Here’s the latest article from Doug Bird, a Sunday contributor here.
The unsuccessful teams get the high draft picks, stock the farm system, and if they have chosen wisely (and with a bit of luck) eventually improve. This happened with the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s, the Oakland A’s, and more recently, the Tampa Bay Rays. But this success doesn’t always last as the draft picks become stars and often leave for greener pastures. The Bud Selig claims of parody is continuing to be nothing more than a bad pun. I contend that this is really the old smoke and mirrors and that any accountant worth his salt can make two plus two equal five.
Yes it’s true there are fewer and fewer repeat Major League Baseball champions, something which Selig claims is a true indicator of a level playing field and hope for fans irrespective of which team they are cheering for– almost every team since the implementation of the luxury tax has a legitimate chance at World Series glory. Based on the last few seasons, and especially the 2010 season, who can really argue with him? But, two plus two always equals four, and everything comes out in the wash eventually.
The Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez pickups by the Boston Red Sox are the poster boy, double edged sword proof that, once again, all is not well in baseball and no one seems willing or able to come up with a formula which might finally make things right. Teams such as Boston simply throw money at the problem. To be fair, Boston has a farm system filled with young minor league players who are attractive to teams like San Diego whose owners are unwilling to pay exorbitant prices to retain a franchise player. Paying such a high salary in order to keep him on the home team wouldn’t really get these small market clubs to the promised land anyway the logic being: If we can’t win with him, why keep him? But such a situation should not be a necessity of conducting business. Even paying fare wages does not allow these teams to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees.
Teams such as Tampa Bay are losing players as though they are conducting a giant fire sale, players who they groomed and nurtured through their formative years. Teams such as Tampa Bay cannot afford to make mistakes with their draft picks, yet the success of said draft picks is only fleeting at best. Teams such as Tampa Bay sign players knowing that they have a very narrow window of opportunity for success and with success the risk of losing such players only increases. Success becomes unsustainable for these franchises as players who have enjoyed and been a vital part of winning teams usually bolt for greener money pastures.
Teams such as Boston or New York can afford such player defections because there are always those out on the open market who are nothing more than hired guns whose loyalty is only to the almighty dollar. These teams can simply up the ante as the situation dictates with little or no worry about the consequences and can simply outbid anyone else. Teams such as Boston or New York are also not bound by any rules other than the almighty dollar, a change in the rules which might level the playing field on international drafting. If they lose a valuable prospect, they have the means to simply go out and buy another.
I’m not knocking their organizations nor singling them out as both teams have impressive farm systems. Fixing the problem, however, shouldn’t be merely a matter of how much money you can throw at it to make it go away. Upping the ante merely at your discretion shouldn’t be the way to do business in a supposedly competitive field.
Email Doug Bird at firstname.lastname@example.org