Monday, June 23, 2008

Cont'd: Free trade: money and competition

From the Archive: 10/27/07
[continuation of]

I don't think anyone is going to dispute that few other teams could have made Theo’s mistakes, or that payroll can be statistically correlated (though causation is a whole other issue) with regular season victories. Unfortunately, this is all irrelevant.

The relevant issue is whether the causes of this scenario- payroll discrepancies- are such that they render the scenario unethical. That is to say, the issue is whether this situation has come about in such a manner that we should, in good conscience, not follow/patronize/enjoy the game; the issue is not that there are payroll discrepancies, but who bears responsibility for the payroll discrepancies.

I deny that the only object of blame is 'the system'. My basic point in the last email was that the individual franchises are to an important degree responsible because they are in fact rich, and by 'rich' I mean 'able to spend lots and lots of money on things.'

One might be inclined to make the following claims: a) that payroll is a function of a team's revenue stream, b) there are 'small market' teams that have less revenue, and so can't afford the same payroll, and c) that a team doesn't bear any responsibility for that revenue stream (and by extension, doesn't bear responsibility for its payroll, because of a)- that payroll is a function of revenue.)
But a), b), and c) are false.

Firstly, teams make a profit. That means they have more money then they're spending. Therefore, they could choose to spend more. Secondly, all teams are owned by companies or people with stakes in other companies, and so have revenue streams outside of their baseball franchises. A megacorporation like Coors, which owns the Rockies, could choose to use profits from any of its subsidiaries to invest in players if it wanted to. But it doesn't. So a) is false. That’s not my fault, nor The System's, nor Bud Selig's, that's theirs.

Is it bad business to do this? Maybe. But the point of the examples of Toronto and Cleveland is that fans everywhere, no matter the market, will pay to see winning baseball- there's no such thing as a small market when the team is winning. If a team puts a World Series caliber team on the field, guess what: the revenue will increase. If a team chooses to invest in its team, and it wins, it'll make money. A team can also choose to spend less money, and thereby make less money. In other words, a team does bear some responsibility for its revenue stream- c) is false.

But spending money isn't a sure thing- (the statistical correlation of payroll with wins is not causation; payroll does not determine with physical necessity the outcome of games.) the point about the Rockies in particular is they tried this strategy with Hampton and Neagle and it failed. They spent the money, it didn't work, and so they decided to not spend money anymore and be satisfied with a team with a lower payroll. (Granted, it was a different ownership group, so 'they' is a bit vague.) But Colorado had the money, just like Baltimore, or Toronto, or whomever, regardless of whether they are in a 'small market,' have money, and choose not to spend it. So b) is false.

Again, and generally speaking, if the team invested money in a winning team, they'd get more fans, more national attention, more advertising, etc.- they'd make more money, and then they could have a higher payroll. The System does not stop anyone or everyone from doing this, they way the system in the real world does require unemployment and low wages and such. All teams are rich enough to do this if they chose to take the risk. But some teams are run poorly, or cheaply. They either don't invest, or they invest poorly. Why do you assume its fault of the system that the pirates and royals don’t' succeed? What evidence do you have for this? They fail every year because they are poorly managed. The A's are well managed, and compete every year despite a comparability low payroll. Every year some or a few small market teams make the playoffs. The reason Pittsburgh and KC aren't on this list is because they suck and spend money on Gil Meche.

Look, the overall issue here is one of culpability. Teams bear some amount of responsibility for their payroll, their revenue, their choices in free agents or draft picks, in which case one need not boycott the whole thing. The system is not necessarily unjust. It can be lopsided at times, and yes, there do exist inequities. And by all means, as I’ve said before, I am in favor of various balancing measures. But just like the players on the field are responsible for their performances, so are the suits. But I don't pay to see the suits play, and when they choose poorly, I’m not going to not watch my boys on the field play well.

And Josh Fogg still sucks.

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