Tuesday, June 14, 2011

BDT -- MLB Can't Make Up Its Mind! (June 14)

Who needs more crazy gimmicks when you have these guys? MORE SAUSAGE RACES MLB!
Written by: Casey Richey

Casey is a frequent contributor to Boris Diaw Time! and a regular guest on the Boris Diaw Time! podcast. Considering my lack of knowledge/interest in all matters baseball, Casey is our unquestioned head of the MLB department. Also, Casey actually knows how to write so I don't have to edit the crap out of the things he sends me...unlike certain other contributors...*cough* Prince *cough*...


Why do I feel like I’m the only person on the planet who thinks MLB is being dumb right now? Oh sure, on the surface, and perhaps to the casual fan, it appears they’re trying to address the pressing issues within the sport. If you’ve paid any attention to baseball media over the last year, you’ve been told there is great need for another playoff team in each league. We all know that one league has more teams than the other, and, well, that’s just goofy. And finally, we all know the current setup is unfair for the Orioles and Pirates, and unless something is done right away, neither team will ever make the playoffs again!

Okay, so I meant for some of that to be a little sarcastic, but some of it is true, too! Sure, there really are some quirks in the game right now that deserve some looking into – but to think that the mere existence of discussions means they must be brewing up effective solutions is just stupid (see: NFL)! Let’s actually look a little deeper into the problems and the solutions supposedly being considered right now.

First of all, I’ve been wanting to get this off my chest for awhile now; I am adamantly AGAINST adding a second wildcard team – especially if that team is basically going to flip a coin with the other wildcard team, bringing a whole new reality to the term “wildcard”. You know what I’m talking about – a one-game playoff between the two wildcard teams. This is more idiotic than having six teams in one division and four in another! Think about it; a team could finish seven games better than another team over the course of a grinding 162-game season, just to be dismissed because of one rough outing, one misfortune in how the starting rotation plays out, one bad call, one hanging curveball…the list could go on. We all know that, on any given day, a bad team could beat a good team in baseball – more so than any other popular sport played in America. Look, we’re all already weary of sitting through 162 games. Let’s not make those 162 games even LESS meaningful!

“But Casey, this will make it more exciting!” Let’s consider a few other scenarios that would also be more exciting: the warning track is a bed of hot coals and all outfielders must play barefooted; instead of running to 1st, batters must moonwalk; the pitcher gets to swap the baseball with a grenade thrice during a game on pitches of his choosing; and (my personal favorite) we place a woodchopper between 3rd and home and the runner has to jump over it before scoring. Now, are any of these GOOD ideas? (Please don’t answer that question!) My severely over-stated point is, just saying something is more exciting is never a sufficient argument. It’s merely a ‘pro’, against which ‘cons’ must be weighed.

In reality, I think the most conventional argument for this new proposal right now is that it brings more meaning to division races. Sure, we all can think of instances where a first-place and a second-place team go through the motions of the last series of the regular season, because both are content with either the division title or a wildcard spot. However, I don’t think this argument makes sense in the big picture. Aren’t we JUST as likely to have a different but similar scenario happen if there is an extra wildcard team? Last season, the Giants, Braves, and Padres were in a three-way battle for two playoff spots, going down to the last game of the season. It was one of the most fascinating playoff races in recent baseball memory. Guess what? If the proposed new wildcard scheme would have been in effect then, all three teams would have had a playoff berth. Sure, you could say the Giants and Padres would still be playing for the first-round bye, and that would still be exciting – but the Braves’ role in the race would be removed, making it less exciting.

The point is, in ANY sport, any time you add OR remove a playoff team; it takes away some races, just to add others. There’s always going to be a cutoff somewhere, it’s just a question of where. So I’m sick of hearing people talk about new exciting scenarios – it’s a wash! The only new excitement comes from the part where we have a one-game playoff. That’s the part we need to be discussing… and that’s the part that really has me perplexed. If we can all agree that the one game playoff is essentially a crapshoot, then what’s really happening is we’re reducing the number of ‘legitimate’ playoff spots.

Think about it - there would really only be six teams out of 30 that could play well enough during the regular season to control their own destiny in the postseason. Hmm, last time I checked, baseball already has by far the fewest number of its teams in the postseason compared to other American major sports. Think back to last postseason – eight teams, and you could see any of them (well, maybe any but the Reds…) making the World Series. Try saying that in football or basketball! There’s so much integrity in an 8-team playoff field! It’s clean, you’re very unlikely to get bad teams in there, and every series is important! Is the playoff field really one of major league baseball’s pressing problems right now? I just haven’t been convinced, not even slightly. When you compare it to other major sports, it is maybe the BEST thing going for MLB right now! The real issue they’re trying to solve here is the division races that aren’t as exciting as they want them to be. It’s about the regular season, not the playoffs.

