Friday, November 30, 2012

Division Re-Alignment

The Los Angeles Dodgers of Anaheim (oh….wait….they're just the LA Dodgers) got some good news from Fox.  Their new TV deal is going to net them between $6 and $7 billion dollars.  For the next 25 years, the Dodgers will make a minimum of $250,000 dollars a year, just for their regular season games.  The money they bring in from this deal alone is more money that 26 other franchises will make in all venues.  It’s the record for a local TV deal, doubling the old record.

The deal is good for the Dodgers.  It’s good for the business of baseball.  But it’s not great for the sport.  All it does is continue to widen the gap between the rich teams and the poor teams.  It gives power to local TV stations in negotiating future contracts and continues to make the sport richer and yet somehow competitively poorer.  How can teams with Oakland’s payroll hope to play against teams with the funds of the Yankees or Dodgers?  Baseball claims it has no vested interest in keeping its high profile teams in positions of power.  But how can they not?  The ratings for all World Series not involving Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies are abysmal.  So while you understand why baseball wants to have the big markets see greater success, they absolutely CANNOT do anything to help them achieve it in a way that hurts other teams.  They say they aren’t.  So as we can’t prove otherwise we have to take them at their word.  And I do believe they aren’t actively trying to help out the major market franchises.  The TV deals they approve just happen to be great for the teams in the major markets while also helping the sport overall.  But this deal is insane.  You can read more about it here.

What should baseball do, then?  If the Athletics faced the Braves in the World Series, the ratings would cause MLB to collapse.  Or at least take a hit that they don't want in their championship game.  So to make money, they need these mega TV deals and for cities with baseball teams to almost completely subsidize any new stadiums to keep the sport near the top of the food chain.  But by accepting these huge local TV deals, the larger market teams (the NY, LA and Chicago teams plus Philly and the Rangers) have a tremendous competitive advantage in the financial department.  Is there a way to keep baseballs’ purse solvent while keeping the competitiveness of the game intact?

How about division re-alignment?  I’m not talking about re-doing the divisions based on geography.  But what about aligning teams in divisions based on finances?  With the speed of travel nowadays, it’s possible for the Mariners to be in a division with the Marlins.  It’s not a great idea, but it’s doable.  And baseball is pretty good about making the schedule for these teams bearable.  Every AL team has to go to Seattle and Tampa Bay.  Teams are jetting all over the nation as it is.  So I don’t think that’s a problem, though it may be a little tougher for the commissioner’s office to schedule.  How would new divisions look?  Here’s a preview of what I’m thinking:

NL 1

Philadelphia Phillies
Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Mets
San Francisco Giants

NL 2

Atlanta Braves
Washington Nationals
St. Louis Cardinals
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres

NL 3

Miami Marlins
Pittsburgh Pirates
Arizona Diamondbacks
Milwaukee Brewers
Cincinnati Reds

AL 1

New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Texas Rangers
Chicago White Sox

AL 2

Houston Astros
Detroit Tigers
Seattle Mariners
Baltimore Orioles
Minnesota Twins

AL 3

Oakland Athletics
Tampa Bay Rays
Cleveland Indians
Kansas City Royals
Toronto Blue Jays

This list is taken directly from Forbes list of most valuable franchises that you can visit here.  Now this list isn’t built around which teams spend the most.  It’s also not about which teams make the most money.  This list separates the MOST VALUABLE franchises based on a number of things, including the media market.  Obviously the Mets are in a bad financial situation right now and would struggle in their division.  In addition the Blue Jays would be the rich kids of their class, but things change.  Someone has to be in first and last in each division.  While these teams are near the poles now, things could quickly reverse.

This list is designed with the richest teams in the same division.  The poorest teams are in different divisions.  This enables teams with similar finances to play the majority of their games against each other.  The good thing about this list is that it gives baseball carte blanche to continue pursuing these massive local TV deals that benefit the major media markets (full disclosure….they are likely going to continue to do that anyway even without my blessing…I’m shocked by this news as well) while keeping the competitiveness closer to a fair level.  Teams would still play everyone in their league, but they would have the majority of their games and their important division games against other clubs that don’t have huge financial advantages over them.  And then in the playoffs, the divisions face off against each other as usual.

