First Pitch: MLB Lining Up For a Battle of Big Market vs Small Market Teams

All eyes are on a great playoff race, where the Pittsburgh Pirates have moved 1.5 games up from the St. Louis Cardinals in the top Wild Card spot, and have pulled to 1.5 games back from the Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the NL Central. Every game will be big from this point forward, but the upcoming games against Detroit and Washington this week will be crucial, as they stand in the beginning of a tough schedule the rest of the month that has the Pirates playing playoff contenders the rest of the month.

The big thing this week will take place off the field. Bud Selig is retiring at the end of the season, and MLB owners will start the voting process to pick a new commissioner. You may know that I’m not a fan of Selig and how he has run baseball. I’ll give him credit for the current situation, which is seeing a lot of very good playoff races across baseball, including small market teams getting a shot thanks to the addition of two Wild Card spots over the last 20 years. But it’s not exactly a fair shot when the Yankees and Dodgers can make colossal financial mistakes, and still be firmly in the post-season race, while small market teams like the Pirates can’t afford to make any financial mistakes if they want to contend.

Now, baseball seems to be setting up for a war between big market and small market teams. Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes about how the search for the new commissioner is getting dirty. He notes that the big market and small market teams have picked sides, as quoted below. The bolded parts are for my emphasis.

The Manfred camp, led by the New York Yankees and other big-market teams, says he has been assured of 20 votes. They argue Manfred is the perfect choice, maintaining the status quo for a sport that’s projected to generate $9 billion this year. They point out Manfred, as head of labor negotiations, is responsible for 19 years of peace with the players union. He helped implement the toughest drug-testing program in American team sports. And he headed the Biogenesis investigation, bringing down Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Tony Bosch, among others.

His opponents say baseball owners have the worst labor agreement in pro sports, and the only one without a salary cap. They say the bulk of the credit for the drug agreement goes to the players union for changing its stance. They remember Manfred’s role in MLB approving billionaire Steve Cohen to bid on the Los Angeles Dodgers, a move that nearly blew up on the league when Cohen’s hedge fund plead guilty to insider trading and agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine. And they still are seething over Manfred’s negotiated deal during the Dodgers’ bankruptcy hearings that permits the team to protect all but $2 billion of their $8.35 billion TV contract from revenue sharing.

The Werner camp, led by the Red Sox and small-market teams, maintains he also has strong support: 11 votes, with eight still undecided.

The two candidates are Rob Manfred, who is MLB’s chief operating officer, and Tom Werner, who is the chairman of the Boston Red Sox. Interestingly enough, the Red Sox are siding with the small market teams, saying the league needs a change. It feels like this is the Red Sox going against the big spending Yankees, and normally I hate the hypocrisy of the Red Sox crying foul when another team spends money, but in this case I can get behind them. Tim Brosnan, MLB’s executive vice president for business, is also a candidate, and Nightengale notes that Werner and Brosnan could team up.

The bolded parts above suggest that Manfred has the edge, although the votes don’t add up. Unless MLB added nine new teams, there’s no way Manfred has 20 votes, Werner has 11, and eight are still undecided. Obviously someone is lying to one or both of the candidates about who they’re going to vote for. But the fact that there are two different agendas here, and not multiple people willing to carry on the way baseball is currently being played, is encouraging. That is, if you’re a fan of small market teams who would benefit from the playing field being leveled.

It’s possible that there will be no resolution to this matter this week. The vote is to be held on Thursday, and 23 votes are needed to name a new commissioner. If no one gets 23 votes, MLB would look for new candidates and the process would drag on.

I’m sure that no matter what, MLB is going to continue bringing in a ton of money. The question is how that money is distributed throughout the game. Will we continue to see a massive imbalance where the Dodgers receive more in their local TV deal each season than the Pirates could spend in payroll over two seasons — even if the Pirates topped $100 M in both of those seasons? Or will we see something fair, that rewards smart decisions and doesn’t give a free contending pass to big market teams just because they have a lot of money to cover their mistakes?