Of course it’s about the regular season! Baseball is trying to convince us we should pay money to attend 1/162 of a team’s season! Try convincing the public that that is relevant! No doubt, MLB has a difficult task at hand here. In recent memory, they’ve tried things – interleague play being by far the most notable, and perhaps most successful. But after more than a decade, it’s lost its intrigue. You no longer have matchups for the first time since that legendary World Series 100 years ago. It’s no longer a novelty to see C.C. trying to wield a bat. Yankees-Mets is just another regular series that happens every year (oh, and also the Mets always suck now). In short, baseball’s looking for some new excitement.

Now, in light of the above, tell me this; WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU GET RID OF DIVISIONS?!?!? I see the big-wigs sitting around the table having this discussion: “We need something exciting for the regular season!” “Well, you know how rivalries like Yankees-Red Sox, Giants-Dodgers, and Cards-Cubs are some of the few sellers we still have? Let’s have them play fewer games against each other!” “Yes, that’s a great idea – abolishing the concept of division rivalry is the perfect move!”

Okay, here’s what I really think is happening. I think they’re sick of hearing how dumb it is that there are 14 teams in one league and 16 in the other… and I think they’re literally too dumb to fix it without getting rid of divisions. Well, fortunately I have had extensive mathematical training, and I have come up with an advanced solution to this equation: take one team from the 6-team division, and put it in the 4-team division!!! What a concept!

Okay, I know I’ve been ranting for long enough now, so here are my closing thoughts. Of all these stupid ideas, the dumbest part of it all is that MLB is now talking out of both sides of its mouth. If we’re talking about getting rid of divisions, why are we still talking about a fifth playoff team in each league? The whole argument for adding the extra playoff team revolves around the concept of wildcards – making sure we’re making the course harder for a team that doesn’t win their division, making sure division winners are rewarded properly, etc. Well, guess what, guys? If we have no more divisions, there’s no such thing as a wildcard anymore!!!! I’m starting to feel like I’m the only person in the world who’s put two and two together here, and now I’m really, really starting to worry. MLB, it’s time for you to make up your mind. Which is it that you want? Please don’t break my heart! I love baseball. Sure, we’ve been through some rough patches with work stoppages and steroids and all, but the kind of nonsense I’m hearing now is really making me think we’re headed toward the NFL-zone – had a good product, and screwed it up for no good reason!

Well, that’s all for me. Next week; Scott Cousins sends Buster Posey an e-card, Posey marks it as spam, and Brian Sabean files a report to the FBI about it.


In case you were wondering, the answer is YES, I'M STILL CELEBRATING THE FALL OF LEBRON/MIAMI. Don't worry Lebron, I'll get back to the real world someday. Would I normally be upset about DeShawn Stevenson running his mouth about the "classless" Miami Heat? Well, considering Stevenson's pedigree as a trouble making, thuggish, underachieving nobody...I guess I probably would. Still, I'm in a generous mood to anyone not named Lebron or not wearing a Miami Heat Speedo (I'm making the assumption that everyone on South Beach walks around in a Speedo...not sure if this is correct, but it's my worldview). So, good work DeShawn. You earned the right to run your mouth after getting demoted to the bench! In all seriousness, I would give nearly anything to see Jason Terry run like a jet through downtown Miami while Dirk follows him in an Audi, his head sticking out the sunroof, screaming insults at Miami fans in German. I could go on and on...

In case you didn't get a chance to read it earlier, here is my Finals wrap-up from yesterday.

Also, our good friend Nate Dunlevy from 18to88.com wrote a terrific piece on the dissimilarities between NBA Playoff legacies/judgments and NFL Playoff legacies/judgments. Nate and I have talked about this before on the podcast and he presents an excellent argument for why the comparisons cannot accurately be made. Follow the link here and check it out...it's well worth your time.

Lastly, the direction of Boris Diaw Time! will obviously be shifting with the end of the NBA season. As you can likely tell, I am a basketball fan first and eveything else comes second. There is still plenty of interesting NBA stuff going on (draft, offseason, labor situation) and I'll spend a lot of time on that, but we are going to be a bit slower over the summer. Coming up in the next few weeks will be a heavy dose of NBA Draft content. I'll go over many of the prospects, talk about players I like, players I hate, team needs, possible steals, and then cap it off with a mock draft shortly before the June 23 draft. Also, I have a lot of thoughts on the current NBA labor situation and I'll take the time to talk about that at least once before the draft. My big project for the summer will be team by team NBA offseason previews. Perhaps that won't be interesting for all of you, but hey, it's my web site and I love the NBA. If you don't like it, then flood my email with requests for Casey to write more baseball stuff!


