rally Posted: December 17, 2019 at 01:42 PM (#5909322)
We also know there are about 1,000 WAR available each year, and teams just brought in $10B in revenue, or about $10M/WAR.


This type of math is never really going to work.


Yeah, you can't compare total revenue to marginal wins. How much would each team make if they ran an Orioles-type ballclub out there? You'd have to estimate this 30 times, since a league full of Orioles-type teams would still win 2430 games and even have a postseason and champion. Say team X has revenue of 300m, but would only bring in 180m if they did a complete tear down. Not an easy thing to estimate but we could get a ballpark estimate. Then subtract the sum of what 30 crappy teams would make from 10 million and you've got your marginal revenue.

It would be a lot easier if we had reliable team by team revenue figures. How much more do the Astros make winning 100 games than they did winning 50 games? We could use attendance as a proxy, with some adjustment for time lag effects.
   88. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 01:44 PM (#5909324)
Does Haiti have anything like the baseball culture of the Dom. Rep.?


Rather than a lack of interest in baseball, it's primarily a function of systemic racism against Haitians living in the DR combined with a lack of proper documentation for Haitians everywhere. More info here, for example.
   89. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 02:07 PM (#5909330)
Rather than a lack of interest in baseball, it's primarily a function of systemic racism against Haitians living in the DR combined with a lack of proper documentation for Haitians everywhere. More info here, for example.

I'm sure those things are true. I'm just saying I wouldn't expect Haiti to produce major leaguers at anywhere near the rate of the Dom. Rep., since basically no place else in the world even comes close.

If one million Americans emigrated to the Dom. Rep., I wouldn't expect them to suddenly produce major leaguers at the same rate as the native pop.
   90. . Posted: December 17, 2019 at 02:12 PM (#5909331)
Rather than a lack of interest in baseball, it's primarily a function of systemic racism against Haitians living in the DR combined with a lack of proper documentation for Haitians everywhere. More info here, for example.


Actually, as Harry Edwards and others explained long ago, the idea of white people demanding that black and brown people get steered toward sports so that white people can be better entertained is the actual systemic racism involved here. It's frankly kind of amazing to see a white guy actually write these kind of things with a straight face, and I say that entirely seriously with not a tinge of internet involved.

And your "tragedy" idea falls apart on its own terms. It's not really a tragedy in the least if someone with baseball talent does something else with their life; OTOH it is a tragedy if someone is subsidized toward baseball if he has the skills to have done something like help cure pediatric cancer.
   91. Stevey Posted: December 17, 2019 at 02:53 PM (#5909340)
Simple thought experiment: if all players were declared FAs tomorrow, would payrolls explode? Would the Rays and Marlins and Indians suddenly be happy to spend $120 or $150 or $200 million? Would the Red Sox and Cubs blow past the luxury tax?

I say no. I think they'd inevitably go up a little bit, as it's natural for some teams to get a bit greedy in that candy store, but they would not explode. The $/WAR factor would come down, a lot.


But again, this would require teams to be losing money on just above every single free agent, and significantly so. That doesn't seem believable.

Even an intentionally wonky market, participants are going to bid up marginal costs up until they hit marginal revenues, and then no further.


We also can't say that we can't look at the current setup as being screwy, so it doesn't value it right, but then pretend that flooding the market in your thought experiment is fair. Once the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, etc get the guys they want, they are going to sit out, as they dont have the roster spots to keep adding players, and now, as you remove participants, you've depressed the market.
   92. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 03:11 PM (#5909346)
But again, this would require teams to be losing money on just above every single free agent, and significantly so. That doesn't seem believable.


Teams don't lose money or make money on any particular player. Wins and revenue don't work that way.
   93. Stevey Posted: December 17, 2019 at 03:17 PM (#5909349)
Teams don't lose money or make money on any particular player. Wins and revenue don't work that way.


Oh to be a Yankee fan and believe that every dollar spent on a player is because your team is trying harder than everyone else.

