Nothing To Remember In November

25 11 2008

Every now and then, someone else writes a piece here at With Malice… – and it’s not always basketball here (just most of the time).  Today it’s a baseball piece.  Bryan from over at All American Home Run Derby

November truly is the slowest month in baseball.
Sure, some people want a “break”. Others are bored because there is no free agency, games, or trades to talk about.
By November, the World Series is completely old news. Due to the abrupt way the season ended in a three-inning continuation game that upset a good portion of the country in this years small-market World Series, even fewer people are interested currently. In fact, only nine million people watched game three on TV, one of the all-time lows.
In November, there are no winter GM meetings that conclude with an exciting blockbuster trade that we could see in December. Thus, November is almost a “pubescent-ly” awkward month for the sport of baseball. This is why I spend most of my November’s watching football, eating lots turkey, celebrating no-shave November by not shaving, awaiting the joys, breaks and holidays December has to offer, and every four years watching a lot of CNN (speaking of which, did anyone see those holograms?? PS We have a new president).

One exception to the “not much going on November” rule is the announcement of MVP (this year Albert Pujols and Dustin Pedroia) and Cy Young (Tim Linecum and Cliff Lee) Awards. However, there were no real surprises to get people talking; no extraordinarily close races. To add to that, this was a new generation of winners that we haven’t seen a major award from before (with the exception of Pujols), and the average older baseball fan is much too lazy to pay attention to the younger names. Even more, three of the four winners were from small market teams that don’t have a huge fan base. And oh the awfulness, for the AL MVP did not go to a long ball hitter. So the one thing that can happen in November kind of came and went without much of a bam.

This being said, it is nice to be writing about baseball in November here, because it really got me thinking about baseball in a time usually devoted to other things (like taking down Halloween decorations or cooking a turkey.) So I will offer you a quick introduction: my name is Bryan, I like to write about sports and will be producing articles about sports to you. I consider myself a Mets fan. The Mets are from New York. I am from Los Angeles. My dad is from New York, and that’s just how I was raised. However, I think if I did not know baseball and had to choose a team to root for now, I would probably go with a small-market team. Looking at the way a small market team works, builds, and rebuilds is so much more respectable; so much more likable.

Let’s review the way the economics of baseball works. A baseball team makes money off of their revenue, and the two biggest sources of revenue are ticket sales and TV contracts. A city like New York or Los Angeles has more people in it, and that’s simply fact. More people will be at those games, purely because there are more people in the city to go to the game. More people will be watching the games on TV because there are more TV’s! With this money, a team buys better players. This said team, as they get better with the better players they bought with their money, will get more fans nationwide as they continue to get better. With more fans, they get more money. With more money, they can get even better players. The money will just be reeled in, and soon they will produce a bigger stadium that can hold more people. More people at the games, more money for the players! Soon, ticket prices will go up to get even more money for better players. This chain continues.

Honestly, this is simple capitalism. The rich get richer as the poor get poorer. That’s why, typically when you see a poor team doing well, they won’t be doing well long because soon they won’t be able to afford their players when they demand more money. Forbes has a ranking of each MLB teams’ value in dollars, ranking how much each team is worth. This was written April 16, right before the season began. Their value is essentially what determines whether they are a small or large market team.
To See This List, Click here.

As I took a closer examination at this wonderful website, I decided I would look at two very different AL East teams. These two teams are the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays purely as an example of small vs. large market. If we were to also reflect on the 2008 season, we would see the Rays with a 97-65 record, a playoff berth, and a trip to the World Series. With the Yankees, we would find a 89-73 record, and absolutely no playoff berth. Yet still the Yankees were worth $1,306 million and the Rays only worth $290 million before the season began. With the money one could get from selling the Yankees, one could buy the Marlins (worth $256 mil), Rays (worth $290), Pirates (worth $292), and Royals (worth $301), while still having $167 million dollars to spare. Remember, the Rays finished with eight more wins than the Yankees did.

Yankee Stadium held 59,936 people in its stadium last year and sold each ticket on average for $29. If they sold out a game, they would make $1,738,144 million dollars…win or lose. This does not take into account any merchandise or food bought at the game, but only ticket sales. From Yankees revenue, they made $327 million dollars through out the year. With all this money the Yankees had, they could go ahead and spend $253 dollars on players alone. Baseball is such a business, it’s not even funny. Because of the money the Yankees banked in, they were allowed to carelessly spend money left and right like it’s nobody’s business, because that’s what King George (Steinbrenner) wanted.