  1. A couple thoughts for you... First and foremost, I have to defend my reds. I haven't looked this up, but I'm fairly certain that they had a winnings record against most if not all of the other playoff teams...definitely the phils...I think they freaked out like young teams can and choked. But that's not the point of your article. I am largely in agreement with you as to the current decisions being weighed by MLB-but not really surprised given the buffoon at the helm. I think that baseball has an excitement problem for all but the most loyal (stockholm syndrome victims) fans. This, in my mind, is a correlation of a lack of competition, by and large. Who wants to go to a home game in Baltimore to see them get destroyed by the Yankee for a 4 game series? You're absolutely right that baseball has a regular season problem, and I think that the easy answer is an NBA style salary cap. That way you still reward a team for making competitive decisions and selling tickets, but you don't let the sox, yankees, and now phillies from buying the edge literally every year. I know the layers, patriots, and volts exist, but by and large, the competition in these leagues is far superior to baseball, where only the marlins can consistently succeed on a budget, and they have to have a fire sale every time they win to make the system work. That's my take, at least- I say MLB has much bigger fish to fry than one of the truer postseasons in sports.

  2. I'm not a baseball expert by any stretch of the imagination, but the statistics don't support the "small markets can't succeed" argument. The Twins have consistently built a winner in a small market and, through their consistent excellence, have been able to generate additional revenue and add to their payroll. The Texas Rangers made the World Series last year in the midst of a major budget crunch. The Reds, Athletics, Braves, Marlins, Rays, Brewers, and Padres are all smaller market teams that have had success despite market disadvantages.

    While I disagree that the NBA salary cap would "solve" things, I do agree that there's one aspect of the NBA system that needs to be brought over...the max contract. The major disadvantage for small/medium market teams is their inability to pay "market value" for top players. Eventually, pitchers like C.C. Sabathia or hitters like Alex Rodriguez will make their way to the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, etc. The Albert Pujols situation will hopefully bring this problem to an even greater light. If a market like St. Louis has to suffer the loss of their cornerstone because his "market value" is $309 million per year (approximate) then you know there are problems. The loss of a superstar of that caliber is so difficult to overcome, both on the field and at the gate. It's why Oakland's run eventually ended and it's why the Braves can't consistently field winners anymore.

    In short, MLB can try all the gimmicks they want, but there are serious problems they aren't taking seriously enough. Perhaps it's the specter of another work stoppage that causes them to look away from major salary structure problems, but it eventually has to be solved.

  3. I agree with you that small market teams can do well, the issue for me is all that has to come together for that success to happen. The reds finally have an owner willing to invest in winning now, but the process of getting there requires most, if not all, of your prospects to pan out, plus your veteran help to produce. Compare this to the Yankees, who can afford to sign a starting roster year after year... I wholeheartedly agree with you on the max contract, but I think teams need a cap too, otherwise said Yankees could field 10 max contract players every night.

  4. To me, the revenue sharing is much more important than the salary cap. Obviously the Yankees and Red Sox will ALWAYS spend more money, but that doesn't necessarily equal success if you give everyone a fighting chance with better revenue sharing and a max contract.

    I don't think the salary cap would even be necessary with the max contract. Think about some of their more recent studs and imagine a system with a max contract. C.C. never leaves Cleveland, Tex never leaves Texas/Anaheim/Atlanta, A-Rod never leaves Seattle...the list could go on and on. The point is, what infuriates everyone about the Yankees is that they simply buy up everybody's superstars. With the max contract, the emphasis goes back on scouting and development. Let the Yankees max out all their current players! Let them spend $200 million on guys from their own farm system and overpriced mediocre free agents like A.J. Burnett and Rafael Soriano. As long as those are the marquee "studs" being brought in, what's the problem?

  5. So glad we're now talking about REAL solutions, and not divisional alignment or adding postseason spots! My 2 cents on salary issues: I think you're both making good points, and either a salary cap OR max contract would make a huge difference! I don't see why we couldn't start small and go with max contract, then see how it pans out for 5-10 years. Then, if it looks like a salary cap could still offer more balance, then we can add that, too. But I largely agree with Landrum that you need to let the Yankees spend their billions of dollars - don't worry, most of it will be wasted! History backs this up!

    And yes, small market teams do succeed. I think people DO blow it a little out of proportions - saying ONLY big-market teams can succeed is obviously erroneous, but the truth of the matter is that it's simply EASIER for a big-market team to 1) field a winning team EVERY year; and 2) recover from a terrible year/years. But to say the system is completely unfair just isn't the whole story. You could be the Pirates and, for all intensive purposes, appear to ATTEMPT to finish last in your division every year, all while turning a marginal profit... or you could be the A's/Braves/Padres and actually try to be efficient, invest in scouting and developing young talent, and have a fighting chance. Bottom line: there will always be Yankees/Red Sox/etc., but there will also always be a few smart small market teams in the mix as well. IT'S NOT BROKEN! It just could be made a little more competitive with some moderate (NOT EXTREME) adjustments.

