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Small Market Teams and Long Term Stars

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I completely agree this is hurting the game, but I think it's just a side effect of the main problem - team building strategies have evolved to the point that there's no middle ground anymore, either you're competing or you're rebuilding and there's nothing in between. No team currently wants to carry a superstar salary during the rebuilding years, so you rarely see them retained for 10+ years. Forget keeping the Yankees and Red Sox competitively balanced with other good teams, the larger problem of today is the bad teams deliberately descending to terrible.

Identifiable, homegrown stars across a league in which every team is making a serious effort to compete would be a glorious environment for the sport. Unfortunately, the good of the game runs contrary to the individual success of each team. There are undeniably better results following a win-lose-win cycle of extremes than being 'pretty good' year in and year out. Having a star player on your roster during a down year is an enormous competitive mistake within the current rule structure.

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I did some off the top of the head analyzing that list and I came to a few thoughts, not saying any of these are true or why these things happened but just things I think can contribute.

 

1. Winning...Most of the players that stayed on one team their entire career had at least a good 10 years of that time where they were winning much more than losing. Not saying championships but at least being a competitive team. 

2. Free Agency... 134 of the 180 players made their debut before free agency started, obviously club loyalty and player loyalty was very different before free agency.

3. Contracts... Most of the players, even most of the recent people never had HUGE long term contracts. Besides a couple players most of them had 5-8 year contracts and multiples of them in their career. Nowadays with all stars wanting 10+ years on their contract finding a team that is going to give up that long term of a contract is going to be much fewer and far between. It is also crazy to see the change in salary even from the 2000s to today. But it seemed like these types of players were less concerned about getting top dollar and more concerned about winning and how the team was able to stay competitive. 

4. Market size is not an indicator. 

5. Teams with rich history and lots of championships seem to be higher on the list

 

 

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7 hours ago, drjohnnyfeva said:

Speaking from the perspective of my kids, who enjoyed going to games a few years ago - which coincidentally coincided with an exciting, winning team, they lost interest as we began losing.  And now that there are no players from back then, they are almost completely disinterested in baseball.  I'll be watching and they'll come into the room, "Oh, the Orioles are on?  Where's the key to the shed?" 

I really do think a huge component is that there are just not the number of young fans of sport in general.  There are soooo many programs available that sitting thru a game on tv without flipping is almost impossible and for kids that suffer from a lack of attention to one thing in the first place, baseball viewing is a difficult task.  Playing a sport is one thing, but even my own kids - who play soccer and lacrosse, exclusively - don't watch those sports on TV at all.

Watching sports used to be a luxury.  A day at the park.  Not so much anymore.  Altho there are holdouts like a lot of us. ;)

Whatchoo got in that shed that is so interesting?

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17 hours ago, Yossarian said:

Whatchoo got in that shed that is so interesting?

The pool toys! :)

I will say, that when they were into the O's, my kids were as interested in what the announcers were saying.  They used to love introducing JJ Hardy and some of the other guys like Jim Thorn and the stadium announcer.  "Playing SS, batting 7th, Jaaayy Jaaaayy Haaaaardyyyyy!"  lol.  So I'll add that to the list.

We've been very lucky that even when our teams haven't been stellar, we've had voices that have described the game and improvements and needs to make the bad years interesting enough.  I don't find that this year at all.  As much as I like Scott Garceau and some of the others, I find the call of the games, whether on TV or Radio - which I listen to more frequently, are just terrible.  The days of listening to a  game on a transistor radio with grandparents are long gone, but so is the ability of most announcers to paint a picture of the game and entertain at the same time.  Sadly, sometimes, announcers have neither of those skills. 

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On 7/14/2021 at 12:57 PM, crowmst3k! said:

I would love it if MLB was economically structured in a way that allowed fan favorites to play on one team for longer.  I'd love if MLB was economically structured in a way that teams would not need to tank for 5 years to get back being competitive.  

I'd also want MLB to be economically structured so that the players get the money they deserve. There have been too many instances in history of wage theft by MLB owners.  

It's a complex set of issues with complex causes.  

The fans often talk about the issues in this thread, how they really wanted their favorites to play on their team their whole careers.