Links and Notes

**Prospect Watch: Tyler Glasnow Continues Putting Up Video Game Numbers

**Adrian Sampson promoted to Triple-A

**Second Round Pick With a Million Dollar Performance

**Top 10 Hitters: Meadows Starting to Live Up to Expectations

**Top 10 Pitchers: A Breakout Pitcher You Should Follow, Not Named Adrian Sampson

**Brandon Cumpton looks to make transition to the bullpen

**Brandon Cumpton Recalled, Casey Sadler Optioned to Indianapolis

**Prospect Highlights: Big Hits From Two Outfield Prospects

**Minor League Schedule: Cody Dickson Has Turned His Season Around

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Michael Shaeffer

We need to get this Werner guy in, and then give him emergency powers. Where’s Jar Jar Binks when you need him?


Mesah is confoosed, what does jar jar have to do with emergency powers?lol


Ah,ok. Gotcha.

Michael Shaeffer

Let’s simplify this, let’s say the yanks have three stars and the pirates have three stars, all six are free agents at the same time. Both teams have been contenders with their respective stars, the pirates put their bids in, the yanks put their bid in and since there are no limits their bid blows the pirates out of the water. Next thing you know the yanks have six star players and are off on another quest for the title, meanwhile the pirates have to wait 2-4 years for the next crop of prospects and hope they pan out for them to even hope to compete. If there were a salary cap the pirates probably could have kept two of their stars and at least been competitive and the yanks would still have been the yanks. This is NOT that complicated, try looking at things using the KISS method ( keep it simple stupid ) and life becomes a whole lot less stressful and a lot more pleasant.


I agree with you about keeping it simple. But this isn’t about baseball. It’s about money. The Yankees want the status quo because they are a global brand in a national sport. They need to be bigger than baseball to maintain what they have. MLB’s model seems to be to use cornerstone franchises (ie, big market clubs) to anchor the league. The rest of the league is filler and feel-good stories. If you don’t live in a small-market town, nobody cares about your team. So the simplest way to support this money-making structure and make it look legitimate is to let small market teams enjoy and develop young talent until it is time for them to start for a big market squad in their prime. Is it a coincidence that Rule5, minor league FA, Super2, and arbitration essentially ensure that any prospect is eligible for free agency during his peek years? This is where the union and big market teams are joined in cause by money.

Matt Beam

with any type of cap, there must be a much greater floor – call it the Marlins clause
Baseball would be much more fair with a $140M cap (not exactly burdensome to well run large market teams) and a floor of about $90M… the 2 biggest things you need to fix is 1) blatant over spending by the top 5-ish teams that make any colossal contract mistakes just a hiccup vs setting the franchise back 3-5 yrs like it is for small market teams 2) allow the small market teams to keep their stars (ie Cutch, David Price, G. Stanton, etc) just like the yanks can (ie Derek Jeter, etc)


$90MM to $140MM for floor to ceiling? There are 9 teams below $90MM and 7 above $140MM this year. So your numbers would affect just over half the teams in MLB. I don’t think that’s reasonable, or would go over well.

That said, I agree with the need for a floor and ceiling and reasoning for it. Maybe $80MM to $150MM, which would still affect the 7 highest spending teams (but not by as much, especially the Angels & Giants in 6th & 7th place, respectively) and the 4 lowest (including the Pirates).


Anything that the Yankees and Dodgers want then the rest of MLB (the sane ones) should want the exact opposite.

I am in favor of a progressive salary cap-salary floor (the only way a salary cap would be approved in baseball). Progressively lower the cap and progressively raise the floor to the point where the floor is around $60-65M and the cap is around $150M. Currently that would affect like 9 teams. Two teams that would be below the floor and 7 teams that would be above or at the cap.

The MLB also needs to get much more progressive with its revenue sharing on TV contracts so that all teams have equal opportunity to share in the wealth and popularity of the game and not be restricted by the market-share size of their base city. Look at the number of people who show up to Pirate aways games now that we are contending. You do not think those individuals take advantage of watching them on TV when playing their home-town team as well? Andrew McCutchen is a marketing tool for the whole league and the Pirates shouldn’t be restricted financially by the fact that they are in a smaller revenue market in Pittsburgh in terms of how much they can “profit” from the marketing of McCutchen.