As we hear all the time, baseball is a business.  We hear it mostly when something is done that the fans dislike or disagree with.  Sometimes the decisions that are made are made for business reasons.  It’s bad when they clash with what could be best for the game competitively.  But the game going bankrupt trying to keep things fair is also not the best idea.  So this is an idea to compromise.  Baseball keeps raking in the bucks with these mega TV deals however the re-alignment helps keep the competitiveness at a high level.  What do you think?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


And you can now follow me on Twitter.  Just look for #PayoffPitch86.  Keep updated on all posts from this and other blogs there!

Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks

Check out a post of mine on another blog I've started writing for...Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks.  You can check out the post here.  They've got some great articles and are the best site to check out while getting ready for your fantasy baseball league.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New Marlins Manager Mike Redmond's Transition From A-Ball to the Major Leagues Just Got Easier...

In a move that surprises absolutely no one, the Marlins have decided to make personnel moves that will save them money at the expense of winning games.  In a reported trade that has not been finalized yet the Marlins would send Jose Reyes, John Buck, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and Josh Johnson to the Blue Jays.  The Marlins receive a handful of players back, among them Yunel Escobar and some prospects.  However the real treat for Jeffrey Loria, the kicker that makes his socks roll up and down is the tens of millions of dollars he cut from payroll.  A year after making a big push to move into their new stadium, the Marlins have done a complete 180.  Or, as it’s known around the major leagues, they pulled a Loria.  Lie to about 100 people’s faces in one year, then turn around and do the exact opposite of what you promised.  It’s not a huge surprise, but it’s gotta be a record for the earliest that a team has punted on a season.  It’s November of 2012, they’ve given up on 2013, conceivably 2014, and pretty much the rest of the foreseeable future with this trade. 

Remember last year, when the Marlins swore they turned over a new leaf?  They said, “Look at us!  We have this expensive eyesore of a new stadium, vomit inducing new uniforms and some bright shiny players who will not at all help us improve as a ballclub but will hopefully sell tickets.  And don’t worry Hispanic citizens of Miami Dade County, we got a Hispanic manager to come in and take your mind off the fact that we just screwed you and the rest of the taxpayers into paying for an expensive new stadium to support a team that will continue to yank you around, claiming to be too poor to win, while really just pocketing the revenue sharing money and putting a subpar product on the field!”  Maybe they didn’t say all of that, but it’s clearly what they meant.  After signing Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle as free agents, they said they were ready to contend.  They made ovations towards Albert Pujols.  They pointed to all the money they just spent and said they had changed.  But only the most gullible amongst us believed them.  The contracts to which they signed their new players were back loaded with cash as a trapdoor for them to cut and run with relatively little owed to anyone.  And that’s what they’ve done.  Here’s a list of the players that the Marlins have parted ways with since the beginning of last season:

Heath Bell (traded to the Diamondbacks this offseason)
Mark Buehrle (traded to the Blue Jays today)
Josh Johnson (traded to Blue Jays today)
Anibal Sanchez (traded to Tigers last year)
John Buck (traded to Blue Jays today)
Omar Infante (traded to Tigers last year)
Hanley Ramirez (traded to Dodgers last year)
Jose Reyes (traded to Blue Jays today)
Gaby Sanchez (traded to Pirates last year)
Emilio Bonifacio (traded to Blue Jays today)
Randy Choate (traded to Dodgers last year)
Chad Gaudin (became a free agent)
Edward Mujica (traded to Cardinals last year)
Sandy Rosario (claimed off of waivers by the Red Sox last year)
Carlos Zambrano (became free agent this offseason)
Brett Hayes (claimed off waivers by the Royals last year)
Donnie Murphy (became free agent)
Gil Velazquez (became free agent)
Scott Cousins (claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays and then the Mariners)
Austin Kearns (became free agent)
Carlos Lee (became free agent)
Adam Greenburg (retired)

So that’s the entire list.  Obviously not all of those guys were part of a fire sale.  The ones claimed off waivers didn’t make the cut in Miami because the Marlins didn’t think they were good enough.  The guys who became free agents, for the most part, probably weren’t worth re-signing.  And Adam Greenburg is a special case.  But between last year and today the Marlins traded 12 different players to other teams in an effort to cut salary.  And at this point the only surprising part is that the racket going on in Miami can still surprise us.

