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Wilpons think that Mets stink because they’re too analytics-heavy

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There’s a story in the New York Post today about the Mets search for a general manager to permanently replace Sandy Alderson. A potential candidate is named — Gary LaRocque of the Cardinals — and some explanation is given for why someone like him, who is 65, and not one of the now familiar 30-something sabermetric, Ivy League whiz kids is being considered:

Multiple individuals connected to the team have indicated Mets patriarch Fred Wilpon, 81, is unlikely to hand the organization’s reins to a young, purely analytics-driven GM with whom he would perhaps have difficulty connecting. The growing belief is Wilpon will look toward a more traditional baseball person . . . There is thought among team officials that perhaps the Mets became too analytics driven in recent seasons under Sandy Alderson’s watch, and a veteran leader with a pure baseball background would help shift the organization toward the center.

Know what? I think it’d be a totally defensible position for a team which experienced poor results under an analytics-heavy GM to want to go in a different direction. Indeed, I think that, in many respects, we’ve gone too far in considering only those now familiar 30-something sabermetric, Ivy League whiz kids for top baseball operations jobs.

The Mets, however, are not most teams and it seems pretty dang clear that there are a LOT of things other than analytically-based decisions which have caused them to suck.

Those things, for the most part, are Fred and Jeff Wilpon and their treatment of the Mets as a 1990s-era small market team in which most moves they authorize are aimed at salary relief and bargain basement savings. Most moves the Mets make — almost all of which are likely approved and/or micromanaged by Jeff Wilpon — are seemingly made to answer the question, “how will this improve the Mets immediate cash flow” as opposed to “how will this help the Mets win baseball games?” or “how will this better position the Mets to win baseball games in the future?”

Sandy Alderson may very well be a sabermetrically-oriented guy, but it is not an excess amount of analytics that have put the Mets in this place (quick: what’s the sabermetric justification for keeping Jose Reyes on the roster?). “Baseball men” may, actually, be undervalued in today’s game, but any baseball man hired by the Wilpons will no doubt be forced to operate under their top priority — optimizing cash flow — rather than be given a mission to win games, first and foremost, same as Alderson was.

The problem with the Mets is not the general manager. The problem is Fred and Jeff Wilpon.

Minor League Baseball teams sold over $70 million in merchandise in 2017

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Every so often here, we discuss the criminally low pay of Minor League Baseball players. Most of them make less than $7,500 a year, which includes the regular season as well as spring training, playoffs, and offseason training. The abysmal pay forces minor leaguers to eat unhealthy food, live in cramped quarters, and forego consistent, quality sleep, among other things.

What makes this situation worse is that Minor League Baseball is a huge money-maker for their parent teams in Major League Baseball. Josh Norris of Baseball America reported yesterday that Minor League Baseball teams sold $70.8 million in merchandise in 2017. That represented a 3.6 percent increase over the previous record set in 2016. This is just merchandise. Now think about concession and ticket sales.

Minor League Baseball COO Brian Earle said, “Minor League Baseball team names and logos continue to be among the most popular in all of professional sports, and our teams have made promoting their brand a priority for their respective organizations. The teams have done a tremendous job of using their team marks and logos to build an identity that is appealing to fans not just locally, but in some cases, globally as well.”

You may recall that Major League Baseball had been lobbying Congress to pass legislation exempting minor league players from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Doing so classified baseball players as seasonal workers, which means they are not entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. That legislation passed earlier this year. Minor League Baseball generates profits hand over fist and it is now legally protected from having to share that with the labor that produced it.

Many points of divergence led us to this point, but the question is how do we change it? Minor leaguers are routinely taken advantage of because they don’t have a union. Compare the minors in baseball to the minors in hockey, where minor leaguers have a union. As SB Nation’s Marc Normandin pointed out last month, the minimum salary for American Hockey League players is $45,000 and the average salary is $118,000. They receive a playoff share of around $20,000, and receive health insurance that covers themselves as well as their families. Furthermore, the minor league hockey players’ per diem is $74, about three times as much as minor league baseball players’ per diem of $25.

Major League Baseball and its 30 teams have shown no inclination towards treating minor league players simply out of moral obligation or good will, so the minor leaguers need union coverage to force their conditions to improve. This could be as simple as the MLBPA expanding its coverage to the minor leagues because, after all, some minor leaguers do become major leaguers, right? Or the minor leaguers could themselves create a union. It’s easy to say, but tougher to do, which is why they still don’t have a union.

At any rate, every fan of baseball should be enraged when they read that Minor League Baseball keeps setting records year after year when it comes to selling hats and t-shirts, then refuses to share any of that wealth with the labor responsible for it. It’s morally reprehensible.