Yesterday the Cleveland Indians, soon to be Cleveland Something Else, made the entirely expected move of trading Francisco Lindor. Cleveland exploded on their owners the Dolan’s as they moved a cool 40 million plus off their payroll as they also included Carlos Carrasco in exchange for 4 prospects from the New York Mets.
Now, being a Pittsburgh fan, I’m not in a position to judge, lord knows I’ve witnessed my fair share of salary dumps.
Cleveland has been a popular comparison point for many fans since Sandy Alomar Jr. was helping the club escape the stigma of being Hollywood’s definition of pathetic. I’ll certainly not be using this situation to try to paint Bob Nutting as anything less than what he is, instead I’m going to try to talk about the situation in general and the growing list of fans who have seen enough.
First of all, why is this different than Tampa moving Blake Snell? Well, despite all their success Tampa they went to the World Series last season with a payroll only larger than Baltimore and Pittsburgh. This is simply how Tampa operates, in other words, they don’t ever get to the point when they have a bloated payroll to expel.
The Indians have really tried. They’ve retained players like Jose Ramirez and probably kept Lindor a season longer than what would have provided the best return for the dynamic young star. They’ve been competitive but fallen short in a division with the Twins over the past few seasons and last year they were eclipsed by the early arriving White Sox.
From our neck of the woods, fans in Pittsburgh have always pointed to Cleveland. At least they try! They keep their stars! They’re going for it!
It’s true, it’s been true, they’ve been middle of the road salary wise for the best part of a decade, but it’s never led to the ultimate prize. Even when they’ve seemingly had a team put together that could really take a crack at it they’ve run into the high power Yankees or Red Sox in the playoffs.
I mean, read the comments under the Indians post. Beside the obvious references to now being ‘just as bad as Pittsburgh’ man does it sound familiar.
They probably could have done a little better, but not much. You have to consider the list of teams that consider themselves in position to add that much payroll. Steve Cohen is new, he came in with a promise to buy his fans some new toys and he did. He’s probably dipping into his personal wealth to do so and that’s swell, it’s also not sustainable. He may have come in as a rich fan and may move heaven and earth to give it a shot, but rich people don’t amass wealth by finding ways to lose money, eventually he too will have to face reality.
I’d like to believe after trying to keep up with the Jones’ for as long as Cleveland has perhaps there would be a little more trust built up there but all it’s done is reaped comparisons to the universally disliked Bob Nutting for the Dolans.
For some teams the added strain of the 2020 season have taken their top end budget down dramatically. Taking some teams from trying to provide some fun for their fans to the ultimate realization that they just weren’t going to get there in 2021 so they might as well not lose money.
It’s taken half the landing spots away for free agents and expensive trade chips and almost more importantly, it’s created an even greater chasm between the haves and have nots.
Again, Tampa has shown if you have no emotion or allegiance the job can be done although even that hasn’t brought home a winner.
Surely not all the teams shedding salary can be stupid enough to tank at the same time right? Well, right. It’s not about getting the top pick, although they’d all take it happily, it’s about the understanding that they won’t beat there competitors with what they have and can’t afford to put enough into the team on something that is anything but a sure bet.
I’m not going to go into my standard sermon about the cap but I will say this. What baseball makes as a whole continuing to look healthy doesn’t make it good for the game. Tampa being in contention doesn’t mean they’re playing the same game that the Dodgers and Yankees are, it just means they’ve managed to use their resources better than anyone else. They’ve essentially given up on the idea they’ll ever have a locked in fan base that sells out their dump of a stadium game in and out in favor of depending only on the money they get from sharing. Congrats to them, they do it well, but it’s left them with a franchise where the identity is the system, not the players on the field.
I can hear Pirates fans right now saying we too don’t have identity grounded in players, well, at least not any recently. Very true, and they’ve done it poorly by in large. I don’t excuse Bob Nutting for his part in all this but I also don’t dismiss the role the system plays in allowing for the total sell offs happening all over the league this year.
Baseball has never realized just how hard they make it to be a fan of the sport they run for most of the franchises. And that goes for players and owners.
In fact, here is a tweet that caught my eye from Jameson Taillon yesterday.
I mean, yeah Jamo. Maybe you should get behind a movement to help bring that kind of joy to every MLB city in the league. Even his beloved Astros are in the process of realizing they can’t keep the wheels on the cart much longer and this team is largely a result of the very sell offs being lamented.
I know Jameson to be a smart guy, but I can think of little more distasteful than players complaining that teams can’t keep stars while actively railing against the most obvious fix to the situation in modern sports.