I first heard of the trade from the blog Big League Stew.  Their post can be read here, but my favorite part was the Twitter quote from Giancarlo Stanton that they posted which said, “Alright, I’m pissed off!!!  Plain & Simple”.  Better be careful, Giancarlo.  The Marlins don’t do well with players sounding off on Twitter.  Just ask Logan Morrison.  I would also recommend reading Tim Brown’s column about the unmitigated gall of Jeffrey Loria here.  And you can check out my previous rants about this club, here and here.

What the Marlins brass is doing is disgraceful.  Even after a season where the Marlins failed to meet expectations, (although a lot of people, me included, didn’t see them as too improved) the complete destruction of this team is still mind blowing.  They have some talented young players (Stanton, Morrison).  They had some exciting, All Star Talent (Hanley, Reyes, Johnson) and enough veterans (Bell, Buehrle) to build around.  But by back loading the contracts and refusing no trade clauses to any of the new players, you have to wonder if this was their out the entire time.  They say Ozzie Guillen was to blame.  He was fired and they brought in Mike Redmond, a manager at the A-ball level last year.  But everyone knows that this team is in the basement due to the ownership.  Players didn’t want to go to Miami.  A few took a chance when they were told things would be different.  Now they are all gone.  As is any hope the Marlins have of attracting new players now.  The city paid for a $515 million dollar new stadium.  It was empty by the halfway point of its inaugural season.  And that likely won’t change.  My only hope is that Bud Selig and major league baseball become as embarrassed by this spectacle as the city of Miami should be and steps in a la Frank McCourt.  It’s too late to save the taxpayers.  It’s too late to save this season.   But it can’t be undone.  Baseball can be great in Miami again.  There can be 5 major league teams in the NL East instead of 4 and the shell of the Marlins.  The only impediment is Jeffrey Loria and the sham of a franchise he’s running in south Florida.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Check out these posts

For those of you who know me personally, know that this find was like Christmas morning for me.  It's a fantasy baseball lineup composed of Star Wars characters from the blog Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks.  Check that out here.

And I also came across this post for the James Bond fans out there.  Nice work by The Hall of Very Good.

Free Agent Season in Full Swing

It’s everyone’s favorite time of year.  My birthday’s coming up.  Just kidding.  (No really it’s December 9th, feel free to send gifts.)  But it’s the winter meetings.  Time for baseball’s front offices to all get together in a hotel somewhere and play golf, eat in fancy restaurants and talk, in passing, about making trades.  While recent winter meetings have seen a flurry of offseason activity, things are beginning sluggishly again this season.  Last year most of the major moves were made later in the free agent season and this year is looking the same.  But plenty of teams are looking to improve via the free agent market or trades.  For a great breakdown of the free agent market and a ranking of free agents from number 1 to number 175, check out Jeff Passan’s article here.  I’ll just give a couple of thoughts about my top 10 free agents and where they could end up.

