1-18-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
It’s a story as old as the game itself.
Young players come up, the team struggles mightily to look like a professional club, and after some of those youngsters gain experience, they eventually do.
This used to be prompted by veteran players aging out more than anything. Forget the cheap owner for a second here, and honestly ask yourself if Willie Stargell would have been still playing anywhere in today’s game.
The game has changed, and it’s changed all across the league, not just the small markets. The Cubs had almost every major contributor to their World Series winning club reach the expiration of team control at the same time and they made moves to recoup talent. I mean, it’s not like you can reasonably assume they traded Kris Bryant because they didn’t like his game. You can’t say they can’t afford to keep him. So are they tanking as so many like to claim? Not in my eyes, I mean it seems to me more about knowing they couldn’t, even in their position as a big market ballclub, afford to keep that entire squad together, on top of some of them like Anthony Rizzo aging out and a system that has nowhere near enough pitching coming to believe it would work.
So yes, the Cubs sold off, and will primarily go young.
Now, we can’t be naïve here. When and if the Cubs get back to feeling they’ve developed enough, they’ll spend again, and likely spend big. That’s the difference really between those markets and mid to small.
Different teams handle this in different ways, but what’s unavoidable in this game is that when you win consistently, you tend to have a veteran squad, and just as consistently that costs money. It also costs you draft position, and unless you make shrewd moves to bring in top talent or hit homeruns in the international market, chances are at some point you’ll run into another unavoidable truth, your system simply lacks enough to keep the train on the tracks.
I’m sure tanking happens. Not on the field, players want to win, and certainly don’t want to harm their own careers trying to help a franchise suck. I guess I just see it as part of a cycle, and I further think the only reason the league and players union really see it as an issue today is because they’re seeing teams that traditionally spend like drunken sailors on shore leave such as Boston, Chicago, and Texas doing the same thing the traditionally frugal teams do. It’s already netted Boston and Chicago championships. We’ve seen it work in Houston, and now Texas looks to be ready to come back out of their downturn.
The teams at that end of things have a much shorter downturn than the lower markets. They can do it for a year or two then spend like crazy to immediately rise from the ashes, now with a backing of the infusion of young talent that will slowly augment what they bought. Teams like Pittsburgh and the like have to actually see that talent make it to the league before adding from outside and it makes downtime even longer.
In other words, when the Pirates who could and should live around 100 million dip below that figure, nobody really cares. Now when Boston, Chicago and Texas do it, well, let’s just say that scares the hell out of some folks.
So it’s a problem, and I’d add a problem that a salary cap would fix almost overnight. I don’t get the impression the owners want to have that fight right now, so instead they go to putting band aids on every spot of blood they spy.
Band aid number one is expanded playoffs. OK, so it’s a money grab too, but expanded playoffs is an effort to have fewer teams feel their chances of making the playoffs is a long shot, therefore they’d be less likely to sell off a the deadline in theory. I’d say a bunch of teams would be more likely to add, but I think they’ve missed the boat here a bit, there will also be fewer teams willing to call themselves sellers at the deadline too. It stands to reason if you are willing to call yourself a seller, chances are you don’t have a whole lot of value to sell anyway, so I don’t think this will accomplish much more than slow down the trade market a bit.
The second patch is this proposal to introduce a draft lottery for the top 3 picks and legislate that no team can be in that mix 3 years straight. This to me is just silly. The last team to have the number one pick 3 consecutive years was the Houston Astros from 2012 through 2014. Out of those three picks only Carlos Correa contributed anything to the team.
This will have little effect in my mind. In fact, all it will accomplish is some team that is riddled with injury as opposed to actually rostering a poor pool of players will wind up getting the number one pick more often.
Living in Pittsburgh, I have a hard time hating the idea of a lottery for draft picks. I’m old enough to remember when a ping pong ball against heavy odds fell the right way bringing Sidney Crosby to the Penguins. And I can hardly have hard feelings about tanking when it brought Mario Lemieux into the fold too. I’m simply looking at this as a function of ‘fixing’ this issue as baseball seems to think this will accomplish.
I don’t think these changes would effect one decision from any team in the game.
Again, I think the fix is obvious. I also know it would be painful to achieve. Eventually though, in my mind, it’s inevitable. Baseball can tickle the fringes of these issues for as long as they want to, but at some point we will reach a realization that only one thing will address the concerns of everyone involved, and if it takes losing a season, so be it.
This may not be the year, probably isn’t if I’m honest, but at some point you have to look at the clunker you’re driving and decide if it’s worth putting another couple grand into it or it’s time to make the painful decision to take on a car payment.