Monday, June 15, 2020

The draft, the cheating scandal and baseball's dark future

Tough weekend to be a Yank fan. 

For starters, we only had three draft picks. Yep, three. For some reason, that surprised me: The annual big event arrives, after all the mock selections and speculation, and the Yankees - who haven't won a can of beans since 2009 - only drafted three times. Three.

What gives? Boston - found guilty of cheating, surely the worst crime of all - forfeited a second round pick. But the Redsocks still drafted four players. Same with Houston, Houston. the epicenter of evil in American sports: The Astros lost two picks due to the scandal, yet they still drafted four times. 

We got three. And it was not happenstance. In fact, my friends, it quite neatly sums up the ethical priorities of MLB's leadership: 

To be caught cheating - even if leads to a world championship - is hardly the worst thing you can do. Nope. The real crime - the biggest felony of all - is paying a free agent what he is worth on the open market. 

Yep. Forget the scandal. By far, the Yankees committed the worst transgression of 2019: They signed Gerrit Cole for a record salary, costing their ownership brothers more money in the future. That meant rewarding the Astros with a Yankee pick, and in the end, we drafted only three times. Three.

They say that, in the heat of a crisis, you learn about a person. Since the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people, I suppose it also means that institutions can be judged. 

If so, baseball's current log-jam - its inability to come up with a pandemic plan -  is providing a talent showcase for greed, pettiness, incompetence and nepotism, particularly among the owners. While the world burns, with angry people in the streets, with hunger everywhere, we are watching billionaires grub for money. 

In recent weeks, I have begun to ponder what not long ago was unimaginable: Life without baseball.  

Don't get me wrong: I really miss the games. Also, I appreciate the incredible challenge of playing while maintaining the safety of players and staff. But everywhere you look, the sport has become a spreadsheet. And the issues will not be solved in the next few months. Folks, this is going to an extinction-level event - especially for the minor leagues, which used to offer the cleanest parts of the game.

Lately, I've been wondering about baseball after COVID, maybe three years from now. I'm thinking about minor league teams stocked by local players, rather than MLB prospects who are passing through. I yearn for baseball to return to its roots, and by that, I do not mean playing one wretchedly over-hyped game in an Iowa cornfield to signify a Hollywood fantasy. 

The impossible is about to happen. MLB is going to flub this. And it will never recapture the fans, the spirit, and - most importantly, to its princely owners - the profits of the past. They are about to screw themselves. I say, go for it!

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

As I said before, the bare minimum penalty for Boston and Houston should have been losing all of their draft picks for the next ten years. For them to come out better than us in this year's draft, that tells you the kind of corrupt cesspool MLB has become. MLB is a Mickey Mouse league. (I think using the term "Mickey Mouse league" offended someone on here a while back, but my brains are kind of fried right now and I can't think of a better term. Anyway, Mario LeMieux came up with that term, not me. Sorry, Mickey Mouse fans.)

The Hammer of God

Alphonso said...

The gods ( owners ) of baseball are doing a fine job creating total dis-interest.

Anonymous said...

Hammer and Duque,

For starters, I agree with both of you. I want to add something to think about.

I've often wondered why the NBA, NFL, and NHL are able to use the NCAA as their feeder system at no cost to the leagues but MLB gives HS athletes the choice of joining them or going to school. (With joining them all too frequently the one that is picked)

I understand that there has to be some form of minor leagues to give players a place to develop (particularly those taken from another country and to whom college is not a viable option due to language and "educational standards" reasons.)

But...

Is it possible that part of what's going on in regards to the dismantling of the lower levels of organized baseball is to make a shift to letting the colleges do the bulk of development?

Perhaps MLB is looking at the success of the NFL and NBA drafts, big events in an of themselves and thinking "how can we do that?"

Part of the reason we don't really follow the draft is we have an almost total lack of familiarity with the players who get drafted.

Would keeping the best (American) talent in college and elevating the college WS as a starting point and "Big" regular games like Stanford vs. (See, I can't even name another big program - LSU? Arizona State?) showcase the talent and build the draft and add instant star power to the league?

Lastly, would shifting the emphasis and the cost to the colleges make up for the lack of local inexpensive baseball that the destruction of the lower minors will create? After all local college football and basketball bring in the crowds.

Thoughts?

Doug K.

JimmyEatsHotDogs said...

Baseball is going thru a financial transition of major proportions and will never be the same. The lower minors will be the college game and draft will be what we got this year 5rounds. The popularity of the game will continue to suffer until baseball catches up with making the sport more interesting for fans with a passing interest. The baseball season is too long and the constant travel is burning out the players at accelerated rates add all the injuries. Its a disaster! There are many ways to increase fan support for the game but owners are not interested in being creative include the union as well.

You have a major mess that is only gonna get worse. I hope baseball can survive but I am not optimistic at this time.

HoraceClarke66 said...

That's an interesting point, Doug.

But I guess I'd rather go the other way. I'd love to see ALL college sports scholarships eliminated. I know, I know: not likely to happen in my lifetime.

But to me, the NCAA has already so corrupted colleges that it's ridiculous. Let the filthy rich NFL and NBA go ahead and build their own minor leagues. And get the baseball minor leagues back up and running, on a more rational basis.

That should be: all leagues which play pretty close to each other, and close to the major-league teams they serve, so players aren't constantly subjected to endless bus rides, having to grab junk food, etc.