Ultimately just slight changes could be hugely beneficial to MLB. There would still be teams who would and could spend $50M+ more than other teams but you would see much more parity if you instituted these types of progressive changes. HOWEVER, IF you’re not going to institute these changes then I think MLB MUST again alter the draft so that small market and mid-market teams can spend whatever they want to procure talent at the amateur level since they will lose that talent as soon as they can become free agents to the large market teams. Teams like the Dodgers and Yankees (and yes the Red Sox too) should not be able to have their cake and eat it too. MLB either needs more payroll parity by instituting progressive changes in a cap/floor OR MLB needs to allow teams to spend in the draft so as to procure more amateur talent.


Sometime I would really like to see some evidence that a salary cap on payroll improves competitive balance. I wonder what New York would do with all that extra revenue.

David Lewis

A salary cap on its own doesn’t necessarily improve competitive balance – as you say, all it does is shift money from the players on high-revenue teams to the owners of high-revenue teams. However, strong revenue sharing can improve competitive balance, if the shared revenues are used by the recipients to improve the team quality (which usually, but not always, means spending more on player salaries).


Who cares what they would do with the extra revenue? As far as evidence, look at the Pittsburgh Steelers and think where they would be without revenue sharing or the Green Bay Packers. The Steelers draw 550,000 fans a year and are in the same TV market as the Pirates, they would have been out of business or moved a long time ago. They could not pay a modern day franchise QB, end of winning.


Think about for a minute,what do the NFL and MLB actually have in common besides being sports leagues based in North America? Structure of the leagues, structure of the unions, drivers of revenues, methods of acquiring talent, length of season, nature of playoffs, and size and scope of talent pool are completely different.


Andrew, with all due respect. You are overcomplicating and overanalysing something that in fact makes complete sense no matter what league it’s in. We all know that football and baseball are organized differently, that however is not the point. Giving all teams a chance to be consistently competitive is. That in a nutshell is what a salary cap is. Organizational layout has nothing to do with the premise. And just for the sake of argument, hockey is laid out remarkably similar to baseball as far as organizational structure and the salary cap is working quite well for the nhl.


Cost certainty for owners and restrict players salary growth…wow…those sound like things that would greatly benefit small market teams.


If the size of a local market determines your total revenue and a league places a restriction on your spending, who benefit more? A salary cap just redistributes revenues from players to owners. And if an large market owner is win maximizing and not profit maximizing, that owner will invest that revenue in other areas that are uncapped: those draft penalties don’t look so prohibitive when a team can no longer invest massively in free agent market, international spending penalties would no longer be prohibitive, maybe that extra revenue can be used to pouch scouts, build a development academy in every Latin American country and Asia, maybe provide players with extra-salary benefits to attract them to their team.

A salary cap is not the panacea that everyone assumes it is, it is much more complex than that. If anyone wants to take the simple route, argue for a complete centralization of all revenue, but this then creates a whole other set of incentives and dis-incentives.


Arguing that it is not a “panacea” is not the same as arguing that it will not help the problem or assist in brining a little more parity to MLB.


It would be interesting to know who is paying those experts. Always follow the money andrew. And above all trust your own mind not someone elses.


Well I going to assume based on the timing of your response you didn’t read anything. And I find an argument to conspiracy while simultaneous dismissing evidence to the contrary without even evaluating it, not a credible argument.


I think one thing that a cap would do would be to eliminate the length of some of these ridiculous contracts as well as bring down the AAV (average annual value) of the contract. Think about it in terms of the Pirates and Russell Martin. If there was a cap at even lets say $170M and a floor of $60M then the Pirates real competition for Martin wouldn’t be the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, or Giants because they would already be way to close to the cap. Instead the Pirates would be competing with other mid-market or small-market teams for his services. Or, even if they were competing against the Dodgers etc for Martin, the Dodgers could not simply go ridiculously high with an offer simply to get him away from the Pirates because there would actually be ramifications (be at the cap).


If large market teams are ridiculous and inefficiently allocating their payroll how would salary cap, which would make these type contracts impossible, benefit the smaller revenue teams?