Yeah, winning more games means more revenue, and we see that teams are tying them closely together as they value $/WAR more similarly than ever before as more and more Wall Street types are running teams.
   94. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 03:55 PM (#5909359)
Yeah, winning more games means more revenue, and we see that teams are tying them closely together as they value $/WAR more similarly than ever before as more and more Wall Street types are running teams.


This is an argument against your position. If teams weren't paying an artificial and inflated market rate, then teams would have wildly different valuations for $/WAR. Marginal wins have very different values in different markets and for teams in different circumstances. Do you really think that all 30 teams conduct a marketing analysis on Avisail Garcia and try and figure out exactly how much he will increase revenue? No. They just pay him what the damn market rate is.
   95. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 04:02 PM (#5909362)
Oh to be a Yankee fan and believe that every dollar spent on a player is because your team is trying harder than everyone else.

Yeah, winning more games means more revenue, and we see that teams are tying them closely together as they value $/WAR more similarly than ever before as more and more Wall Street types are running teams.


Yankee fan has nothing to do with it. There is no direct link between a particular player's salary, his production, and the team's revenue.

If a team wins the division by one game, that last win has a ton of value, probably $20M+. The problem is, who do we assign that win to? Assigning it to the last guy signed is totally arbitrary.

$/WAR is not really converging. Even forgetting about pre-arb, and arb players, RPs are getting huge $/WAR. $8-10M p.a. deals are common for guys who project to 0.5-1.0 WAR. Lot's of veteran position players are struggling to get $3-4M per proj. WAR.
   96. PreservedFish Posted: December 17, 2019 at 04:19 PM (#5909372)
That too
   97. Stevey Posted: December 17, 2019 at 04:31 PM (#5909376)
Do you really think that all 30 teams conduct a marketing analysis on Avisail Garcia and try and figure out exactly how much he will increase revenue?


Absofreakinglutely. Teams make decisions these days using armies of interns who could get Wall Street jobs, and no longer by letting Gabe Paul go get loaded with his GM buddies.

No team, not even the Mets, is just winging it. I get the idea that because the market is wonky, maybe bidding up marginal cost to marginal revenue isn't perfect, but the idea teams are going "Avisail Garcia, eh? I guess $10M sounds good" like this is still the 70s is something is bonafide nuts.


If a team wins the division by one game, that last win has a ton of value, probably $20M+. The problem is, who do we assign that win to? Assigning it to the last guy signed is totally arbitrary.


Umm, which is exactly why they aren't assigning $0M to the first win and $20M to the last win.

8-10M p.a. deals are common for guys who project to 0.5-1.0 WAR


The teams that think those guys are closer to 1 WAR than 0.5 should be making the highest bids for them, and so yeah, we get a valuation of 8-10M for one WAR, like we see elsewhere.
   98. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 17, 2019 at 04:33 PM (#5909378)
Absofreakinglutely. Teams make decisions these days using armies of interns who could get Wall Street jobs, and no longer by letting Jim Bowden go get a couple drinks with his GM buddies.

Then they're wasting the time of those interns. Might as well throw darts.
   99. flournoy Posted: December 17, 2019 at 04:56 PM (#5909385)
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the analytics guys employed by big league teams earn very low salaries compared to the industry at large, and that some of them probably are probably unpaid interns and don't earn a salary at all. I don't think their time is a major concern for the teams.
   100. . Posted: December 17, 2019 at 05:00 PM (#5909388)
Do you really think that all 30 teams conduct a marketing analysis on Avisail Garcia and try and figure out exactly how much he will increase revenue?


Absofreakinglutely. Teams make decisions these days using armies of interns who could get Wall Street jobs, and no longer by letting Gabe Paul go get loaded with his GM buddies.


The revenue a player will generate isn't even within the job description of the GM/baseball department, nor do the front office "interns" know anything about marketing, nor did they want to get into baseball to involve themselves with marketing.

The baseball department doesn't set the payroll; it works within the set payroll. The revenue a player will generate is the concern of the department that sets the payroll. It's a business function and concern, not a baseball one. Typically ownership sets the payroll.
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