1.              Josh Hamilton- He’s the biggest offensive prize on the market, but also one of the hardest to deal with.  The years of abuse drugs and alcohol took on his body make his body seem older than the 31 years it is.  Still he’s a former MVP who plays a premier position and has all 5 tools.  But his past means he’s likely going to be limited to a 4-5 year contract, as well as a move to right or left field.  Also, don’t expect to see him run as much, as that’s how a lot of big guys get hurt.  The traditional players in the free agent market don’t seem to be looking at him.  The Yankees want to get payroll under the luxury tax mark for next year, the Red Sox might be re-building and the Phillies have too much money promised to pitching to be able to afford him.  Even last year’s big spenders the Los Angeles Dodgers have a full outfield of expensive players (Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier).  Suitors for Hamilton include the Mariners (who need some sort of offensive shot in the arm, but one player may not do it), the Orioles (looking to build off last year’s success and having a player of Hamilton’s caliber in left might keep them near the top of the AL East), and the Milwaukee Brewers (who don’t seem to need him as much with their stud offense clicking on all cylinders).  Big League Stew breaks down those three options here.  But the Mariners have trouble drawing free agents, the Brewers don’t make much sense and Peter Angelos doesn’t like spending Baltimore money on free agents.  So really this is wide open.  The Yankees need a new right fielder, but I don’t know that they want to spend the money.  The Angels could use him with Torii Hunter departing, but they spent a ton last offseason.  The Braves make a lot of sense with him in left and Martin Prado moving to third for the retired Chipper Jones, but they likely can’t afford him.  I think San Francisco could use him, but they likely don’t have the money either.  Maybe the White Sox decide to spend again and put him in left or the Tigers decide to replace Delmon Young with Hamilton.  He could go anywhere, that’s what makes him so intriguing.  He’ll get a huge 7 figure deal most likely.  The question is, which team wants him bad enough to pay him the most and offer him 5+ years when most teams want to keep it around 4.
2.              Zach Greinke- The best pitcher on the market, Greinke is an interesting case.  It was said he couldn’t play in big cities, but I’d say LA is pretty large.  He was a Cy Young Winner in Kansas City, fantastic in Milwaukee and strong with the Angels.  They want to re-sign him badly.  The Yankees need pitching, but outbidding others for his services will likely put them over the $189 million luxury tax threshold that they’ve been over the past 5 years.  A huge cut for the Yankees, a laughably high amount for most other teams.  The Phillies have too much money tied up in pitching.  The Red Sox seem to be cutting back, but they could really use him, so maybe they make a run at him with all that salary off the books.  The Dodgers would love to add him and for them money is apparently no object.  The Rangers could afford him and continue to make the Angels life in the AL West miserable.  Or maybe the Tigers decide to go into massive debt and take another “all in” run at a title.  While other teams could definitely use him to take a big step closer to the World Series (Cincinnati, St. Louis, Washington, Milwaukee) they either don’t have the money or have too good of pitching to justify the money he’d get.  I think he will go to a major market team with lots of cash.  Think either LA club, the Rangers, or possibly an Eastern dark horse like the Yanks or Red Sox.
3.              BJ Upton- The second best hitter available comes with question marks.  His effort is routinely questioned, his AVG can be abysmal but he can also slug HR and swipe a ton of bags.  Keeping him in center field seemed to help the Rays settle him down, but he used to play second and could also play left.  Maybe the Yankees put him in left and Ichiro in right.  But they could be outbid in their quest to stay below the luxury tax.  Perhaps the Red Sox decide he’s worth spending some of their newfound financial freedom towards, but they’ve been burned by Rays outfielders before, and surer bets at that.  There are mid-level financial clubs with holes in the outfield (Atlanta, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Oakland) but they will likely be outbid/not want to spend that kind of money on someone with Upton’s background.  The Angels or Rangers make sense.  Someone will pay a little more than they think he’s worth, and that’s who will get him.  The question is which player shows up?  The slugger/speedster or the unhappy 200 hitter with gross lapses in effort.
4.              Anibal Sanchez- A decent secondary option for teams that miss out on Greinke.  He’s struggled in the past, but caught on for the Tigers at the perfect time.  He’ll get overpaid based on his post season performance, but he could have turned a corner and maybe is a better pitcher now.  He’s got good command and his secondary pitches looked great at the end of last year.  Sanchez has the potential to be a steal or a bust.  He’ll go to the team that thinks his postseason was for real, they’ll offer him the most money and that likely means a big market team.  Any of the Greinke suitors, as long as they didn’t get Greinke.  Texas, both LA teams, maybe the Red Sox or Yankees.