Lets assume the cap were $160M next season. The Pirates would certainly have a much better chance of re-signing Russell Martin because teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, and Dodgers would simply be eliminated from really being realistic options due to the fact that they’d already be largely at the cap. The reason it would help small market teams is because it would make the AAV and contract length terms more reasonable and therefore affordable for the budgets that they have available.


I don’t know if the commissioner by himself can change baseball to the extent that they end up with a salary cap. I am a union guy, but in MLB, the union is the biggest problem with MLB, they have to be broken or the owners have to take bigger stands when dealing with the union. A cap for major league baseball would help to level the playing field and it is surely not level now. One fact that no one can contest is that the Pirates are still one of the lowest revenue teams in baseball and their payroll reflects this. The Pirates have one of the best management teams in all of sports and all they have to do is disband this management team and Nutting sell the team and all that is built could go down the tubes, they just don’t make enough money to operate this team poorly and still win.


The fact that the Yankees are leading the charge for Selig’s hand-picked successor tells us for whose benefit Selig has run the sport.


The fact that the Yankees are leading the charge for Selig’s hand-picked successor tells us for whose benefit Selig has run the sport.


The current system clearly needs much improvement (e.g., a cap, more rev sharing, ability to trade draft picks), however, let’s not let Nutting completely off the hook. The Bucs opening day payroll was $1M+ LOWER this year vs. last, even though 2013 attendance was up 8%, the team (and players) benefitted from significant playoff appearance $, general league revenue sharing increased, and with some greater investment the Bucs had a good chance of going even further this year. Moreover, Nutting/Huntington made no trade deadline moves this year (for a 2nd year), even though attendance is way up again (and likely to set an all-time record) and the team is in the thick of a race. So, yes, the system needs to change, but, in the meantime, fans should expect the team to do more with all the $$$ we’ve given thru our fierce support.


The idea that the Pirates will set an all time attendance record was discussed yesterday on Smizik’s forum. The team needs an average of over 35,000 per game the rest of the way to break the existing record. That seems unlikely.

Scott Kliesen

You’re looking at the micro version of Nutting, and you cherry picked the ones which may make it look like he’s a greedy douche.

I look at the macro version and see the whole picture, the good, the bad and the ugly. When he took control of the team, the franchise was a total disaster. But now they are a model franchise MLB points to for doing the right things. What has changed? Payroll? Market size? No, what has changed is the culture. He painted a vision of success, hired the right people who bought into his vision, invested Capital (Domincan Academy & Pirate City) to help attract and develop talent, invested in talent (draft & International signings) and has kept his team intact to see it through to fruition.

As for the money which hasn’t been invested in FA signings last winter or trade acquisitions, they have made efforts to do both, but were rebuffed. The good news is this may end up allowing for them to keep Martin.

Nutting and his FO are THE reason Pittsburgh can be proud of their baseball team. And to say different is 100% wrong!


That I do agree with Scott.


I agree with much of what you say but to deny the power of the pocket book is wrong.
With the union and large market teams controlling the way the league operates the small revenue teams must fight for concessions that can even the playing field somewhat.
If giving small revenue teams more power in the draft and foreign signings while limiting large markets that may even it up some while not having to worry about caps and floors, after all the union only really cares about ML players not being limited in pay for the players.
I am sure there are many other ways that can be legislated without getting into strikes and lockouts but the small revenue teams must decide to do it and stick together.

Ron Lucia

I’d love to see a cap but I don’t think the game would be able to get there without a strike or lockout.


The free market man in me says it is wrong for the Pirates to expect the Dodgers/Yankees to give them a handout. Tough call here.

Let’s put it this way. The Pirates are getting massive value from their Andrew McCutchen contract, and yet likely won’t be able to resign him again, and it’s going to be difficult to keep pretty much every other player on the roster beyond a year or two of arbitration. Why? Jose Tabata’s contract is contributing to that.

Tabata’s contract was a minor mistake, a fleeting blip on the radar. And yet, it may play a significant role in the team not being able to resign Russell Martin.