Since the size of the town doesn't really matter for minor-league ball, this could be accomplished. But of course it won't be...


Publius said...

This latest reporting...Manfred's no longer 100% confident there will be baseball this season. I'm about 95% confident there won't be baseball. I don't think there will be basketball or football either, for what it's worth. Not until after the first Tuesday in November anyway. I expect our great national healing could begin on many fronts after the first Tuesday in November. Make of that what you like, but don't be too certain about what it really means.

Anonymous said...

Hoss,

Yeah, the NCAA is the worst. I wasn't advocating, just trying to game out what MLB's real goals and end game is.

There's another reason for them to go the college route. No more multi million dollar bonuses to 16 year olds from the Caribbean and Central America. Ton of corruption there as well.

The players would probably have to stay in their home country or create an international league and then get offers when they are of age and ready to step in at the highest or next to highest level.

Just sayin'

Doug K.


Carl J. Weitz said...

No, Doug, the reason why MLB cut several layers of teams in their MiLB structure is the same reason that they shortened the draft from 40+ rounds to 5 rounds. Strictly money.
Last year a sixth round draft choice got between a 250-300K (roughly) slot signing bonus. This year, later fifth round and undrafted got a maximum of 20K. No, I didn't typo away an extra zero. That's maximum.... So if you continue down from 6 to 40 rounds look at the hundreds of million in savings, I bet even 40th round signees got at least 10-20 K. MLB just decided to maximize a profit that they really need to invest in to attract the best talent.

Owners won't open their books except the Braves because they are owned by a publicly traded company and are mandated to do so. But they will open their mouths and when they speak, it's almost always to tell a lie. That is, they all claim they're breaking even or losing money. Even though over the past decade the value of their individual team has risen by at least 250% (even for the small market teams). The Cardinals owner who sells 3.5 million tickets plus a tax-enhanced multi-use adjacent development and a strong local tv network claims: "To be quite honest, this industry just isn't very profitable". Sure, right. That's why investors are falling over themselves to buy a baseball team. Shrewd businessmen never invest in unprofitable industries.

Everyone in here, in spite of the gallows humor, worry and self-pity are oversized Yankee fans. Myself included. But I will not watch 1 inning of a 50 or 60 game season. Why bother? It will be meaningless even if the Yankees did win the WS.

Fuck Hal, fuck all the other owners and fuck that lying sack of shit spineless Manfred. I won't participate in this type of season simply to enrich their bank accounts!

HoraceClarke66 said...

I hear ya, Doug K. I would like to eliminate that nonsense, too.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Carl J. Weitz, you make some great points.

If you do the math, it is almost impossible to lose money in baseball today. And as you say, if all these teams really are losing money, the actions of the principals makes absolutely no sense.

You're a team owner, you claim you're losing big money every season, AND the value of your team keeps rising.

—First, how is that possible?

—And second, why don't you sell, then?

Anonymous said...

Carl,

I agree with you.

Everything I wrote is about them making more money.

make ncaa do the development
stop giving $$$ to 16 year olds
build instantly marketable stars.
create more made for tv events (with the draft)

Didn't say I was good with it. Just looking at what they might be thinking long term.

Doug K.

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Anonymous said...

@ Doug K, I agree with Hoss about the college sports scholarships. All of them should be eliminated.

@ Hoss & Carl, agree with you guys that the owners bitching about losing money is b/s. With one caveat. I think some of them want to lose money. Shades of the movie Slap Shot with Paul Newman. I'm sure some of them lose money on purpose to use their baseball club as a tax shelter. Per IRS rules, you just have to make a profit once every five years to maintain eligibility. So for four straight years, you can lose money as a tax shelter. The fifth year, you make a tiny profit, as small as you can make it. Or try and win a championship that year and then have a garage sale the next year. These owners have multiple businesses and all kinds of investments. They're very financially savvy people. If they're really losing money, then there is a very good reason why they're losing money.

The Hammer of God

Carl J. Weitz said...

Doug, yes...sorry. Didn't see your second post.

Hammer O'.....True, on paper you can make any company, even Amazon show a continual loss if you want as long as you play by the "rules". The rules which you and I can't use because we don't have a staff of accountants that can wear down any level of IRS auditor.

In baseball, you can have everything run under the domain of a holding co. " Yankee Holdings, Inc." owns the team. The team pays rent to the holding company at a highly inflated market value. YES network can bring in close to a billion in revenue for the Yankee team but they in turn get charged usurious rates by the team for broadcast rights. And so on down the line. By the end of all the paper shuffling, each entity is shown to make little to nothing or even a loss. It's like trying to gauge a man's net worth by looking at his cash flow. You can't-2 different things.

The same in movies. I have a friend that has been cheated out of hundreds of millions in percentage of profits (maybe even a billion) for the 30 plus movies he has been exec. producer on. Even the trilogy movies that have grossed 5-6 billion he hasn't seen dime one from. Almost no movies have made a "profit" from the late 80's onward. I didn't say grossed, but profit. 100% finagled. So even though he is a top 20 all-time Hollywood movie producer, he hasn't made one cent from percentage of profit clause in agreement. Don't get me wrong, no one will ever have to throw him a benefit or get by on neighbors cooking his family pot-luck dinners because he has generated millions more from other entertainment endeavors.

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