Monday, April 16, 2018

It's barely mid-April, and at least three teams look done for the year

With yet another rain-out looming tonight - and Mr. Ellsbury's barking hip still weeks away from doing the funky boogaloo - let us take time out to ponder the unponderable... 

It's now been two winters (November 2016) since MLB and the players union signed the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which imposed a de facto payroll cap and a shit ton of convenient reasons why owners should not rain money upon players. Free agency has been virtually toppled, with unsigned veterans sitting at home, contemplating forced retirements and clipping coupons. The goal was to even the playing field between big and small market franchises, to kneecap big spenders like the Yankees and bring an NFL-style "parity" to the game (which would coincide with huge windfalls for the owners.)

But something has gone wrong. While every season is subject to streaks and slumps, for several weak teams, a dead summer already looms. It's mid-April, far too early to jettison a year, yet for a few struggling franchises, an old John Melencamp song comes to mind: It's aint the end of the world, but you can see it from here.  

The Rays (3-12) are now ten behind Boston in the AL East, with the wild card slot barely jingling like a hypnotist's watch. The Royals (3-10), blessed to be in the AL Central, sit five behind Minny. In the West, Oakland (6-10) and Texas (6-11) are seven behind LA, though nobody expects the Angels to stay hot. In the NL, Miami (4-11) and woeful Cincinnati (2-13 and nine out) are already the Walking Dead. 

Listen: None of these teams is done... yet. Any one could catch fire. But baseball has become a dichotomy of contenders and tear-downs, as owners tank weak teams to reap the vast benefits of finishing last. Unless the Rays, Marlins and/or Reds have an unbelievable change of fortune, they'll be trading their best players by early June, not even waiting for the July deadline.


But they won't get away with it.

Recently, baseball has seen two amazing embarrassments, which should be sending warning flares to the heavens. Last week, the White Sox put on a game in Chicago, and practically nobody came. (The Rays don't draw on the road, either.) When this happened long ago in another era, (Sep. 22, 1966) the Yankee announcer Red Barber lost his job, because he demanded that the cameras show the stands, which he believed was the real story of the game.

Last Wednesday, the Marlins drew 6,150 fans - while their Double A farm club in Jacksonville drew 6,960. (It was their home opener.) 

Listen: baseball fans are not stupid. They know when their front office isn't trying. If the franchise doesn't plan to compete in 2018, they can wait until 2020 before shelling out for games. 

The CBA was supposed to make everything even. Some of its more draconian features are still to come. Big market teams will be forced to hold down spending more than ever, as a class of super free-agents - you know the names, Bryce, Manny, etc. - prepare to explode the system next winter. The final result could be an NBA system of one-star teams, with the shameful need for an NBA-style draft lottery. When teams are eliminated by May 1, what can baseball do? Add another tier of wild cards, of course. Or impose insane rule changes, naturally. 

Something has gone wrong, folks, and the more the gods tinker, the worse it's going to get. 

7 comments:

John M said...

May the billionaires lose hundreds of millions.

Not that they will, but you can hope.

HoraceClarke66 said...

What they should do is add a spending floor, as well as a ceiling.

Also, teams should give their fans some relief on prices during rebuilding years.

Will they do this? Hahahahahaha.

KD said...

Right on, Hoss!

Anonymous said...

There is something to the "floor" idea but the beneficiary is not necessarily the fans. Salaries would go up (Which is fine with me.) but it doesn't lead to better play. A $25 tuna sandwich is still just a tuna sandwich.

The market makes corrections as shown in the post. If people don't show up owners lose money. They could try to use minor league model and start providing low cost entertainment for in-between innings to boost attendance. I for one would go see the mascot style race with giant plush versions of women who were paid off by the president. "Slide Stormy Slide!"

Stop watching the games on TV and ad revenue dips. Eventually the board of directors figure it out. The big loser of course is the fan. The person who just wants to watch baseball. They are SOL.

I mean look what happened here and it's only been a couple of rain outs. We haven't even missed the third game yet. I feel like I'm off my meds. What will I do with the extra four hours? This is bad. Russian History? I'm as intellectual as the next guy but that is a slippery slope.

If it keeps raining eventually someone will ask, "Who do you think has the best understanding of G-d? The Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists (even though technically they don't have a "g-d" belief in their system) atheists, agnostics, Gaia? (If I left your belief system out I am sorry. I'm sure it's great.) That's a thread that won't go well.

Perhaps the issue could be settled with a series of Avengers/Justice League style movies E.g. putting the Greek Gods against the Norse Gods. It could be like March Madness.

If it keeps raining we could always play finish the joke.

Red Barber, Mel Allen, and David Cone walk into a bar...

I'm done now. Tomorrow,if we're lucky we'll get a double header.

Doug K.

Alphonso said...

Hey Anonymous...I think you are on to something.

What about Spinoza"s views?

One of them ought to be sable to make it stop raining.

HoraceClarke66 said...

I apologize for my part in the Russian/American Revolution history dialogue.

Though it is illuminating to see just how many whacko theories both left and right now hold about the American past.

I like the Red Barber joke already—go on!

And yeah, Doug K., maybe a floor wouldn't do it. But if the owners HAD to spend a certain amount of money, then maybe more of them would try to compete, as winning would probably return to being the best way to make a profit.

But yeah, they're devious little bastards. They would probably find some way around that, too.

Anonymous said...

YOU ARE (AND HAVE ALWAYS BEEN), SO RIGHT ON TARGET WITH THIS ISSUE MR. DUQUE, AS YOU WERE FIRST TO POINT OUT THIS "TANKING" STRATEGY, WHICH HAS NOW CAUGHT ON, MORE THAN EVER WITH TEAMS, ESPECIALLY SINCE HOUSTON PULLED OFF THE WHOLE NINE YARDS LAST SEASON.

MR. DUQUE FOR BASEBALL COMMISSIONER!