So, I think increased revenue sharing is in order, but a I don’t think they have to go all the way to salary cap.


Remember that the free market system is about equal opportunity to compete and achieve. I agree with many of the comments that MLB is not really a free market system, but free market principles can be found in a salary cap. It brings fairness to the larger system and keeps the competition where it should be. In other words, leveling clubs’ ability to assemble a team means that everyone assumes the same risk on the financial side. Player acquisition can be just about the player’s value to a team. Instead of a war of checkbooks, the competition becomes about pure baseball decisions and performance on the field. If the Yanks want to sink the most money into development and management then they have that right and may get more respect in the league.


Free markets are great for society as a whole, not so much for closed enviroments like mlb,nfl,nhl,nba.

Scott Kliesen

How do you know since these leagues have never operated as free markets?They’ve either colluded to suppress wages, or entered into agreements to cap expenditures in one fashion or another and redistributed wealth.


Sorry I took solong to reply, been busy, but that is a pretty good point and I gotta admit I never thought of it that way. Gives me something to think about,thanks.


I agree. And I realize baseball is not a true free market, which is why this is a tough call. The Dodgers/Yankees are the equivalent of Lowe’s and Walmart, while the Pirates and Rays are the equivalent of the Mom/Pop hardware and grocery store. In a true free market, Lowe’s is looking to force Dad’s hardware store out of business. In baseball, the Dodgers don’t really want to force the Pirates out of business. They just want them to be doormats, AAAA teams if you will.


Good analogy. I guess the way to put this is like this. In society you want competition, in sports you want competitive balance.


greg, I’m as much of a free market guy as there is. But MLB isn’t a free market. The CBA has hundreds of restrictions and regulations on signing players, trading players, etc but very little about how a team making $30 mil from it’s local TV contract is supposed to play with a team making $250 mil. Before this latest CBA, there were a couple of ways small markets could use to their advantage (i.e. spending big but wisely in the draft or in the intl market) but those have been effectively closed. So now it’s back to the big markets signing whoever they want to, and if it doesn’t work out, signing someone else and the small markets trying to develop talent from the meager ways they have of getting talent into their system. So there’s not much point in painting this as “free market” vs. “socialism”. It much more like crony capitalism, which incorporates the worst of both central planning and free markets.

Scott Kliesen

There is something ironic about the fact the Dodgers earn more in their local TV deal than Pirates spend in two years on payroll, yet a large % of the LA market can’t see the Dodgers play each night because of their local TV deal.

I’m on the other side of the fence on this than the sports socialists out there. In basketball, and even football because of importance of QB, a salary cap makes sense because one player can turn a whole franchise around. See James, LeBron and Mannjng, Peyton as proof. While in baseball, no one player as that much impact.

The ability to spend big money in baseball doesn’t guarantee success, it only prevents being really bad. A team w Yankees payroll will never go through an extended down cycle, but as they’re seeing now, they can be mediocre for many years in a row.

Furthermore, well run organizations can be contenders year after year by being smart despite payroll limitations. See Oakland A’s as proof. And to a lesser extent the Rays and Pirates.

It may sound logical to say baseball would be better w a hard cap like football, but there’s no proof it will.


The Yanks “mediocre for many years in a row”???????? Are you joking?????

In 2013-14, they are “only” 12 games over .500 – better than mediocre. But over the previous 20 years, they AVERAGED 96.5 wins per seasons (after adjusting for the two strike seasons). So when have they been “mediocre for many years in a row”? Over those 20 years, their WORST season produced 88 wins – which would be enough to earn a wild card this year in either league.

Baseball clearly needs a salary cap. Otherwise the huge spenders will make the playoffs most years and will always be a contender.

Scott Kliesen

The Yankees are mediocre. And furthermore, they recognize the spend your way to a championship formula is a failed philosophy. Why else would they let their best player walk last year to Seattle? Because they realize hampering your franchise with another ARod type deal isn’t smart. The best way to create lasting success is by drafting and developing good young talent and filling in the gaps with smart FA deals. Which is why they were so successful in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Overpaying for proven vets by giving out high paying contracts into their late 30’s and early 40’s is what has turned a successful franchise into what is now a mediocre one.

jimmy streich

But why should we have to be “well run” to win as we watch our stars walk out the door? Right now small market teams are just minor league squads for the big market teams – Draft a player, turn that player into a star, watch him sign with the Yankees.

