Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Houston Astro-sization of MLB... and why Yankee fans should fear Manny Machado

Okay, let's say you're Derek Jeter. You spent your career captaining the Yankees and bedding supermodels. Suddenly, you own an MLB franchise. But there's a catch. Your team flat-out sucks, and you have no mad money to buy players. So... whaddaya do?

Simple. You take a page from the Astros, Royals, Nats, Cubs, Redsocks and every other current superpower in the game: You frikkin' tank. Become as bad as you can be - screw the fans; they're not going anywhere - and follow the tried-and-true template to success: Suck, suck, suck. Soon, maybe in three years, you'll be hailed as a genius, a builder of organizations!

Unfortunately, you have competition. Opening Day is three months off, yet already we see franchises seeking to Astro-ize and pull the plug on 2018. The race to the bottom - the Tournament of Tanking - is underway. 

(And unless the Yankees watch out, we could end up choking on our own hubris.)

Tanking is the wisest strategy in pro sports. Trade expensive old stars for cheap young prospects. Finish dead last, and you not only draft first, but you load up on luxury tax money from the big spenders - all fellow billionaires, like yourself-  and when you do make your move, you'll receive no penalties for signing free agents. Wait for the right year, and win the division - don't worry, by then, your competitors will be tanking - and then you can demand that your home city buy you a new stadium, or at least a Jumbotron. 

Once upon a time, "salary dumps" were a July 31 trade deadline tradition, as teams decide to poop or get off the pooper. Now, it's part of the winter meetings. Look around... 

Baltimore has put Manny Machado up for bids, essentially punting on 2018. They figure Machado won't re-sign with them next season, so they might as well start sucking immediately and get a head start on the Rays and Jays, their rivals for the AL East cellar. Write this down: If the O's find a taker for Machado, Zach Britton and Adam Jones will go next. That means it comes down to...

The White Sox - now entering Year III of their own surgical tank. They might get Machado and then spin him off to the Yankees for another fresh boatload of prospects, which they know well, having spent last summer scrutinizing our farm system. Of course, Machado can't pitch - the Yankees will still have to trade what remaining prospects we have for pitching - but having self-tanked in mid-2016 - we will soon look as desperate as heroin addicts, seeking all-stars at every position. How many homer hitters do we need?

Pittsburgh is ready to trade Geritt Cole to us - for yet more youngsters - and then move Andrew McCutchen for whatever they can get, as long as the returns were born after 1995. Keep in mind, the Pirates finished at .500 last year, and they weren't that old, either. Doesn't matter. They're ready to surrender on 2018. They've got to get worse, or they might be suck at .500 forever.

Of course, we've already mentioned Miami. Good grief, with the contracts they're shedding, Jeet and company are odd-on-favorite for the 2019 number one draft pick. Go Marlins! (Also go to Vegas and bet the house on the 2024 team!) 

Wait. Let's not forget San Diego. Last year, they kept Rule 5 draft players all season, even though they belonged in Single A. This is Year III of the Padres Tank-a-Thon. Of course, considering that their NFL team moved to LA, it's not as if they have to worry about angering their fan base. They are literally the only game in town.

Now, Tampa and Toronto - sensing a NY-Boston axis of power - are said to be considering their own tanker trades. Do the Jays really need Josh Donaldson? He could bring a bundle for 2020. And they need to be careful: The Jays might get sucked into the race for that phony one-game, away-field wild card - the last dangling shiny object for middling teams to chase.

The Tigers? They've quit. San Francisco? On the verge. Front offices are already being seduced by the notion of going yard sale on 2018... which could mean becoming the next Houston "miracle." 

Listen: Something is seriously out of whack here. This coal mine is littered with dead canaries, and I blame MLB's iron-clad policies of copying the NFL in search of "parity." The rules were originally designed by Bud Selig to destroy the Yankees, as the franchise then existed under George Steinbrenner. The plan was to help small markets - like Selig's family operation in Milwaukee - by creating a de facto payroll cap, called the luxury tax. They set limits on what players could receive by capping what the owners could spend - a brilliant move with one problem. It resulted in a system that not only rewards failure, but practically demands it, as a way to move forward. 