In complete contrast, Tropicana Field only holds 36,048 people, and sold their tickets on average for $17. If the Rays sold out a game, they would make a mere $612,816 (35% of what the Yankees could make) at their max. Their revenue totaled $138 million (42% of the Yankees revenue) dollars through out the year. When Stuart Sternberg bought the team just a few years ago, he did not pay much. He purchased this weak Florida team for $200 million dollars, and hired young, cheap, brilliant guys all around him. These young front office heads, like President Matthew Silverman and Executive Vice President on Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, found and fielded young their share of young superstars. The Rays, already known for a few young players with loads of potential like Kazmir, Baldelli and Crawford, shortly found BJ Upton and Delmon Young.

Soon, 2006 became a quick rebuilding year, where they traded long-time players like Huff, Gathright, Toby Hall, Lugo, and Branyan for prospects and soon-to-be-starters like Ben Zobrist, JP Howell and Dioner Navarro as well as many prospects who we’ll see in a few years. Later, they signed Japanese second-basemen Iwamura. Later, in 2007, James Shields and Carlos Pena came into their own shoes. In the next offseason, trouble-maker Delmon Young was traded for Matt Garza. Rays signed cheap yet experienced veterans Cliff Floyd and Troy Percival. Evan Longoria and David Price, both top prospects, were both relied on for great things in the future. After a miraculous season with plenty of newly ensued heated rivalries like the BoSox brawl, the Rays finished a miraculous season and made it into the World Series because of smart baseball. They made sensible, careful choices about their entire line-up and executive office. They spent (or didn’t spend) very wisely, and their decision making skills brought them where they were meant to be.

They clearly did not have the money to go around buying every aging, multi-million dollar 35-year old schmuck that wanted to wear their jersey. Instead of carelessly buying any salary and paying aging, production-less players, the Rays went out and found young talent. Even with very little money, they proved that even with this capitalistic baseball business world, even the poor can win if they play smart baseball. This word, “smart” could not be stressed enough.

Had we highlighted the Yankees seasons for the past few years, we would have noticed a trend of careless spending on big name players who went on to do very little for their team over the long periods of times (arguably Sheffield, Damon, Matsui, Randy Johnson, Clemens, Pettitte and Posada). Of the few young players who they did finally start to recognize, a good majority of them failed to do what they were expected to do like Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. We would have noticed a firing of their iconic manager, Joe Torre. We would have seen unbelievably big contracts to Alex Rodriguez, who I think when I calculated his salary, I learned he signed for a trillion dollars despite his playoff-woes. Yankee legends like Jeter have been awfully quiet lately, as well. Even the best players on their organization, such as Rivera, will be retiring soon. Still, every Yankee fan will ask me how many championships my team has won…as I carefully point out that they have yet to win one this century. Now they will be relying on Joba, Joba, Joba Chamberlain to guide them to victory in the next ten years under the next heir to the Steinbrenner throne.

This is not a bias or pro against of for any team, but I am trying to just point out the facts. I have respect for every professional team, every athlete, and every sports-related figure. Even if I don’t like them, I certainly respect them. I’m not the guy going to the game, yelling, “Yankees suck!” I am not overly anti-Yankees, and neither is this article. It’s anti stupid choices! Instead of complaining, I try to figure out what went wrong with them and what went right with Tampa. To me, a team like Tampa is much more lovable. A team like Tampa is a much more interesting team to follow because they played the game the way it should be played. They acknowledged that baseball was a business, but played to win the game while beating out the capitalism that is baseball. The Yankee ownership plays to make money, and I can’t stand it. To me, a small market team is much more respectable; they still have integrity. That’s their only choice.

When it is my turn to give my opinion about the matter, it’s the game of baseball that comes first. November is a slow month and we don’t know where Manny is going, where CC is signing, where Tex will be playing. That’s all up to people like Scott Boras…But this is my advice to those GM’s out there: Take notice to the 2008 Rays or 2003 Marlins…although it may seem like spending is the way to win, that’s only half the battle.
Smart spending is the key to victory.

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