We will see this again in Pittsburgh in 4 years when Andrew McCutchen is in a Dodgers or Yankees uniform. A salary cap means you have to be better managers of your budget and make smarter moves and with a cap comes a floor so teams like Miami can’t keep selling off their players and the Pirates can’t keep padding their bank account.

The Salary cap shot the NFL to the biggest sport in America because a team can be turned around

Scott Kliesen

Which Star has walked out the door? I assume you are suggesting if and when Cutch leaves. Cutch is here through his age 32 season. If he leaves because a team gives him a lucrative long-term deal for the last 6-8 years of his career, than I say good for him and good for the Pirates, too.

I’d much rather see the young, upcoming stars like Meadows and Bell develop into the next Cutch, than be saddled with an onerous contract to a fading star.


I disagree and will look to the nhl as proof. Look at the penguins and the cap trap they are in now because they gave huge contracts to a few of their stars. You are right baseball is a true team game – hockey is too, a star can make a big difference – like cutch or Crosby but the team needs balance and so does your pay structure. NHL teams that balance their cap have continued success, ones that try to load up on a few stars tend to have very little depth. A cap definitely will help baseball, but GMs would need to be smart about how they used it. Just like everything else it would be so something that level the teams but mean you needed a good front office.


Scott, you are absolutely correct about some NFL teams being habitual losers because they are run so poorly. But that’s the point. You know exactly why they’re so bad. As opposed to MLB, where being bad may just be because your TV market has 8 million less viewers than someone else’s. Obviously the Yankees, Dodgers, et al. are not well run if they can bring in so much revenue and still not be perenial winners. But they get a pass on being not well run by allowing them to spend even more money.


Scott I see what you are saying about how a LeBron or a Barry Sanders can put their team on their shoulders and carry them which usually isn’t the case with baseball. However, If a poorly run/coached team can shell out 250 mil. to bring in all the top players then they will alway compete. vs. teams that can only pony up 65-80 mil. and have to basically have everything go right for them year in and year out to compete. If you take crappy run team and make them scale down to say 100 mil for argument sake and have the well run team run where they are at 65-80 or bump up to 100 mil. then I think you will see where your big market teams fall off a bit…Below you mention football’s hard cap and how many teams are rarely playoff teams. Well that’s the point they are not well run or coached. They do however have the same money to spend so it is all about how well that team is run…FWIW


I completely disagree with your post. So just because 1 player isn’t as important as Basketball or football, you think it’s ok for the Yankees, Dodgers and others to be able to spend 250 mil a year, while teams like the Pirates can only pay 80 mil or so??? How is that fair?? The best thing that could ever happen in MLB is a salary cap that would even the playing field.

Scott Kliesen

How can you prove it will even the playing field? In football, they have a hard cap, yet many teams are rarely playoff teams. Why? Because they are poorly managed.

The Oakland A’s are a perennial playoff team despite spending significantly less than their division competitors. This is proof a baseball team can win consistently w/out MLB leveling the playing field for them.

Stop and look at the evidence and quit being blinded by your failed logic.


You just answered you own question, teams don’t compete not because they can’t but because of poor management. That does not happen in baseball where poor managment just means you buy your way out of stupidity.


The Oakland A’s have made the playoffs exactly 6 times(2000,2001,2002,2003,2006,2012) in the last 20 years(7 in 21 years if you count this year), I’m not sure how that qualifies as a perennial playoff team? The Rays who are considered the model of how a small market team should be run have made the playoffs 4 times in their 17 year history. You asked for evidence but the evidence should be apparent that no small market team has or would ever be considered a perennial playoff team, small markets teams get to enjoy a small run of success(2-4 years) when the stars align right for them and they make ALL the right decisions and then go through extended periods of uncompetitive play while they wait for the stars to align again and that is the best they can hope for and that is a shame.