The surest and cheapest way to build a winning team is by falling into the crapper. That's how the 2013 miracle of "Boston Strong" came about - the previous year, the Redsocks finished fifth. The 2016 "Curse of the Billy Goat"-busting Cubs? Five years in a row, they finished fifth. The 2015 Royals? Seven of 10  previous seasons, they finished fifth. We're talking orchestrated meltdowns, folks: Whatever you do, just don't languish at .500. Be awful, be terrible, come in dead last, wait your turn, and eventually, your team will win, and you'll cash in.

Long ago, this constant race to last place nearly destroyed the NBA. The owners had to institute a draft lottery to keep front offices from sabotaging their teams in pursuit of bottom-feeding mediocrity. Even now in the NFL, as a NY Giants fan, I find myself, week after week, rooting for my team to lose. From the standpoint of a fan, there is nothing to be gained from a Giants' victory, and it's been that way since week seven. It's a sad way to be, actually rooting the Dallas Cowboys to beat you at home. It makes me sick. I might actually stop following pro football, a pastime I've followed since Y.A. Tittle was throwing bombs to Del Shofner. 

Listen: What made 2017 so great for Yankee fans was being able to watch the slow and steady emergence of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Luis Severino, Didi Gregorius, Jordan Montgomery and maybe I'd throw in Aaron Hicks and Chad Green. It's the back stories, the expanding personalities and - yes, sometimes the failures - that make the game so compelling to follow. I don't want an all-star team full of imported veterans. I want players who overachieve and surprise us - not a lineup with nowhere to go but down. I want to celebrate wins, not just feel angry and duped when we lose. 

Lately, I've had a hard time explaining this here... a sense that landing Giancarlo Stanton has cost the Yankees something that was joyous and wonderful. Don't get me wrong: I look forward to seeing Stanton in pinstripes. I am not one of those self-loathing Yankee fans who secretly revels in defeat. But we all know this is the Second Coming of A-Rod - hubris always kills us in the end - and if we empty our farm system, if we suddenly install stars at every position and trade all the Clint Fraziers and Chance Adamses... even if we get good deals, we will lose the joy of leaping out of our chairs over the pinch-hit bunt single from Ronald Torreyes.

Maybe it's just me. But I don't recall ever seeing so many teams preparing to punt on the following season... and it's only December. The Astro-ization of baseball is here. Mark my words: This is trouble.


Anonymous said...

Look all we have to do is find a Trumpian Russian Hacker to get a hold of hilar... err Ol Coops Cashman email address and we send him a IIHIIF blgger/fan letter begging him to shut off his phone from now till February sign Fats Domino (CC) and give "chance" Andujar torres et al a "piece". Reign our GM back in... Please


13bit said...

Dead on, Duque.

ranger_lp said...

This is the best thing in awhile that I've read that Jack Curry wont report.

Local Bargain Jerk said...

This was a very good piece. These thoughts deserve much wider exposure than the few thousand tortured souls who hang around here. Please consider submitting it as-is to the NY Times or SI or Deadspin or some other national outlet so this message can be spread.

Anonymous said...

Really well done. I don't know what the solution is but it is a problem.

LBJ is right More people should read this.

One suggestion: The Boston example of losing the year prior to winning it all doesn't fit your argument because their superior draft position wouldn't effect the next year's club. You don't need it. The Cubs, Royals, and Astros examples more than prove your point and everything else you wrote is spot on.

Seriously, nice job.

Doug K.

Ken of Brooklyn said...

I second everyone's response El Duque, an excellent excellent post!

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...

How about this: Go back a few years, KEEP Yangervis Solarte, don't trade for Chase Headley.

Solarte -- .270. .286, .255 in 3 seasons -- 57 total HR, 198 total RBI

Chase -- .259, .255, .273 -- 37 HR, 174 RBI

Can we learn from experience? If NYYs don't make that trade, they get the same basic productivity (at the plate). Without the heartache of Headley! And without the need, this fall/winter, to trade a pitcher to make San Diego take the sumbitch back!

I don't watch SD, so I don't know if Yang sux in the field (or is great)......but I've seen an awful lot of Chase's efforts at 3B. Haven't you? For the record --

Chase made 46 errors at 3B in 3 years (does NOT count what he did at 1B)

Yang made 32 errors (at 3B, 2B, 1B) in the same period.

Maybe playing "the young guys" could actually work, ya know?

Alphonso said...

Totally agree. And if we do anything close to what you outline, I will drop baseball from my list.

