** There are few fans in baseball that match the intensity of true, Green Collar, Oakland Athletic fans. The problem is that there are only 6 of them. **
Originally published December 30th, 2011
It’s been the kind of offseason where you have to ask the question: “When will fans say enough?” We’ve seen the Miami Marlins go from the 7th lowest payroll in baseball, to one of the highest. We’ve seen the Oakland Athletics, already leading Major League Baseball in mediocrity, trade their two best starting pitchers, their closer, and their starting outfielder (and let another 3 OF go free agent). The Kansas City Royals lead Major League Baseball by having the lowest payroll in baseball, but they still get the All Star Game. When are their fans going to demand more than that, and a better question might be, why is MLB letting this happen? In the age of revenue sharing between teams, MLB is rewarding teams for not competing.
Am I saying get rid of revenue sharing? Absolutely not. But there are some clear breakdowns in the system that need to be fixed.
Let’s start with Oakland. Billy Beane has made his reputation on finding and promoting young talent early. The earlier that kids coming out of the draft can develop and make it to the Major Leagues, the more trade value they have to other teams. Oakland has a history of it since the late 1990’s. They bring the kid up, then ship him out for a load of prospects. The other thing they do incredibly effectively is capitalize on the free agent compensatory picks — They’ll sign a player on a one year contract, or trade for players w/a year left on their deal that will net them a higher compensatory pick when he goes free agent — that is if they don’t trade him at the deadline for something better. Both smart business moves, sure, but there isn’t a single thing this team is doing to win. I mean really win, not just float. Is there any wonder that Oakland has the lowest attendance in baseball? What fan wants to see their team ship off their best players year, after year? That’s exactly what they do, and why do they do it? Because they still make a profit off of revenue sharing! Billy Beane can talk all day long, but there isn’t a single thing this team does that shows they’re interested in winning or even competing for a title.
Why hasn’t Oakland been contracted? If they aren’t looking to compete, why are they even allowed to be in the league? And if not contraction, what can MLB about it? There’s something that MLB should consider doing because of a team like the A’s — For namesake, let’s call it the Oakland Rule — MLB ranks upcoming free agents by A/B/C free agents. It basically says that if you can’t resign a great player on your team, that you’ll get an extra pick from the team that signs him, the pick will be higher based on the free agents grade. The Oakland Rule would apply to trading active players. MLB should limit the number of starting roster players that can be traded during a season, unless traded for a similar player. Under this rule, a team would not be allowed to trade 2 of their 5 starting pitchers unless they were trading for a same position or another starting player on another MLB team. They could class it by position or total roster, but the fact that Oakland is able to trade 4 of their starting roster players, in addition to their free agent losses, borders on criminal. Where’s the “best interest of the game” in what Oakland is doing, Mr. Selig?
Look at a team like the Kansas City Royals. They have the lowest payroll and 4th lowest attendance in Major League Baseball, but they were awarded the All Star Game for 2012. Kansas City is nice, I’ve been there a few times, (be sure and visit the Negro League Museum, it’s terrific,) but why are they being rewarded for virtually tanking it? The Yankees are spending more money on 2 players than the entire Royals organization. Why is that OK? How does MLB let that happen? Bob Costas was a proponent of a salary floor, which is a good idea, but a little over simplified. The thing about a salary floor is that it just means the teams that spend at the minimum will just spend more for crappier players. Forcing Kansas City to spend $50,000,000 on payroll instead of $36,000,000 won’t mean they’re going to go out and sign Prince Fielder, it means they’re going to sign the least expensive free agents they can to still meet the minimum. That just means that lower skilled players are going to get more expensive. What MLB should do is tier the revenue sharing based on attendance and/or TV ratings. Your balance of revenue share is based off of your balance of total attendance in the league. To even things up apples/apples, you would have to set ratios by team. It would be unfair to rate NY vs KC since Yankee Stadium holds 30,000 more people, so you could look attendance ratio to capacity by team. In case you think that would mean the teams that spent the most would get the biggest piece, you’re mistaken.
Saving the best for last, the entire state of Florida. If MLB should think about contracting Oakland (which certainly makes more sense than when they were looking at Minnesota,) then they should have contracted Tampa Bay already. 2nd lowest payroll in MLB, but they’ve been in the playoffs consecutive years and were in the World Series (that’s what happens when you don’t just trade it away Oakland) — but somehow still have the 2nd lowest attendance in baseball. That’s a city that just doesn’t deserve baseball. If your team is in the playoffs year over year and you don’t show up, find a new sport. Miami on the other hand is Oakland redux. They trade away their talent, have the 7th lowest payroll in baseball, and 3rd lowest attendance. Then, the minute they get a new park, they flip a switch. So it’s OK to tank it for a few years while they’re building the park, then decide you want to try? Would Miami have done this if they weren’t pulling in money from revenue sharing? If you use the similar KC model from above, maybe Miami would have tried harder. I hope it works out for their fans, you know, the ones that until this year had set the record for the least attended game probably ever… Enjoy your new uniforms. I’m sure that Jose Reyes will look great in it, sitting in the dugout on the DL.
The offseason has been an eye opener. I wonder if it’s been an eye opener for the higher ups in Major League Baseball too.
photo courtesy of www.flickr.com/photos/40375323@N06/3901907423/