Scott Kliesen

Let me refute each of your points. First in a sport where only 4, until it recently changed to 5, teams make the playoffs out of 15, making the playoffs 7 times in 15 years is statistically significant.

And the Rays have been in the playoffs roughly 50% of the time since management started making wise business decisions.

As for the best a small market team can hope for is a short run of excellence, followed by extended periods of uncompetitive play is just a load of crap. The only way this happens is if management makes poor decisions in drafting, developing and acquiring through FA the talent necessary to replace those who leave. And this applies to all organizations, not just small market teams.

It’s the head, not the wallet, that matters most in the success of a baseball organization.


There is a recent and easy-to-read analysis of this here: The summary lines: 1) “Big spending teams do tend to win more than lower spending ones;” and 2) “If you want to have a winning record, your odds greatly increase if you spend at least $95 million on salaries in the American League and $113 million in the National League.” And really, while it’s true that good management plays a big role, it’s just logical that money provides more opportunity for success.


If 7/15 is statistically significant, what is 17/19, which is how many times the Yankess have made the playoffs from 1995-2013.

The wallet can certainly buy you a ticket to the dance with even half a brain. The head may matter most, I’d say it’s easily three times more valuable.

But that doesn’t mean certain teams should automatically get a 25% head start.


While this is certainly true, right now MLB has given the large market teams an unfair advantage and taken away the little advantage that small market teams had (spending in amateur draft).


Please dude, evidence of what?? Because a couple teams like the A’s have had success, that means there is a great system? The whole point is an even playing field where the teams that make the best decisions win, not the one’s with the deepest pockets!!!!!

Scott Kliesen

The best run organizations win not the one’s who are richest. If spending equated to WS wins, than why haven’t the Cubs won in 100+ years? Or Dodgers for 25+?

Look at the evidence!!!!


There’s something to what you say there, but the financial parameters of the game have changed greatly in just the past few years with the explosion of TV money, so the fact that the Cubs haven’t been able to win a World Championship in leventy-leven years or the Dodgers haven’t done it a quarter-century isn’t really germane to the fiscal realities of MLB 2014. I’d argue that the Astros, with their current management team, are a very well-run franchise–but you don’t see them having the wherewithal to bid on free agents or the Jose Abreu’s of the world. Does anyone think the Rays are a badly-run franchise? Yet they can’t afford to keep a David Price, and that isn’t due to their front office being a bunch of morons. A salary cap isn’t the be-all to end-all; given what the cap would be, I doubt the Pirates would be able to spend to it, but that combined with more equitable revenue sharing would allow the Pirates to be competitive on a continual basis if the FO was doing its job.
One more thing–who is the most successful franchise in the NFL post-merger? It’s that team that plays across the river from the Pirates. The Penguins are able to be Stanley Cup contenders year-in and year-out. The Pirates, playing in the same market as the other two, have had to scrape and scrap to get where they are. As they say on Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the other.

Paul Dixon

The fact is, Scott, that big markets can afford to make numerous mistakes, any of which would spell disaster for a small market team. You have to manage the crap out of a small market team to make the playoffs, while any moron with money could get the Yankees to the playoffs.

Scott Kliesen

The fact is, Paul, these large contracts have just as big of a chance of blowing up in large market teams, too. For example, the contract the Yankees gave ARod has hampered them significantly. They have been able to replace his production through FA.

The issue is not budget, it’s making sound management decisions no matter what size payroll a team operates under.

David Lewis

Sure – but a small payroll immediately takes off the board certain decisions. If the Pirates had the Dodgers’ broadcast revenues (or, more plausibly, if the Pirates had 1/30th of the total MLB local and national broadcast revenues), then offering Martin 4/60 would be a no-brainer. And Martin would be likely to take it, because he wouldn’t get significantly more elsewhere, and issues like playoff potential and the opportunity to lead a young emerging pitching staff would get significant weight. Instead, offering Martin 4/60 would be a major (many would say excessive) risk for the Pirates, and even if they did, a team like the Dodgers could offer him something like 5/75 without blinking.