I have no interest in supporting a team with " purchased" all stars at every position. A team with no further changes is what I want. With Adjuhar at third and Torres at second, come what may. With Chance Adams as our 5th starter, come what may. If we have all stars at every slot because we raised them, developed them and gave them their shot, well that is magic. Any other method is unacceptable, boring and demoralizing.

Cashman is the bane of our existence. And he is gift-wrapped, at this seasonal moment, due to the Giancarlo Stanton deal. I agree, it was hard not to make it. But to me, it portends trouble elsewhere.

As I have previously stated, I would not have done the deal. I would rather give Jake Cave and Billy McKinney a shot, at any open position in the outfield. Of which there was none.

Carl J. Weitz said...

Good job, Duque! I couldn't agree with you more. A great point by Local Bargain Jerk, too. Send it in as an op-ed piece in the NY Times. I'd bet someone on the editorial staff reads IIHIIF.

Der Kaiser said...

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn - spot on. The Yankees have yet to learn that the winning move is often no move at all. For a team that has been trying to cut payroll for ages it might also be worth noting that sticking with Yangervis would have saved forty million dollars...

JM said...

Like Cool Hand Luke, Cashman can't stop shaking the bush so everyone is aware that he's there.

Unlike Cool Hand Luke, Cashman cannot eat that many hard boiled eggs in one sitting.

Alphonso said...

And Cashman seems to get himself on the train just as it is leaving the station. Every time.

Anonymous said...

Spot on, Maestro!! For years, I've been bitching about what Selig has done to this game...nothing like taking van-loads of jack from one billionaire, and giving it to some other billionaire(s). What a plan!! LB (No J)

H.S. said...

You peons just don't know what it's like to be an owner. It's a club, really. We love one another and have empathy when one of our brothers is suffering. The only fair thing is for each of us to take turns feeding from the trough. Dad would have hated this current scheme but he was old school. Win, win, win. that's all he cared about. Unbelievable, right?

Socialism for billionaires. It's beautiful. It's sustainable. It's the wave of the future. Get used to it and don't make me kick your ass with my kinky boots. Because I will.

HoraceClarke66 said...

"Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name..."

That WAS a great piece, Duque.

And hey, I'm a prospect hugger myself. I'm hoping against hope that we keep Carrot Top. It killed me today when the Yanks lost both Nestor Cortes and Mike Ford in the Rule 5 Draft.

Mark my words, both of them are going to be something someday—especially Ford. And why WEREN'T they on the 40-man? If we had that damned catcher from Japan who can't hit on there instead, I want somebody's head on a platter.


Is signing Giancarlo really the end of everything?

Doesn't it open up another spot for us to start one of our prized rookies at second?

And it doesn't look like we're going to trade for Manny, which is just fine for me. That opens up another spot for a rookie, it looks like, on third.

That would mean that, from mid-2015 to Opening Day, 2018, we will have installed terrific young rookies at catcher, first, second, third, and right, not to mention a wonderful talent like Didi at short, and maybe even the refurbished Hicks in center, and a couple more kids in the rotation.

Seven new position players and two starting pitchers in three years? When was the last time the Yanks ever did that?

And there's no room for one, big new slugger from somewhere else?

Would we really look back on 1977-78 as the great old days if we had, say, passed on Reggie out of moral virtue, and stuck Oscar Gamble—oops, sorry, another acquisition!—make it Terry Whitfield, out there instead?

Would we be fondly remembering Reggie hitting those line drives and towering flies into the Yankee Stadium seats—for the Dodgers, his second pick?

Or rather, for the Dodgers at Fenway, or Kauffman Stadium, where those two Series would undoubtedly have been played?

Like the old A's, the Marlins are disintegrating.

You're right, Duque, it is a travesty. Much of how pro sports runs these days is a complete travesty. Everything you say about it and more is true.

But Giancarlo wasn't going to retire and disappear if we didn't sign him. He was going to the Houston, most likely, where we could have watched him blast balls out of the park against us for the next five years, while a bunch of Texans went crazy and that stupid little train went tooting around and around.

No thanks.

It was a travesty when Harry Frazee sold off the Babe (and the rest of his team) to finance his show.

It was a travesty when the St. Louis Browns wouldn't give Mickey Mantle a tryout, or Yogi a penny of bonus money.


I'm a New Yorker, and I'll take any talented SOB who comes here because he ain't wanted elsewhere, for whatever reason.

"Cause what's confusing you
Is just the nature of my game..."

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