Fans have long loved to criticize players who sign big contracts. The media has long encouraged and aided this effort to greater or lesser degrees. Players who rake in the big bucks have long had a target on their back and probably always will.
Which is not totally unfair, of course. They’re supposed to be good. They’re supposed to help the team win. That, as the old saying goes, is why they’re paid the big bucks.
But there are limits to that right? A baseball team has 25 guys on it, not just one, and any one baseball player has way less power to carry one’s team to victory himself than, say, the quarterback of a football team or any single basketball player, each of which can make a huge difference. As such, while it’s fair to hold star players to a higher standard, it’s less fair to blame them when their teams fare poorly through no fault of their own.
Keep that in mind as you look at this tweet from Fox Sports’ MLB account, which appeared yesterday afternoon, unattached to any given story or bit of analysis. It was just laid out there, with the pretty clear intention of stirring up a “those overpaid bums!” kind of conversation:
Yes, it’s a fact that neither Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado nor Nolan Arenado played for playoff teams this year. It’s also the case that none of them are the sole reason — or even a near-the-top reason — their teams did not make the postseason.
Trout and Arenado had excellent seasons but the Angels and Rockies were abjectly terrible apart from them. Machado had a down year for sure, but even if he was at his usual level, the Padres would not have made the playoffs. Bill handled Harper and the Phillies yesterday and, again, he was not the biggest problem with his team even if he did not have the MVP year Phillies fans hoped he would. And heck, even if these guys were bigger reasons for their teams’ failures, all four of their contracts are very, very long and judging them on only one year of work is misleading at best.
Yet Fox — MLB’s top broadcasting partner, by the way — is not-so-subtly denigrating them via this tweet, no matter how technically factual it is.
Given that a top rights holder like Fox never wants to offend the leagues whose games they broadcast, it’s not unreasonable to infer that they inferred that slamming highly-paid star players is something Major League Baseball takes no issue with it all.