But what they usually don't discuss is releasing the guy when he's not good any more.  Or he's slumping for a few months, or hurt.  Teams were always just as loyal as productivity demanded.  I'm guessing Babe Ruth wanted his last season to be in New York, but the Yanks didn't want him so he spent a month playing for a terrible Boston Braves team. And this was Babe Ruth. If you're Kiko Garcia there's no loyalty whatsoever.  How loyal are the fans going to be to Trey Mancini if he's OPSing .625 next year?

And how many players want to play with the team that happened to draft them forever?  If someone grew up on southern California or Florida or Texas you think those kids dreamed of spending the rest of their life in Cleveland or Detroit or Baltimore?  Many of them grow to love their new homes, but for a lot of player it's not where they would be if they had a choice.  After six years they have a choice, and they should.

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20 hours ago, BobDylanBundy said:

Forget keeping the Yankees and Red Sox competitively balanced with other good teams, the larger problem of today is the bad teams deliberately descending to terrible.

I think that's inevitable in a league where there are revenue gaps of $400M a year between some teams and one trophy to compete for.  How do you tell a team to go for the World Series title every year when they have a 76-win roster with some expensive 30-year-olds, and they bring in less than half the money of the Yanks and Sox?  They almost have to sell off the expensive veterans who won't be good in 2-3 years when they're hoping the team will have rebounded.

Actually... one way to fix this, or at least help, would be to level the compensation between younger players and vets. If younger players were more fairly compensated and older players got contracts more in line with their declining production teams could afford them.  But if the model stays as huge payday at 30, smaller market teams mostly can't play that game and trade or let go the older players.

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2 hours ago, DrungoHazewood said:

Actually... one way to fix this, or at least help, would be to level the compensation between younger players and vets. If younger players were more fairly compensated and older players got contracts more in line with their declining production teams could afford them.  But if the model stays as huge payday at 30, smaller market teams mostly can't play that game and trade or let go the older players.

I suspect the outcome of that change would really just make the problem identified in this thread even *worse*. This would only result in star players being dealt earlier in their careers, since their earnings would be higher. The small market teams outside of their competitive window have zero motivation to carry ANY big salary player, young or old. A team like the Orioles can currently carry a John Means type through the losing seasons because his contract is still low; if he was making $12 million this year, he'd almost certainly be gone.

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On 7/14/2021 at 12:09 PM, osfan83 said:

Thanks for the list...eyeballing it I see 3 players who played any part of this century that stayed with their small market team:

Gordan - KC

Mauer & Perkins - Min

 

I think the scorched earth strategy will be pretty much the only available for second tier teams. 

It wasn’t until the 70s that players could control whether they go to another team. Of course there’s going to be more movement now. They’re not staying against their will anymore. 

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29 minutes ago, waroriole said:

It wasn’t until the 70s that players could control whether they go to another team. Of course there’s going to be more movement now. They’re not staying against their will anymore. 

It's easy to be loyal to a team and a city when you have no choice in the matter.

 

42 minutes ago, BobDylanBundy said:

I suspect the outcome of that change would really just make the problem identified in this thread even *worse*. This would only result in star players being dealt earlier in their careers, since their earnings would be higher. The small market teams outside of their competitive window have zero motivation to carry ANY big salary player, young or old. A team like the Orioles can currently carry a John Means type through the losing seasons because his contract is still low; if he was making $12 million this year, he'd almost certainly be gone.

Yea, perhaps.  Small market teams can be competitive because the salary structure portions off less experienced players and pays them far, far less than market rates.  With higher salaries for young players you'd probably see situations like in soccer, where a team like Borussia Dortmund in Germany is a young talent factory but almost all that talent gets sold off when the price is good enough because they have a fraction of the revenues of the biggest teams.

Unless they fix revenue disparities (which they won't) you can pick your poison: Keep young players for six years, or sell them off and try to take advantage of the relatively cheap old guys.

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On 7/14/2021 at 6:54 PM, MijiT88 said:

Free Agency... 134 of the 180 players made their debut before free agency started, obviously club loyalty and player loyalty was very different before free agency.

