Next weekend, the Iowa Hawkeyes open up their 2010 season hosting the mighty Eastern Illinois University Panthers and, being a Hawkeye football season ticket holder, I’ll be in Iowa City Saturday for the game. Likewise, my Saturdays for the next few months will be at least partially focused on the Hawkeyes. (I realize that it’s difficult for those of you in Minnesota to understand that level of dedication to college football. That’s understandable. Perhaps if there’s ever a Big Ten football program in Minnesota, you’ll understand the feeling better.)
But this weekend was still all about baseball and there have been so many interesting things going on in and around Major League Baseball lately, that my mind has had trouble focusing on writing about just one or two items. It seems like every day, I see a couple of things in the news and think, “Oh, I need to write about that!” So that’s what I’m doing today… I’m just tossing out my views (and perhaps a few links) about several things. If you came here looking for in-depth research and thoughtful commentary, boy did you come to the wrong place today. Instead, you get my ramblings.
MLB and Money
There has been a whole lot written, both in the traditional media and the blogosphere about the financial statements for several MLB organizations that were released over at Deadspin this past week. Among the teams for which documents were released were the Pirates, Marlins, Rays, Mariners, Angels, and Rangers.
In a nutshell, what the disclosure demonstrates is that even teams that have had very low payrolls, like the Pirates and Marlins, have managed to show a profit (thanks to MLB’s revenue sharing program). What I don’t understand is the extreme reaction in some circles to this revelation. But isn’t that exactly what revenue sharing is intended to accomplish? Sure, ideally, it provides competitive balance, but I would argue that it largely has done just that (with the glaring exception of the financial advantage the Yankees are allowed to maintain).
Did the Marlins use revenue sharing dollars to pay down debt instead of increase payroll? Yes. Bad boys. But they also got their wrists slapped by MLB for it and they’re now coughing up money on payroll AND let’s not forget, the Marlins have been a lot more competitive than a lot of other teams with much higher payrolls. So whether they used the revenue sharing dollars to do it or not, they HAVE been competitive.
Did the Pirates make $10-15 million a year in profits while taking revenue sharing dollars and selling off their top players? Yes. But they’ve been investing heavily in the international market and developing their minor league organization. And let’s face it… does anyone REALLY think spending an additional $10-15 million on major league players would have made the Pirates any more competitive?
There are changes that need to be made to make MLB more competitively balanced and if these disclosures lead to that, terrific. But I suspect all it does is give a bunch of fans more reason to bitch and moan about the big bad rich owners not being willing to spend more money than they take in on their teams. One thing is clear from the little bit I glanced over the documents. Teams that had good attendance had more money for payroll. Owners seldom jack up payroll in the hope of generating more attendance. It just doesn’t work that way no matter how much some fans wish it did. You want the owner to spend more? Go to more games.
I don’t like the White Sox.
That said, even I’ve got to appreciate Frank Thomas. The Whities had a ceremony Sunday where they honored Thomas by including his face on their outfield “wall of fame” (or whatever they call it… I don’t pay attention to that kind of thing). In my opinion, Frank Thomas is singularly responsible for elevating that organization in to relevancy during the 1990s. You think the Twins had some bad years? Check out the White Sox history before Thomas showed up.
I don’t know the man. Maybe his actions and words toward the end of his time in Chicago warranted how he was treated (some would say mistreated) there at the end. I know he and GM Kenny Williams had some pretty harsh public disputes. I don’t care about any of that, actually. What I do know is that I absolutely hated seeing Frank Thomas come to the plate against the Twins. He deserves to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and I’m glad the White Sox are finally showing him the love and respect he deserves.
Muscle (is it really a good thing?)
Stephen Strasburg’s 2010 season is finished. So is his 2011 season. He’s going to be spending the next 12-18 months recovering from Tommy John surgery.
A lot of Twins fans (myself included) have lamented the fact that the Twins don’t have an “ace”… a starting pitcher with arm strength to generate upper 90s velocity, with good control, who can “miss bats.” There are complaints that the Twins don’t even draft guys like that.
Ignoring for the time being that most guys who have that kind of “velo” AND control are not available by the time the Twins get to draft, I’m starting to wonder if it’s really such a bad thing that they don’t spend a lot of bonus money on those guys. Whether it’s a starting pitcher like Strasburg or relievers like Detroit’s Joel Zumaya (who can’t seem to stay healthy), it just seems like those hard throwers break down sooner or later (or both). Do you REALLY want to spend millions of dollars on guys who are almost certainly going to blow out their elbow before you see any value from them?
The human arm is not built to throw a baseball overhand that hard. And as this column points out, even though organizations are beginning to be ultra-conservative about their pitchers’ innings and pitch counts, the truth is that with all of the innings kids as young as 12 years old are throwing as they play year-round in multiple leagues, there’s a good chance the damage has been done long before draft day.
Moves (of the roster variety)
UPDATE (September 1, 2010): The Twins announced that Loek Van Mil is the “Player to be Named Later” in the Brian Fuentes deal, meaning Loek now becomes the property of the Angels. Best of luck to Loek! – JC
The media keeps telling us that we’re down to the wire on roster moves. I suppose that’s true to a degree, in that a player coming in from another organization has to be on the new team’s roster by September 1 to be eligible to play for them in the playoffs. To make room for Brian Fuentes, the Twins had to designate minor league pitcher Loek Van Mil for assignment. Van Mil may or may not have a major league future ahead of him, but I hope the Twins manage to hang on to him if for no other reason than it would keep alive the possibility of seeing a pitcher even taller than Jon Rauch on the mound (Van Mil is 7′ 1″).
As this article over at the Pioneer Press indicates, the Twins are going to be using the Disabled List to maximize their flexibility in building their playoff roster. So don’t be surprised when Clay Condrey and Joe Nathan are on the Twins “official playoff roster” announced this week.
So Manny Ramirez is taking his show on the road to Chicago this week. That’s going to be fun to watch. I personally don’t think there’s anything Ramirez can do to enable the White Sox catch the Twins. If the Twins don’t win the Central Division, it will be because they totally fell flat on their collective faces (I think after last year, we can call that “pulling a Tiger”… though that could be confused with the sort of self-destructive behavior for which a certain pro golfer has recently become notorious), not because Manny came in and turned the Southsiders in to a real baseball team.
I enjoy watching Manny. I enjoy watching him hit when he wants to. I enjoy watching him be totally oblivious about anything going on around him. I enjoy the way others are so fixated on him. He’s a phenomenon that I simply am entertained to follow… as long as he’s not part of MY team. That said, I’ve noticed a lot of White Sox fans are willing to say, “If this is what it takes to help us win, I’ll welcome him.” Interestingly, however, I don’t think I’ve read or heard a single Sox fan suggest that the team should bid for his services beyond the rest of this season.
I was going to include some thoughts about all of the Twins’ pending free agents after the season and how I think they may try to juggle roster spots with available payroll, but I’ve decided there is plenty of time for that later. For now, let’s just enjoy the final month of the regular season and hope for a successful postseason! – JC