Scott Kliesen

If Martin is offered 4/60 from Pirates and takes 5/75 from Dodgers. I say good for him and good for Pirates, too.

David Lewis

As would I. Today, given the current financial structure of MLB. But if the Pirates and Dodgers were both getting $65M/year from pooled local broadcast revenues, instead of the Pirates getting $18M and the Dodgers getting $320M, then (a) the Pirates would be more able to offer 4/60 and (b) the Dodgers would be less able to offer him 5/75.


This is exactly the point.

Paul Dixon

But that’s exactly the problem, they can make a $100M mistake and just go out and sign the next one. That’s something that the Pirates and other small market teams can’t do. If the Pirates make a $100M mistake, it’s going to send them into another tailspin for years.

Scott Kliesen

What it sounds like you’re saying is it’s unfair small market teams can’t make repeated poor largest contract mistakes. And what I’m saying is it doesn’t matter what budget an organization has, if it makes continued poor management decisions, the team will suffer in the W/L column.


What he’s saying is they can’t make ANY of those kind of mistakes. The Yankees botch a Pavano signing? No problem, they go out and sign Sabathia. The Pirates or Rays or Royals can’t make that kind of mistake once, and that’s what Mr. Dixon is saying. The way the game is financed now gives the Yankees and Dodgers a buffer against mistakes that the Pirates don’t have.

Scott Kliesen

Fair enough. But is it really that big of a disadvantage to not be able to sign a player to a big contract in the latter years of his career? With few exceptions, these usually end up being bad decisions for the teams. Even small market teams like Cincy and TB probably wish they could get a mulligan on the Votto and Longoria deals now.


Well, you can certainly spin it that way, and if you sign anybody to a seven-or-eight year deal in free agency, it’s very likely going to be an albatross at the end of the contract. That said, look at C.C. Sabathia–per B-R, he was good for 22 WAR the first four years of his deal. Can the Pirates or Royals get that on the open market? Alex Rodriguez, after signing his second mega-contract in 2007, was good for just shy of 30 WAR the first six years of that deal. Again, how do the Pirates pick up a player like that unless they develop him?
Your basic argument–that poor management decisions are as ruinous to an organization as a shoestring payroll–has merit. Still, look at what the Yankees have done; you can argue that they’ve made stupid personnel decision upon stupid personnel decision over the last few years–yet they sit a couple games out of a wild-card spot. The Dodgers have either taken on or given out some awful deals–Ethier, Kemp, Crawford. They’re threatening to run away with the NL West. A large part of the Yankees and Dodgers ability to stay competitive is the fact that they can mitigate their bad decisions by spending whatever they care to in the free agent and international markets without any real financial repurcussions. The Pirates, Rays, and Royals and their ilk just don’t have that as an option.

Scott Kliesen

The Yankees let Cano sign elsewhere because they know having this albatross of a contract around their neck will hamper their ability to win down the road.

The Dodgers, the current poster child of rampant spending, refused to part with their prized prospects to acquire a difference maker like Price at the trade line because they recognize the value of prospects. And furthermore, until just a couple weeks ago the Dodgers were a .500 team vs the entire league outside their extremely weak division. Hardly the makings of any more of a pennant contender than the lowly payroll Pirates.


But your statement doesn’t address my central assertion–that the Yankees and Dodgers can and have mitigated their bad personnel decisions through financial outlays. where the Pirates and Royals cannot.


Man , this is a crucial moment for baseball, if the small to mid market teams band together along with the addition of the big money red sox and actually elect someone who wants to put a salary cap in place then maybe just maybe there is hope for teams like the pirates to finally get a fair shake at contending every year. Crossing fingers and toes that this works out in favor of baseball and not just the mega money teams.


While I appreciate your optimism, remember that this is politics. Even if both sides are reporting what they really believe, If the tallies really total more than the total teams, that probably means that some teams are playing both sides. They will wait for a clear-cut winner and throw their support behind that guy. The won’t stick their necks out. Money will win. Politics.


Yeah, unfortunatly what goes on behind the curtain is rarely what we see on tv. Smoke and mirrors has become the new truth and honesty, sad to say.

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