My issue with this is I'm not sure 180 is the number we should be looking at. As someone pointed out earlier, a player doesn't necessarily need to spend literally every inning with the same team to achieve what the original poster was looking for. Frank Thomas spent 16 years with the White Sox, he was integral to the team's identity; a few partial seasons with other teams tacked onto the end to prolong his career doesn't change anything.

 

7 hours ago, DrungoHazewood said:

Yea, perhaps.  Small market teams can be competitive because the salary structure portions off less experienced players and pays them far, far less than market rates.  With higher salaries for young players you'd probably see situations like in soccer, where a team like Borussia Dortmund in Germany is a young talent factory but almost all that talent gets sold off when the price is good enough because they have a fraction of the revenues of the biggest teams.

I would view this as, on a whole, making things worse rather than fixing them. Particularly in the context of this thread.

I can see the benefits to more equitable salary distribution. You achieve better 'fairness' for players on a moral level when salaries go toward production actually deserving it. Also, if money is going to younger players, it's not hard to reason that teams will make fewer poor spending decisions. Two big wins in principle, but I'd really question if the outcomes are making a serious change - let alone improvement - to the game at all.

Meanwhile, this comes at a cost of significant negatives:

  • As the original poster alluded to, the out of control player movement is killing interest in the game. Teams have no identity, and fans are (rightfully) hesitant about any kind of connection with a roster because its almost a certainty the significant players will be shuffled off within a few seasons. Your change ramps up player movement to an even larger scale, escalating the problem.
  • If the "old player bargain bin" is worse than the value gained from club-controlled young players now, this change HURTS competitive balance by favoring whoever spends the most money. The Tampa Bays of the world would have basically zero chance at ever contending in this environment. Currently, a Wander Franco can come up and give them six years of All-Star production at an affordable salary. If the salary structure changes to favor younger players, then the Francos become unaffordable almost immediately. Its very unlikely they would be able to find equivalent value from 30+ year old free agents with established track records that they need to compete with 29 other teams to sign.
  • You can achieve higher salaries for young players with rule changes, such as changing club controlled years to arbitration or eliminating them altogether. I'm not buying that this would induce an equally proportional reduction in salaries for older players. Veteran salaries would drop some because there's not unlimited money out there; but you almost certainly see payrolls across the board rise as well (rather than a direct dollar-for-dollar tradeoff/redistribution). As payrolls rise, individual salaries follow, and the gap between large/upper-mid and small market teams increases.

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As more and more perennial All Stars reach free agency, will the contracts of these premium free agents start to decline?  How many 200 - 300+ million contracts can teams like the Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox support.  Also, smart team are not going to want multiple $300 mill+ contracts on their roster. 

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The Orioles are not small market team. They are firmly mid-market.

Just because they have a super tight payroll, for whatever excuse they want to make, make them small market.

That said, I do not desire to see them spend money, to just say, see, we spent money like you ask.

Fiscal responsibility might be a good way to describe.

Be willing to spend if the right player is available.

At this point, are they even looking?

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5 hours ago, BobDylanBundy said:
  • As the original poster alluded to, the out of control player movement is killing interest in the game. Teams have no identity, and fans are (rightfully) hesitant about any kind of connection with a roster because its almost a certainty the significant players will be shuffled off within a few seasons. Your change ramps up player movement to an even larger scale, escalating the problem.
41 minutes ago, Redskins Rick said:

Fiscal responsibility might be a good way to describe.

I'd disagree that player movement is killing the game.  I agree that fiscal responsibility makes it difficult/impossible for teams to keep some of their stars and I don't dispute Drungo's point that players have the right to choose where they play eventually.  What's "killing the game" to me is poorly managed operations.  You can have fan interest with a team that is marginal.  You will clearly have interest when your club is a contender - as we've proved here over the years.  But when you have an operation that can only seem to go thru cyclical extremes - over 15-20 year cycles - like we have, the down years and slow climbing years are brutal.  And with ALL of the other diversions in life and in media, the exodus is swift.

Some stars you are going to keep and are worth the expenditure.  Teams who spend exorbitant money competing with themselves in negotiations for stars are going to fail; particularly when the money used in bad contracts could have been used to keep a "star!"  Being responsible with the money you have is the way to go.   We proved that thru the 60's, 70's, and 80's. 

