We’ve talked all winter about how big league teams seem completely unwilling to spend money. About how it’s weird that they’re not spending money given that they are enjoying all-time record revenues. About how something must be wrong with the financial incentive structure in baseball if they can realize those record revenues despite not trying very hard to improve their on-the-field product.
We could try to explain it forever I suppose, but let’s take a break from that to look at two statements from MLB front offices today that simply illustrate what’s going on.
First up, the Tigers, who despite filling their ballpark pretty consistently for the past decade and a half, despite getting outstanding TV ratings and despite being owned by an obscenely wealthy family, has decided to take the full-blown tear-it-down and tank route with their rebuild. In charge of that rebuild is general manager Al Avila.
Hey, Al, how long might this rebuild take?
“We will be like the current White Sox by 2021 if everything goes right” is about as uninspiring a pitch the Tigers could possibly make. I sure hope the folks in the season ticket sales department don’t work on commission, because it’s gonna be bleak for a couple of years. But hey, Chris Ilitch worked hard to inherit this team from his dad and if he needs a low payroll to keep profits up, who are we to say that’s wrong?
Meanwhile, in Queens, someone asked Jeff Wilpon why the Mets aren’t bidding on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. I mean, we know why the Mets aren’t bidding on Bryce Harper — the Mets’ owners, despite being in the largest market in the game, choose to treat their team as if it’s playing in Hooterville, USA — but here’s what Wilpon had to say about that:
Thing is, of course, that the Mets would not be paying two players $30 million even if they signed Harper or Machado because Cespedes’ salary — $29 million — is being underwritten by insurance because he just underwent major surgery. So major, in fact, that it’s a good bet that the Mets will not be paying much if anything of his salary themselves for some time.
The fact of the matter is that the Tigers, if they so chose, could put a more competitive team on the field than they plan to for the next two or three seasons. They have the money and could reward fans with a better on-field product, but they choose not to and nothing is making them. The fact of the matter is that the Mets too, despite their claims, could very well afford a superstar like Bryce Harper and such a move could actually be the difference between making the playoffs in 2019 or not but, again, they simply choose not to.
These teams, and others, are playing games with their fans. They’re coming up with silly excuses for failing to improve themselves and they’re not even trying to give plausible excuses for it anymore. And the crazy thing about it is that, if fans revolt and simply don’t show up to the ballpark in retaliation . . . it won’t matter that much for a while, for reasons we’ve recently discussed.
This is modern baseball.