  6. I would support a system where a max contract (5yr $90 million or 6yr $108 million) was in place and an extremely non-restrictive soft cap was implemented. Say you set the "cap" at $125 million. This allows a lot of payroll flexibility for high payroll teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies. Then you set an EXTREMELY non-restrictive hard cap at $175 million so things don't get ridiculously out of hand. With the soft cap, a luxury tax is paid for any amount spent over $125 million. This additional "revenue" is put into a pot set aside for teams that do not exceed the cap and split up among them. Add this into a better revenue sharing system and you immediately make MLB totally viable for all markets without going through the labor issues involved in a restrictive hard cap.

  7. I'm all in for that. I just like the idea of the soft and hard caps- that's all I meant by NBA style. I do think that if the Yankees could offer 15 max contracts to all their starters and their closer, they would still have an unfair advantage, but like Casey said, start small and fix it.

  8. I'm not sure how it would be unfair for the Yankees to do that. As long as you eliminate the overwhelming advantage they have in luring guys like Sabathia, Pujols, Tex, etc. then the playing field is mostly leveled. So what if they want to overpay to retain Brett Gardner? Or, so what if they want to give a max deal to Rafael Soriano? I don't blame the Yankees for spending money. In fact, I admire them for putting their revenue right back in the product.

  9. Regardless, the salary structure isn't why I don't watch baseball. I was extremely turned off by the steroid era, but that isn't really it anymore either. The games are just too freakin' long. They have to stop with the old school insistence on traditions and figure out a way to make the game a bit more contemporary (aka. faster)

  10. You should watch a Justin Verlander game. If every pitcher worked like him or Pettitte or Lincecum, you wouldn't be complaining. It's these clowns like Jamie Moyer who wear the game down. Hint: if the ump is yawning, that's a bad sign Jamie! Also if you started your big league career before computers existed.

  11. Landrum, to explain my take on why I think the Yanks would still have the advantage, I'll compare it to basketball. Imagine if the Heat's big three (2) wouldn't have had to take less money to play together...these "superteams" would be springing up all over the place, and while they didn't win the finals, you yourself are angry because they "took a shortcut" to get there. I guess I see a system with no cap as allowing the teams with tons of money the opportunity to offer that same shortcut to baseball players. For example, let's say we used all your numbers from above with max contracts...you're Prince Fielder. With the Brewers, you can make the max contract and play with Ryan Braun and whoever else they can afford, or you can go to the Yankees and play with A-Fraud, CC, Tex, and so on...they could even replace the deflated balloon known as Jeter with Jose Reyes too, since they own China and China owns the US.

  12. First of all, you can't compare baseball and basketball...not even a little. It only takes one player to dramatically alter the landscape of a team/league in basketball, but it takes quite a bit to change things in baseball. One player, or even three players, can only do so much.

    Second, your argument has been made over and over, but there is no data to support it. In fact, there's plenty of data to NOT support it. The Yankees have been employing this "super team" strategy for years and have one World Series victory in the last 10 years to show for it. Ironically, the Yankees "dynasty" in the late 90's was anchored by players they drafted and developed...not high priced free agents. Jeter, Rivera, Bernie, Posado, Pettite, etc. were all from the Yankees farm system, while cheaper veterans like Paul O'Neill and Scott Brosius filled in the gaps. The only real example you could use is the Red Sox teams since Pedro, Manny, and Damon were big free agent acquisitions. There's just too many variables in baseball to depend on a few superstars, and it isn't just as simple as throwing a pile of cash at somebody. If it was that easy, then why have the Yankees only been able to lure C.C. and not any other big time pitchers?

    Sure, the Yankees would still have some advantages in our make believe system. They have the ability to swing and miss on major signings (Burnett, Pavano, every other pitcher not named C.C.) and not doom themselves to mediocrity like every other smaller market team would. Imagine if Kansas City spent big money on Burnett! They would be screwed until the end of that contract! Still, the advantage would be minimal and the system would give an even greater reward to smart personnel people.

  13. You're right...one WS win in 10 years, but they made the playoffs 9 of those 10 years, and the world series in 3 of those 9....in fact, they've made the playoffs 15 of the last 16 years, 7 of which included WS appearances, and 5 of those 7, they won... I think that data supports an unfair advantage. As for the anchors, filling the gaps is what baseball is all about...every team (except the ones run like the pirates) has its star(s)-it's the ones who find the formula to compliment those stars best who should make the playoffs, not the one who can just strongarm all the strategy out of free agency. The AL East is the easiest one to pick on because they have the greatest disparity between the haves and have-nots, but we're seeing the trend for more often than not that the teams who pay more win more. You mentioned the Twins earlier, and I have absolutely no problem with them or the marlins-the teams who have figured out a system that works, but those two teams are the exception-not the rule.