Players that are stars who are identified as unlikely to want or able to be re-signed need to be moved before they ever reach FA.  As Drungo points out, if a player has a desire to go somewhere specific, the selling club would be smart to try to deal with those clubs, yet if no deal can be worked, there is a club that will deal and hopefully the capital of that trade will lead to players that make it to the bigs and become the next players on a competitive team the fans come out to see... or watch on TV. ;)

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5 hours ago, BobDylanBundy said:

My issue with this is I'm not sure 180 is the number we should be looking at. As someone pointed out earlier, a player doesn't necessarily need to spend literally every inning with the same team to achieve what the original poster was looking for. Frank Thomas spent 16 years with the White Sox, he was integral to the team's identity; a few partial seasons with other teams tacked onto the end to prolong his career doesn't change anything.

 

I would view this as, on a whole, making things worse rather than fixing them. Particularly in the context of this thread.

I can see the benefits to more equitable salary distribution. You achieve better 'fairness' for players on a moral level when salaries go toward production actually deserving it. Also, if money is going to younger players, it's not hard to reason that teams will make fewer poor spending decisions. Two big wins in principle, but I'd really question if the outcomes are making a serious change - let alone improvement - to the game at all.

Meanwhile, this comes at a cost of significant negatives:

  • As the original poster alluded to, the out of control player movement is killing interest in the game. Teams have no identity, and fans are (rightfully) hesitant about any kind of connection with a roster because its almost a certainty the significant players will be shuffled off within a few seasons. Your change ramps up player movement to an even larger scale, escalating the problem.
  • If the "old player bargain bin" is worse than the value gained from club-controlled young players now, this change HURTS competitive balance by favoring whoever spends the most money. The Tampa Bays of the world would have basically zero chance at ever contending in this environment. Currently, a Wander Franco can come up and give them six years of All-Star production at an affordable salary. If the salary structure changes to favor younger players, then the Francos become unaffordable almost immediately. Its very unlikely they would be able to find equivalent value from 30+ year old free agents with established track records that they need to compete with 29 other teams to sign.
  • You can achieve higher salaries for young players with rule changes, such as changing club controlled years to arbitration or eliminating them altogether. I'm not buying that this would induce an equally proportional reduction in salaries for older players. Veteran salaries would drop some because there's not unlimited money out there; but you almost certainly see payrolls across the board rise as well (rather than a direct dollar-for-dollar tradeoff/redistribution). As payrolls rise, individual salaries follow, and the gap between large/upper-mid and small market teams increases.

We're dealing in hypotheticals here, so in the end we can speculate but don't know.  Soccer is probably the closest comparison, but there are limitations there, too, because there are almost no payroll constraints and teams are free to sell/buy players instead of having to work out trades.

I think that it's at least plausible that the smaller teams could make lots of money on player sales (or I guess trades if sales are still irrationally illegal) and turn young talent into less expensive older or not-yet-established talent. 

I don't know that the old player bargain bin is worse than the young.  A lot of value of the younger players is in projection, what teams think/hope they will become.  A 31-year-old free agent's abilities are often better defined and lower risk, but today the costs are slanted by the way free agency is structured.  Rich teams are going to spend money on something, even if that's guys in their 30s who you know are in decline because they're the only available talent to spend on.

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20 minutes ago, drjohnnyfeva said:

I'd disagree that player movement is killing the game.

A counter-argument is soccer.  In soccer you can go to another team and say "Hey, I want your star midfielder who's still under contract for three years.  I'll give you $100M and then sign him to a 5/50 deal."  And if the teams and the player agree, off he goes. There's no guaranteed six years of team control, each player (or his agent) can negotiate whatever contract he can get whenever.  And soccer is easily the biggest sport in the world.

I guess you could argue baseball and its fans are different, but from my experience people (especially older people who were alive for the pre-free agency era) complain about player movement.  But the good teams still draw a ton of fans and the bad teams don't, like always.  The fanbase isn't leaving because Manny signed with the Padres, they're leaving because they're not interested in seeing losing baseball, or in some cases baseball at all.

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