5.              Hiroki Kuroda- Very similar to Sanchez in the question factors, but different in every other way.  Sanchez could be great or a bust.  So you pay him expecting something in the middle.  Kuroda is probably the most predictable pitcher on the market, and you are sure to get someone slightly above average.  Likely the same teams in the Sanchez market will be in on the Kuroda market.  A mid-level team will strike at someone, and Kuroda makes the most sense, as he’s a veteran with a strong background of success.  But the most likely candidates are in Texas, LA, NY and Boston.
6.              Nick Swisher- This one is a puzzler.  He was fantastic in four regular seasons in New York and abysmal in four postseasons in New York.  The Yankees almost certainly won’t bring him back.  But where will he go?  Plenty of teams could use him, but he’s not a spring chicken and doesn’t excel at anything.  He could hit 300 and slug 20 HR, but he could also hit 250 and hit 10.  His defense in right is okay.  He could be the guy to fall to a team that can’t afford Hamilton or Upton.  Think Atlanta, San Fran, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Arizona.  Maybe a club that did well last year that wants to add a veteran for depth:  Washington, Detroit, a return to Oakland.  He could end up anywhere.
7.              Michael Bourn- Washington is the front-runner here.  They’ve lobbied for him, made public statements about him and think he’s the perfect leadoff guy for their lineup.  They will likely stay out of the Hamilton and Upton races to save money for Bourn.  The Braves will want to re-sign him, but they can’t outbid the Nationals who have a lot of money.  Maybe another team makes a run at him (San Fran, Cincinnati, Baltimore), but he’s likely staying in the NL East.
8.              Dan Haren- The Angels have let him go.  Most think it’s to save money for signing Greinke.  He’s a great pitcher.  But injuries and a loss of fastball velocity have made him more hittable.  He has the potential to be an ace like he was in Oakland and Arizona, but those days could also be behind him.  I could see the Rangers sweeping in to take him on, maybe the Yankees sell him on a longer deal for less money or the Reds, Diamondbacks, or Tigers bring him in to put them over the top.  He’s a great pitcher that could fall to a team with less money.  Or a top flight team that missed on other options could settle on him.
9.              Rafael Soriano- He was fantastic in relief of Mariano last year.  He closed in New York, replacing a legend.  That should make up for concerns that the only places he’s closed (Atlanta, Tampa Bay) were less intense.  He’ll get good money as the best closer on the free agent market.  (Technically Mariano Rivera is a free agent but he’s going back to the Bronx).  The market for a closer has us looking at new teams that haven’t been on the list yet.  Toronto is a possibility.  So are the White Sox, Red Sox or Tigers.  Or maybe a team with a closer offers him a lot to be a set up man or to fight for a closing job (Angels, Rangers).  He’ll go to whoever offers him the most money.
10.          Mike Napoli- He’s a bad defensive catcher.  He’s a bad defensive first baseman.  He’s a great DH.  But he’s good enough to catch and play first, with his bat making up for any deficiencies.  He won’t hit for a high AVG and will strikeout a ton.  He’ll also have a fantastic slugging percentage, on base percentage and will give you HR and walks.  The Yankees need a catcher if they let Russell Martin go, but they won’t be crazy about Napoli’s defense or price tag.  Maybe the White Sox replace Pierzynski with Napoli.  He’s the best catching option available, but again, he’s more of a part time catcher who should see plenty of time DHing and occasional time at first.  The White Sox are more looking for a true catcher.  And Adam Dunn has locked up the DH position.  The Rangers could re-sign him.  The Mets would love a player like him, but can’t afford him.  The Nationals would be an interesting spot for him if they decide not to re-sign Adam LaRoche, but they would lose a lot defensively.  Maybe he plays first and is a backup catcher in Milwaukee.  That puts Corey Hart back in right.  And who knows what the Dodgers will do.  Napoli is hard to place, but he’ll go to someone and get a lot of money to do something.

And let’s not forget that there are always surprise signings, trades that take teams out of the race for certain guys and anything can happen.  Who thought that Albert Pujols would be an Angel or that Prince Fielder would be a Tiger at this time last year?  So we’ll wait and see. 

Keep checking back here in the offseason for big baseball stories.  And check out the winner’s of the BBA awards at their page here.  A lot of my picks matched up with what the final tally was.  Some of them didn’t.  Always fun to hear the discussion.  And if you get a chance, like my Facebook page here.  I’d really appreciate it.  Okay, more to come soon!