I feel like every baseball team should be allowed to have a good player.
That doesn’t seem like a controversial statement, or even a reason to come out of self-imposed blog exile to write something. But, it keeps happening, and maybe getting worse. And I don’t like it. And get off my lawn.
It feels like there are MLB teams who can’t–or won’t–hang on to their good players these days. At all.
It was common back in the day, that even the bad baseball teams still had one or two good players. Plus, only a select few teams made the playoffs back then, anyway. If a certain team–and we’re talking MLB here–was coming to town, you knew you were going to have to deal with their All Star third-baseman. Or, they have a really good starting pitcher and you needed to see when and if you had to face him. The Angels weren’t a good team way back then (or, now) but you might have to face Nolan Ryan. Actually, perhaps that’s not a good example, because the Angels of today are not good, but still have one really good player in Mike Trout.
My problem has been growing from two points. The first involves mid-season trades. It seems the national baseball press, followed by the local baseball writers and then the fans, seem to think that a team that looks like they won’t make the playoffs is obligated to “sell” one or more of their good players. “Why should you keep good players if you’re not going to be in the playoffs,” they reason. There’s pressure to trade for those sweet, sweet prospects. Plus, you know, younger players are cheaper. In an example that’s somewhat recent, the Phillies were pressured to trade away ace LHP Cole Hamels because it was clear they were “rebuilding.” Well, what exactly did they get from that trade? Did those prospects become the cornerstone of the franchise moving forward? Nope. Then, with the Phillies starting to compete again, there’s talk of bringing him back. Hey, maybe you shouldn’t have let him go in the first place. I know it’s a simplistic complaint and example, and there are other factors at work with regard to contract status and what the player himself desires. But still, I don’t like that teams seem to be pressured into dumping proven, talented players–usually favorites of the fans, to boot–just because they’ll likely miss the playoffs in a given season.
The next point has to do with some of the pre-season trades. Last season, the Red Sox traded Mookie Betts to the Dodgers before the season because, “Well, he’s not going to re-sign here anyway.” So what? So you can still run him out there and let the fans enjoy watching him and maybe you catch lightning in a bottle with the rest of your team, or maybe you trade him away mid-season if you have to. Or maybe he does re-sign. You never know. It’s why the Phillies didn’t trade away JT Realmuto last season–they didn’t look like a playoff team to me on August 31, and there were calls for the Phils to dump assets. But what kind of message does that send to JT? Would he have been as amenable to re-sign?
I have a soft spot for the Pirates. There’s just a lot of great history there, I love the city and the ballpark. And, I spend a certain amount of time out there. But I’ve been very hard on that organization this offseason for trading away decent-but-not-great MLB talent for prospects. They haven’t received any top-5 talent in return–and maybe just borderline top-10. So I react on social media with accusations that the trades are involving “magic beans,” and other sophistry, as one does. But still, they get some talent for their system, and more importantly to them, they get to save money on MLB salaries. They still get the same amount of revenue from their MLB share, as well as their regional cable contract. And, who knows what the fan attendance plus concessions plus advertising will look like in 2021 anyway? So why not just bag it all, and pocket the extra money?
I don’t know the author of the below tweet string very well, but I wanted to give credit for the phrase, “Rob Manfred’s Hedge Fund and Real Estate Investment Theme Park” without simply stealing it. But it’s what it’s become. There’s always the business side and the baseball side–players know it, fans know it, media knows it–but the ratio has gotten toxic, methinks. And that’s part of why teams
can’t won’t have good players like they used to.
We’re headed into the negotiations for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between players and owners, after the 2021 season, and we can discuss all that at another time. But for me, I just want it to be so that each team can be “allowed” to have a really good player or two. If I turn on the TV for a game, or if I’m in a city and want to go to an MLB game, I want to recognize top MLB talent on each side of the ball. Even if the teams are “bad” in the standings. And hey, you’ll always know who will be going to the All Star Game.
From the minor league side, we could see this at work as well. In the early years, the IronPigs were bad. Really bad. Not one day above .500 ever, bad. But they had Andy Tracy and folks would come out for three seasons to see him belt some home runs and play hard. The team organization thinks the folks were packing the park because of the “entertainment”–and they do a great job–but I bet you real money that, to this day, Andy Tracy has better name recognition in the Lehigh Valley than the current candidates for Mayor in Allentown.
I don’t have a solution. Like I said above, it is a somewhat complex problem with money at the heart of it, and the CBA looming. I can’t solve it here. I just needed to get out and say that I don’t want teams to dump good players, and I want trades that look fair–that wouldn’t get rejected in every fantasy league in the land.
Perhaps I’ll write about the IronPigs roster soon. Or, hockey if the AHL ever really gets started.
I might even “see you at the park” since I’ll be getting my second dose of vaccine this week,